Wu Tsang ‘Of Whales’ video installation coming to ICA Boston

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Wu Tsang: Of Whales, an immersive video installation inspired by Herman Melville’s classic 1851 American novel Moby Dick; or, The Whale.  

In Of Whales, Wu Tsang (b. 1982, Worcester, Massachusetts) reimagines the story of Moby Dick from the perspective of the sperm whale, inviting viewers on a mesmerizing journey through the depths of a CGI ocean, only surfacing for the occasional breath of air. Created on the Unity gaming platform, the dynamically generated real-time video installation loops continuously and offers audiences a multisensorial experience of undersea life that transforms with each viewing.

The exhibition is organized by Ruth Erickson, Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Tessa Bachi Haas, Curatorial Assistant, and will be on view February 15 through August 4, 2024.  

Of Whales (2022) is part of a filmic trilogy derived from Tsang’s multidisciplinary research around Moby Dick; or, The Whale. An artist whose practice frequently centers on reinventing cinematic language and narrative, Tsang approaches the novel through a decolonial lens, channeling perspectives of the whale and the ‘motley crew’ aboard the whaling ship to evoke non- and inter-human sociality, as well as environmental themes and queer intimacies.

As collaboration is central to Tsang’s practice, she often works with a variety of artists, scholars, and performers on a single project. In Of Whales, the endless expanse of ocean life is accompanied by a multi-channel, layered soundscape that fills the entire gallery. The musical score, composed by Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, and performed by Tapiwa Svosve, Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson, Miao Zhao, and Ahya Simone, blends saxophone, trumpet, bass clarinet, harp, and vocals to accompany the audience’s surreal adventure into the unknown depths of the sea. 

“Wu Tsang is one of the most significant video artists working today, and her epic commission Of Whales was an important highlight of the 2022 Venice Biennale,” Erickson and Haas said. “We are thrilled to share this mesmerizing installation with our audiences. Overlooking the Boston Harbor, the ICA is a poignant location to view the work with its references to maritime culture and New England’s whaling history – as well as the artist’s personal connection with Massachusetts.”

Wu Tsang will be at the ICA on February 15 for an Artist’s Voice conversation with Barbara Lee Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Ruth Erickson.

Wu Tsang Biography

Wu Tsang, Of Whales, 2022 (installation view 1, SFMOMA);
Wu Tsang, Of Whales, 2022 (installation view 1, SFMOMA); collection SFMOMA, Purchase, by exchange, through a gift of Michael D. Abrams; © Wu Tsang; photo Katherine Du Tiel

Wu Tsang is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker who combines narrative and documentary techniques to explore fluid identities, marginalized histories, and whimsical worlds. Tsang received her MFA from the University of California at Los Angeles and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Other films by Tsang include We hold where study (2017), Girl Talk (2015), Damelo Todo (Gimme Everything) (2010), and Shape of a Right Statement (2008). Tsang’s work was included in the ICA/Boston’s acclaimed Art in the Age of the Internet: 1989 to Today (2018) and has been exhibited or screened at La Biennale de Venezia, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern London, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, among many other national and international venues.

About the ICA

Since its founding in 1936, the ICA has shared the pleasures of reflection, inspiration, imagination, and provocation that contemporary art offers with its audiences. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and expanding the museum’s role as educator, incubator, and convener.

Its exhibitions, performances, and educational programs provide access to the breadth and diversity of contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas.

The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA, 02210.

For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our website at icaboston.org. Follow the ICA on FacebookInstagram and TikTok.

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