In March 2020, the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts launched the Wattis Library, a free online platform for videos, lectures, performances, and essays that have run alongside Wattis exhibitions, events, and research seasons from 2014 to the present. Produced and edited by curatorial fellows, gallery assistants, and interns, the library was created with one of the central questions that drive the Wattis Institute’s work in mind: What can we learn from artists?
The Wattis Library was designed for visitors to dig deep, discover new artists and ideas or reexamine familiar ones, and find a sense of proximity to many of the artists and scholars of our time, such as Abbas Akhavan, Vincent Fecteau, Joan Jonas, Akosua Adoma Owusu, Cinthia Marcelle, and Rosha Yaghmai.
The library is extensive, with new material added regularly, so as a jumping-off point, six members of the Wattis staff offered up the videos, essays, and performances that they keep revisiting. Settle into a comfortable chair and check them out below.
An organ performance by Erik Thys for Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco
Fran Bombeke, Social Media Manager
“As a Belgian, I’m very familiar with the work of Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter, who exhibited at the Wattis in 2015. In this video from the library, Erik Thys, author, composer, artist, and mostly known as a psychiatrist, performs a piece for organ he composed in the framework of the show at the impressive Saint Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.”
Jeanne Gerrity, Deputy Director and Head of Publications
“Moten speaks intimately to the audience, as though we’re all friends sitting in a living room, but his short talk is as profound as any formal lecture, and his poetic manner of speaking is captivating. He seamlessly incorporates David Hammons’ work, music compositions, and Invisible Man.”
Anthony Huberman, Director and Chief Curator
“Vincent Fecteau and Kathy Butterly both speak very eloquently about their own work, as well as about what they see in each other’s work. An extra bonus highlight, for me, was the video of an artist talk by Don Potts that Fecteau shared with the audience, where Potts talks about how making an artwork is a lot like making a trap. It’s a simple, poetic, and kind of miraculous way of putting into words something that doesn’t seem like it can be put into words.”
Kim Nguyen, Curator
“As many of us are spending our days preoccupied with the notion of time, it feels appropriate to return to this text by contemptorary, which considers the numerous times we exist within: labor time, earth-time, space-time, settled time, and our continuum of crisis. I’ll let the text speak for itself: ‘Instead we witness and experience these ecologies, these forms, these other worlds, as they amplify the force of a language, a movement, a landscape, a ruin, a life felt without this time, not a time that we know but a time that we get to know, that we get to feel, that we get to live in, if just for a second.’ This selection is also a bit of a conceit, as I would have liked to highlight Jennif(f)er Tamayo’s exceptional live reading as part of this project, but that special performance only lives on as text and in our memories.”
“On Cults, Communes, and Collectives," launch of Apricota Issue #2 with Joanna Fiduccia, Jennifer Nelson, and Carmen Winant
Christopher Squier, Operations Coordinator
“For the launch of the relatively new journal Apricota, Jennifer Nelson and Carmen Winant delve into art historical subjects ranging from 16th-century Dutch portraits to photographic archives from the 1970s. The launch event pins these two seemingly unrelated moments in the history of representation together with a series of political connections that feel relevant today. How have alternate forms of collectivity emerged and thrived throughout history? How might withdrawing from the mainstream provide the necessary seclusion to foster utopian movements and political resistance? The event ends in a roulette-style slideshow Q+A with Apricota’s co-editor, Joanna Fiduccia.”
Diego Villalobos, Exhibitions Manager
“In this talk, Halberstam presents a manifesto on ‘Nothing’ that argues in favor of withdrawal as a strategy for undoing systems of structural oppression. Offering various historical and cultural examples on this––from Joan Jett Blakk in the early 1990s running for president to Gordon Matta-Clark’s architectural interventions from the 1970s––Halberstam’s advocating for ‘nothing’ isn’t apathetic, but rather an argument that recognizes marginalized communities and presents a path for a better world by abolishing the one we’re currently in.”