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Alternating Currents

Theme of Beyond/In WNY

For the 2010 installment of Beyond/In Western New York, the curatorial committee has chosen to implement a broad thematic parameter for both curators and participating artists to work within. It is our hope that a thematic territory will contextualize the expansion of the project into new areas while grounding it firmly in the Western New York region.

The theme, evoked by the subtitle Alternating Currents, is intended as a structure to be engaged conceptually, formally, and/or literally. It is not expected that all artists address this theme in a similar manner, but rather engage with the multiple possibilities offered. There is no predicated outcome, as the theme offers innumerable directions for submitting artists. And while we expect some rendition of the theme, the quality of work submitted will be the strongest determinant in the selection process.

Alternating Currents arose through parallel discussions of two fascinating turn-of-the-century Western New York events. Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla’s War of Currents was played out in the 1890s in Niagara Falls, New York and determined the worldwide standard for distributing electrical power when, in 1896, Tesla’s hydroelectric AC generators harnessed the power of Niagara Falls and sent electricity to the city of Buffalo. Two years earlier, King Camp Gillette, a utopian socialist and inventor of the safety razor, articulated a vision that all Americans should live in a single city called Metropolis, situated in Western New York and powered by Niagara Falls. That his utopian dream failed to materialize does not diminish the wild ambition of his gesture.

These two Western New York historical notes provided initial points of thematic departure for discussions of the theme of Beyond/In Western New York 2010, but we expect that Alternating Currents may generate hundreds of additional interpretations. Artists may choose to touch upon undercurrents of utopian promise in Western New York; interpretations of power—both literal and tangential; reclamation of natural or physical assets; sustainable visions for the future; shifting demographics and societal constructs—economic, political, or those based on race or gender. Alternating Currents also recognizes Western New York’s historical role in the increasingly diverse concoction that comprises forms of contemporary art—the mix of media and approaches; the work that defies singular categorization; the re-emergence of public and performative works; and even the subtle dualities contained within works.

At the outset of this exciting process, the curatorial committee does not yet know how the theme Alternating Currents will be expressed or applied. We expect that the boundless creative expression of the submitting artists will show us.