Contemporary Spotlight: Erin Johnson & Ken Ueno

Jepson Center October 5, 2018–March 3, 2019

Telfair Museums presents Contemporary Spotlight with artists Erin Johnson (American, b. 1985) and Ken Ueno (American, b. 1970). Both are creating new works that address questions and themes specific to our region.

Johnson’s solo exhibition Erin Johnson: Heavy Water in the Jepson Center is a newly-commissioned body of work that considers what it means to tell the history of a place, specifically the diverse and divisive Savannah River Site, and explore its implications to our region. Through Johnson’s video and sound installation, she questions how both human-made and ecological systems converge in one geographic area, and poetically explores the interrelationships and dependencies between the Department of Energy, American Cold War politics, the discovery and research on the pariah Carolina Dogs native to the region, the plight of the endangered wood stork, and the people who were displaced by the building of the Savannah River Site in the mid-1950s.

Ken Ueno will compose, direct, and inhabit a series of site-specific performances entitled Ghost Vault Triptych. Ueno is interested in composing what he calls both person-specific and site-specific music—intended for, and inspired by, one specific person, or narrative, or prompt. Live performances at several public sites will take place in October 2018.

Telfair Museums’ Contemporary Spotlight series is an artist-centered exhibition platform that highlights contemporary art by nationally-emerging artists through small exhibitions and featured loans. These projects are organized and curated in-house and are typically commission-based. Artists are encouraged to respond to place and to reflect the issues of our time. Through these smaller scale projects, which are often an artist’s first introduction to museum audiences, Telfair Museums broadens the museum’s contemporary art program by supporting nationally-emerging artistic voices as a means to foster dialogue.


About the artists:

The deeply social nature of Erin Johnson’s artistic process diffuses meaning across a network of contingent agents, both inside and outside the arts. In the creation of her works—comprised primarily of video, performance, and installation—Johnson’s interlocutors have ranged from graphologists and economists to poets and labyrinth facilitators. Her work utilizes both fictional and historical narratives to examine effects of communication technology, possibilities raised by chance encounter, and the act of searching. Johnson holds an MFA and Certificate in New Media from The University of California, Berkeley and is currently a Visiting Artist in Digital Media at Bowdoin College.

Winner of the 2006–2007 Rome Prize and the 2010–2011 Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno’s music has been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MusikTriennale Köln Festival, the Muziekgebouw, Ars Musica, Warsaw Autumn, Other Minds, the Hopkins Center, Spoleto USA, Steim, and the Norfolk Music Festival. In recent years, Ueno has been collaborating with visual artists, architects, and video artists to create unique cross-disciplinary art works. Ken is currently an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and an M.M.A. from the Yale School of Music. His bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.


Top right: Ken Ueno (American, b. 1970), photo: Peter Gannushkin
Middle: Erin Johnson (American, b. 1985), digital stills from Heavy Water, 2018, digital video, © Erin Johnson
Lower Right: Johnson and Ueno in Portland, ME, in July 2016 for the production of Fortress Brass by Ken Ueno and as part of Erin Johnson’s project A Long Wait at Fort Gorges.