‘The Ungovernables’, the New Museum’s second triennial, is technically not a response to the two key political movements of 2011: the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Instead, its curator, Eungie Joo, carefully describes it as an exhibition about a generation ‘formed by the instability of a period marked by military dictatorships, the IMF crises of the 1980s and 1990s, the spread of global capitalism and the rise of fundamentalism’. The triennial – which Joo spent 18 months researching, and the basis of which was presumably in place before the start of 2011 – is described as addressing the ‘urgencies of a generation who came of age after the independence and revolutionary movements of the 1960s and 1970s’. But it can also be read as emphatically pre-revolutionary, dealing with the conditions that led to the uprisings across the Arab world or a social movement like Occupy.
‘The Ungovernables’ could easily have withstood a little more institutional critique, particularly given the themes of the exhibition and the New Museum’s own complicated history with regard to corporate and private support. If only the New Museum website had been subject to the same hack as that of the Whitney Biennial, in which a fake press release stated that the museum had renounced its corporate sponsors, citing ‘the reckless and even fraudulent behaviour’ of banks, including sponsor Deutsche Bank. As it is, what currently appears to be most ungovernable, and also the most enduring context for art, are the forces of the market and global capitalism.