Your Must-See Cheat Sheet for the Whitney Biennial 2012

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So, you’d like to go to the Whitney Biennial, but you’re short on time. You’re not sure if you’ll be able to make the performances, you’re not sure what to see, but you’re still overwhelmed with a desire to art yourself with… say, delicate, Eastern European animation-inspired sculptures, or visit an artist who’s set up her hoarder-rific studio in the museum for three months. Let’s do it. Here are some of (subjective) highlights of the Biennial from yesterday’s press preview, things you’ll definitely want to check out, even on a tight schedule.

Artist Dawn Kasper has moved into the third floor galleries for a three-month-long performance piece THIS COULD BE SOMETHING IF I LET IT. As part of her Nomadic Studio Practice Experiment, her entire studio and most of her bedroom has made it here — a bed, theater props, record players, movie projections, and art supplies, which may or may not include sterilization and self-tattoo equipment. She’ll be here every museum day, creating art, doing studio visits. Will it get GG Allin-esque? Come and see.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

The Wu Tsang’s Green Room is on the fourth floor. It’s red. Vinyl. Glam. Dark. Cozy. Like the backstage changing room… You’re there, watching the two-channel Wilderness video piece, in the Los Angeles’ legendary Latino/LGBT bar the Silver Plate. Night, atmospheric streets. A bustle within the club, dancing, performance. On screen, transsexual regulars recall their lives, family trauma and finding themselves, happiness, here. You’re there, too. Go there.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Just around the corner, Tom Thayer’s room of assemblages, video projections, and ambient sound is worth the visit. You can trace the artist’s admitted outsider art and Eastern European animation influences in the strung-up sculptures, the spindly cranes poised mid-jaunt. Motifs: Unraveling staircases (Cabinet of Doctor Caligari-esque?), materials that seem a hundred years old, “views ranging from a child’s wide-eyed naïveté to the visionary wanderings of a psychedelic drug experience.” Being in this small room is transporting, subtle, like tip-toeing through someone else’s dream.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

A reclusive painter and bait fisherman in Texas, even as his paintings were exhibited in the same New York gallery as work by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, Bess Forrest was fascinating, transcendent. He became obsessed with the Carl Jung’s theory and the rituals of Australian aborigines, and in 1960, he turned himself into a pseudo-hermaphrodite. Surgically. Alone. His paintings and text have their own room on the second floor. Explore.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

A few other highlights:

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Georgia Sagri, Travailler Je ne travaille pas (Working the no work). Try to catch this one. You’ll see an artist battle her own recording in a fugue, skipping like a record. Watch the tension build. You can also sit on the pillows, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Sam Lewitt, Fluid Employment, 2012. Ferromagnetic liquid poured bi-weekly over plastic and magnetic elements, fans. It burbles, gurgles and bubbles, like the twitching innards of a butchered machine.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Werner Herzog (yes, that Werner Herzog): Hearsay of the Soul. Projection of quiet etchings Dutch artist Hercules Segers to the music of composer Ernst Reijseger and organist Harmen Fraanje. They seem to bloom with a sunrise, then darken, undulating to choral notes. Get lost in here.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Lutz Batcher, Pipe Organ. It’s a retro Yamaha synthesizer clasped by robotic, key-tapping “fingers.” The pipes are heavy tin and archaic. Somewhere, there are hidden speakers, playing something muted out of the core of this anachronistic hybrid of a sculpture. For something so vast and ominous, the sound is subdued, almost jagged, as if it’s escaping.

Photo credit: Marina Galperina for Flavorwire

Gisèle Vienne with Dennis Cooper, Stephen O’Malley, and Peter Rehberg. Creepy whispering noises of some sort of mumbled horrible things fill the space, but Jerry Saltz (New York Magazine, Work of Art) isn’t scared.