Exhibition and public program

28 February, 18.00–17 May, 19.00 2020


Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals

An exhibition and public program, curated by Thiago de Paula Souza

  • Tony Cokes, Evil.27:Selma, Greene Naftali, New York, 2011, courtesy of the artist, Greene Naftali, New York; Hannah Hoffman, Los Angeles, and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York, photo: Gustavo Murillo Fernandez-Valdes

Save the date: from 28 February–17 May 2020, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht proudly presents Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals. An exhibition and public program, curated by Thiago de Paula Souza, who was one of the BAK 2018/2019 Fellows.

Friday 28 February 2020, 18.00 hrs, including a conversation between artist Tony Cokes and curator and scholar Irit Rogoff at 19.30 hrs | Facebook event
Link: Sign up to the opening conversation

Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals brings together selected video works from the past 30 years, tracing Cokes’s unique formation of critique through visual and textual codes, and his changing relationship to archival material over several different global historical moments. The works draw a through line from these historical events to the present of systemic violence and ever-more-complex forms of social control. What are ways of seeing and responding to the seemingly endless cycles of inequality and oppression? How then, the exhibition queries, could one break those cycles and envision living as equals?  

The title of the exhibition refers to Cokes’s Evil.27: Selma (2011), which reconsiders the contemporary dominance of the image as evidence and record. Invoking a period of civil mobilization in the United States that came about in a time without mass image circulation, the video examines what is lost when “everything is instantly visible.” Another work from his mostly includes Evil.16 (Torture.Musik) (2009–2011), which examines popular music as a US Army psychological warfare device through the very songs used in torture. Other central works include FADE TO BLACK (1990), an assemblage of Black stereotypes from cinema history that contends with the subliminal elements of race relations; and Black Celebration (1988), which reappropriates Situationist texts alongside footage from the 1960s-era riots in Detroit and Los Angeles.

Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals immerses viewers in the audiovisual language that Cokes has developed over his career, which typically blurs the aesthetics of pop music videos and visual art. Characterized by appropriation and repetition, and the use of archival materials and text set to identifiable pop bangers, Cokes’s work breaks with the modern grammars of media circulation in order to subvert popular rhetorics of power and violence. This practice is grounded in the fraught relation between history and memory, and strongly questions  western contemporary culture while maintaining a sharp awareness of the limits of theoretical critique. His works instead interrogate current conditions of capital, knowledge distortion, and the fascisms of everyday life by rehearsing new possibilities of understanding, combining political analysis with the pleasure of pop.

Opening Conversation: Irit Rogoff and Tony Cokes
28 February 2020, 19.30–21.00 hrs
On the occasion of the opening of the exhibition, curator and scholar Irit Rogoff joins Cokes in a discussion of the artist’s work and ideas. There is limited capacity for the opening conversation, please book your spot via this link.

Public Studies: Practice as Theory
19–21 March 2020, 15.00–18.00 hrs
A three-day workshop presented by Tony Cokes on violence, representation, images, and the uses of theory through key works by the artist.

Propositions #11: Practice Is Theory
April–May 2020
Propositions #11: Practice Is Theory takes place during the exhibition Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals, drawing from the concept behind Cokes’s public study program, Practice as Theory. Unfolding as a series of discussions and performances, Propositions #11: Practice Is Theory explores how diverse disciplines might create theory from practice. Challenging the shape, functions, and actions of the theoretical, the programs each seek in different ways to disengage theory from being just that other thing art and action use.

Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals
is organized in the framework of BAK’s research itinerary Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–ongoing), and is made possible with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; the City Council, Utrecht; VSBfonds, Utrecht; BankGiro Loterij Fonds, Amsterdam; The Netherland-America Foundation, New York; and Stichting Elise Mathilde Fonds, Maarsbergen.

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