Alison Hearst (photographed by Lauren Withrow)
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Mark Bradford's "Dancing in the Street," 2019
Yinka Shonibare's "Odile and Odette," 2005
Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler's "Grand Paris Texas," 2009
Mario García Torres’ "The Schlieren Plot," n.d.
We’ve all developed a deeper connection with our televisions — glued to news outlets (some zig with CNN, others zag with Fox News) when we’re not binging everything from Ozark to Tiger King. Now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth has come up with an alternative: high culture through its Modern TV series.
The initiative, a brainchild of associate curators Alison Hearst and Lee Hallman, was launched a few months into the shelter-in-place orders, when most museums were dark. “Our mission at the museum is to serve the public, and we had to get creative in finding new ways to do this during lockdown,” Hallman says. “With Modern TV, we have been able to share some of the wonderful video works in our collection online, including some of our newest acquisitions and works that haven’t been on view at the museum in some time.” Hearst adds, “Artists and estates have been surprisingly open to this new way of showing their work during the pandemic.”
The first program, which aired May 16, was a natural fit for an exhibition that had opened just a week before the Museum closed: “Mark Bradford: End Papers” (extended through January 10, 2021). Bradford made the video Dancing in the Street (2019), which shows a performance of the song of the same name by Martha and the Vandellas as it’s projected onto the nocturnal urban landscape of South Los Angeles, where Bradford resides. Hallman points out that since the video is just shy of three minutes in length, “we streamed it on a loop for three hours to allow as many people as possible to tune in. It’s a work about protest, struggle, and hope.” This piece is a reminder of the work that started during the 1960s and has been passionately picked up again due to the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others.
Another highlight of the series was also from the Modern’s extensive permanent collection: Grand Paris Texas (2009). Created by artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, the video sets up an abandoned movie theater in the town as the protagonist. Several storylines flow together from Wim Wenders’ 1984 movie Paris, Texas, which was not actually filmed in Paris, Texas; a film crew documenting a bird infestation inside the building; and interviews with local townsfolk who reflect on the abandoned theater.
Since the museum has reopened, Modern TV has hit the pause button. However, because of the series’ popularity, Hearst and Hallman are digging deeper into the video collection and considering ways to broaden the program for future segments. Stay tuned.