Commonwealth

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ICA at VCU
Richmond, VA
2020

The United States of America can be described as many things but “a place where people hold wealth in common” would not be one of them. If not wealth, then what do we hold in common? Who is the “we” that defines our nation, our states, our cities, and our communities?

The Commonwealth project launched September 2020 and unfolded in multiple forms through January 2021. It investigated the history, utopian potential, and limitations of a term that we often take for granted. It was co-organized by Beta-Local in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia; and Philadelphia Contemporary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Originally designed to be presented as an exhibition in all three cities, the initiative was reconceived as a result of COVID-19. The ICA presented the sole exhibition of all the commissioned works but a digital publication and online public programs were co-presented by all three organizations.

Newly commissioned works were presented by Firelei Báez, Carolina Caycedo, Duron Chavis, Alicia Díaz, Sharon Hayes, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Nelson Rivera, Monica Rodriguez, and The Conciliation Project (TCP). In addition, the exhibition included an existing sculpture that Lukin Linklater created with Tiffany Shaw-Collinge. Select works include: a “resiliency garden” outside the ICA conceived by food justice activist Duron Chavis and designed by Quilian Riano of DSGN AGNC; Distressed Debt, an installation by Carolina Caycedo that investigates the privatization of natural resources; a performance for camera by Indigenous artist Tanya Lukin Linklater that addresses the legacies of settler colonialism; and a performance by the Richmond-based, anti-racist group The Conciliation Project (TCP) that responds to racial justice protests.

Commonwealth was organized and curated by Beta-Local co-directors Pablo Guardiola, Michael Linares, and nibia pastrana santiago and former co-director Sofía Gallisá Muriente; former ICA at VCU Chief Curator Stephanie Smith; Noah Simblist, Chair of Painting + Printmaking at VCUarts; and Kerry Bickford, Director of Programs, Nicole Pollard, Program Coordinator and Nato Thompson, former Sueyun and Gene Locks Artistic Director at Philadelphia Contemporary.