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Franklin Furnace: Performance and Politics

Franklin Furnace: Performance and Politics, co-curated by Martha Wilson and Oraison H. Larmon, is a collection of archival records that document the historical, cultural, and political legacy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. Spanning the last four decades the collection brings together 42 works selected from Franklin Furnace's Event Archives that were produced, funded, or presented by the organization. It also features early solo performance artworks by Martha Wilson prior to her establishing Franklin Furnace in 1976. The records in the collection include textual documents, slides, photographs, moving images, and other artifacts that document the organization as a contemporary avant-garde venue in New York City. Franklin Furnace is known for presenting artists who radically engage social agendas, making them vulnerable to institutional neglect, cultural bias, and mainstream censorship.

The collection features artists from across the Americas who confront sociopolitical issues through various art practices—artists' books, concrete poetry, literary performance, temporary installation art, performance for the camera, cyberformance, and performance art. This archival body of materials focuses on the important artworks of women, queer/trans folks, and people of color, who are largely excluded from the historical record. These artists examine the politics of race, gender, and sexuality while forming new political imaginaries that challenge unjust social policies, violations of rights, and hegemonic power structures. Due to the transgressive nature of such works, many of the artists in the collection remain underrepresented in the art world. Artists at different stages in their careers are juxtaposed to produce new meanings, dialogues, and relationships across generations. By historically preserving the records of these artists, the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library provides a space for such to live, perform, and engage political issues that are relevant today.

Franklin Furnace: Performance and Politics includes works by the following contributors: Eleanor Antin, Ron Athey, Horace Brockington, Cassils, Patty Chang, Peter Cramer & Jack Waters, Billy X. Curmano, DANCENOISE, DISBAND, Zackary Drucker & Flawless Sabrina, Bob Flanagan & Sheree Rose, Sherman Fleming & Kristine Stiles, Lawrence Graham-Brown, Guerrilla Girls, Dynasty Handbag, Martha Hellion & Carla Stellweg, Essex Hemphill & Wayson Jones, Holly Hughes, M. Lamar, Ana Mendieta, Tim Miller, Estera Milman, Tracie Morris, Shirin Neshat, Rashaad Newsome, Lorraine O'Grady, Dread Scott, Pamela Sneed, Annie Sprinkle, Amber Hawk Swanson, Julie Tolentino, Diane Torr, Johanna Went, and Martha Wilson, among others.

Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc. was founded in 1976 by Martha Wilson to champion ephemeral art forms neglected by cultural institutions. Franklin Furnace's mission is to preserve, document, and present works of avant-garde art by artists from around the world. The organization awards grants annually to emerging artists, enabling them to produce new artworks in New York City. Franklin Furnace remains committed to advocating on behalf of avant-garde art, establishing the organization as a formidable contributor to art discourse for more than 42 years.

Franklin Furnace: Performance and Politics  was launched at Pratt Institute on October 23, 2018. It featured a critical overview of the collection; a panel with Thomas J. Lax, Julie Tolentino, and Hentyle Yapp; and a performance by DANCENOISE. The launch also included the release of the publication Franklin Furnace: Performance and Politics (HemiPress).

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