Queen Mother of Reality Opens at Socrates Sculpture Park


Opening: May 11, 2014 (2:00 pm – 6:00 pm)

Opening: May 11, 2014 (2:00 pm – 6:00 pm)

Queen Mother of Reality by Paweł Althamer is a monumental, mixed media sculpture of an elegant figure that is peacefully reclining in the shaded southern section of the park overlooking the East River waterfront. Althamer’s sculpture is dedicated to and inspired by “Queen Mother” Dr. Delois Blakely, a U.S. Ambassador of Goodwill to Africa,who has been the Community Mayor of Harlem since she was sworn in by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1995. Queen Mother of Reality serves as a call to highlight the numerous displaced and homeless of New York City – Dr. Blakely’s paramount cause.

Originally built as a part of Althamer’s Performa Commission in 2013, Queen Mother of Realityat Socrates Sculpture Park will act as a platform for creative dialogue and interactive programming, reflecting the park’s commitment to engaging audiences through public art. This spring the sculpture was  reassembled by Althamer and his collaborators – a team of artists and community members, including artists Noah Fischer, Roman Stańczak, Rafal Zwirek, and Jim Constanza (aka the Aaron Burr Society), and the artist’s sons Bruno Althamer and Szymon Althamer, as well as members of the community.

Continuing Althamer’s commitment to social collaboration, which underlines most of his work,Queen Mother of Reality will engage audiences through interactive programming organized by Socrates and the artist that will invoke Dr. Blakely’s pursuits of social justice and community building. The sculpture is situated in the midst of an active community. The park is surrounded by three of the nation’s largest public housing complexes (Astoria, Ravenswood, and Queensbridge Houses), and the local community has been a park stakeholder since its creation in 1986.

The first program is a Mother’s Day celebration during the opening on May 11 from 2pm-6pm, featuring art-making workshops presented by Minor Miracles Foundation and an experimental social project titled Nails Across America by artist Breanne Trammell.

Programming will develop throughout the summer, so please continue to check back for updates.

Queen Mother of Reality is presented by Socrates Sculpture Park in collaboration with Performa, and in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

The Exhibition Program at Socrates Sculpture Park is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Charina Endowment Fund, Lambent Foundation, Mark di Suvero, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, Agnes Gund, Ivana Mestrovic, and the Thomas W. Smith Foundation.

Queen Mother of Reality is a Performa Commission and was originally presented as part of the Polish Pavilion Without Walls for Performa 13.  The commission was generously supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts and Toby Devan Lewis, with additional support from Foksal Gallery Foundation (Warsaw), neugerriemschneider (Berlin), Fundacja Sztuka i Współczesność, CCA Ujazdowski Castle, and Polish Ministry of Cultural and National Heritage, Tilton Gallery



The object that we call “monitor” is at once ubiquitous, obsolete, and in the end, perhaps a non-object because we gaze into its pixilated illusion, never directly at its shape and mass. Today the clunky beige boxes adorn sidewalk trash piles because their cathode ray tubes have recently given way to the solid-state flat screen. In a backwards-alchemical shift, they have morphed from object of desire into “e-waste.” In this sense, they now monitor the speed of consumption.

Noah Fischer’s new group of sculptures ask us to reconsider these objects at the intersection between trash and promise. Promise not only of new vision technologies, but of the autonomous aesthetics of Modernism in its search for the perfect form. This aesthetic promise, Fischer argues, is embedded in today’s everyday objects, notably the Apple computer product line. To take an example, the iphone, our new monitor, is accompanied by rhetoric concerning a sublime state reached through reduced geometric form and infinite function. Like a Donald Judd box, this is an object that toys with transcending its object-hood.
The repositioning of consumer items within the context of Modernist art of course dates back to Duchamp, and more recently, Haim Steinbach’s shelves. While drawing inspiration here, Fischer concentrates on process: that of hand-making each object, and on the larger production/decay cycles of consumer objects rather than pure conceptual or formal gesture. Fischer wants you to see the full object-picture, which is never platonic.

Indeed there is trashy side to this story. Behind the sublime promise of the iphone is a vast coal-powered global production industry and even more, a trash filled past; an ever-increasing pile of dead bodies; threatening to gobble up the living present. There are the toxic beige monitors sent to China to be scrapped amid Dickensian conditions, not far perhaps from where next year’s planned obscelences are assembled, begging the question: does this object we call “monitor” really have any function besides to perpetuate the global trash cycle?

Contrary to the rhetoric, objects cannot really be transcended: like bodies their physical presence is absolute reality. Fischer brings the carcass of glass monitor tubes and plastic shells together with hand- hewn and computer generated wooden form to create hybridized benches, chairs, and tables, tweaking “monitor” to a basic physical function: to rest our tired bodies. In another strategic reduction, Fischer revamps monitors as simply lanterns. Perhaps we just gaze at screens like electric campfires; mini-suns to warm our hearts and minds.