Exhibition: Constance DeJong - Polymorphose

Constance DeJong Polymorphose September 10 - October 15 2022

In a gallery space, two wall mounted digital monitors are spaced evenly apart.

Bureau is thrilled to open the 2022 season with a solo exhibition by Constance DeJong. The exhibition, Polymorphose, coincides with the release of her new book, Reader, published this summer by Primary Information. DeJong has worked for over four decades expanding the possibilities of narrative form, working in the intersections of literature, video art, sound and performance. An influential figure in the downtown New York spheres of avant-garde music and art, DeJong is considered one of the progenitors of video and media art and what can be referred to as 'time-based media'. This is DeJong’s second solo exhibition with Bureau, following SpeakChamber in 2013, which  featured a series of intimate performances of the eponymous piece at the gallery’s former location on Henry Street. 

The current solo exhibition includes a number of DeJong’s works for video, sound and the two-dimensional plane. These works are grounded, as is all of her work, in the artist’s writing. The exhibition and Reader can be seen as companions to one another. The book includes eighteen works from the early 1980’s to the present and contains previously unpublished and out-of-print texts. Many of the anthologized works are presented at Bureau in their embodied formats: projected video with sound, 2-D transcriptions of  recorded works, amplified pieces for radio and parabolics, as well as ‘talking’ digital pictures.  DeJong is specific about the intended format of a text: a piece written for the page varies from one written for live performance, or one for a voice disembodied and amplified over a speaker. The exhibition, paired with the Reader, offers examples of these formats, and allows the listener/viewer/reader to compare how meaning and experience may vary depending on the form and conveyance. 

DeJong has always been insistent that the written word exists in time, whether read or performed. That her work is time-based is elaborated by the way she expands time within her narratives. DeJong’s writing, while taking on many topics historical and material, has always been situated in the interior space of the mind. Like one’s thoughts, her words jump from era to era, from past to present to future and back, without notice. By entering the time and space of DeJong’s words within the gallery, we also enter a flux and continuum of time beyond the present moment in which we reside. She reveals the receding histories entombed within mute, material objects and the ceaseless cast of characters affiliated with them. Her turns of phrase bait and shake us and we breathlessly listen, following DeJong as she threads through time, mutable and porous. In DeJong’s own words: I want every word to matter. I don’t want words that don’t matter. I don't want space and air around things. I want narrative to be able to be in its totality, to be heterogeneous, to have a heterogeneity. To put its arms around disparate locations, people, subjects, in terms of the world of ideas – and I want that to succeed as narrative.  –DeJong in conversation with Jennifer Krasinski for Bomb Magazine, 2017

Constance DeJong (lives and works in New York) is an artist, writer and performer who produces fiction, language- and image-based work for performance and theater, audio and video installations. DeJong has twice collaborated with Tony Oursler on live performances; was a collaborator on Super Vision, with The Builders Association & dbox in 2005; and was the librettist for the opera, Satyagraha, with composer Philip Glass in 1979. Her first book, Modern Love (1977), was reissued by Primary Information and Ugly Duckling Presse in 2017. She has exhibited and performed both locally and internationally at venues including: The Kitchen, New York; The Renaissance Society, Chicago IL; McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco; Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis MN; The Wexner Center, Columbus OH; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Threadwaxing Space, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Dia Center for the Arts, New York. In 2021 a solo, survey exhibition of the artist’s work was held at the Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Gallery at Hunter College in New York. Her work is in the public collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

A wall hanging frame containing a blue lightbox with numerous graphic marks in black.

A silent figure of considerable noise exists in handwriting, 2021, Digital print in framed lightbox, 17 ¼ × 25 ½ × 2 ¼ in. *Douglas Kahn, Noise, Water, Meat (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 26.

A black wall mounted frame containing a moving images of trees and rain.

Window, 2019, Spoken text and sound material on sensor-activated digital frame, 11 ¾ × 14 × 1 in., 2:18

A black digital frame hangs on a gallery wall, to the left is a long hallway with two benches.
A gallery hallway with a bench housing a digital frame screening a lit candle flame. To the left is a horizontal white frame work.
In a gallery, a bench houses a pillows and a digital screen projecting a light candle flame.
A digital screen projecting an image of several lit candles.

Flame, 2019, Spoken text and sound material on sensor-activated digital frame, 9 ¾ × 11 ⅞ × 6 in., 2:28

A horizontal white frame containing a black and white print with text.

Frequency Hopping 2, 2020, Digital print, 10 ½ × 35 ¾ in.

In a gallery space, numerous black and white wall works are hung evenly throughout. In the right corner is built wall with a projection and bench.
In a gallery space, three wall mounted artworks hung evenly spaced apart. To the left a long scroll with a parabolic speaker hanging in front of it above a rug.
In a gallery space, three wall mounted artworks hung evenly spaced apart. To the left a long scroll with a parabolic speaker hanging in front of it above a rug.
In a gallery,  a long wall mounted shelf housing numerous works on paper. To the right a framed black and white drawing.
A detail of several works on paper installed horizontally on a long wall shelf.

Nightwriters, 2018, Artist’s book, 8 ½ × 100 in. *Published as an online digital project by Triple Canopy, 2018 Available here: canopycanopycanopy.com/contents/nightwriters

A small black and white drawing in a white frame.

Ionics 2, 2018, Inkjet print, chalk, ink, 14 ¾ × 14 ½ in.

A large vertical scroll installed on a wall with black and white text.

Bedside, 2019, Digital print, 87 × 24 in.

Above: Spoken text and sound material on parabolic speaker, Bedside, 2018, 3:45; Frequency Hopping 2, 2018, 3:05

A white light box containing black and white text.

Frequency Hopping 2, 2019, Digital print with ink and pencil on lightbox, 18 ¼ × 23 ¼ × 1 ¾ in.

A black and white inkjet print with handwritten text in a black frame.

HANG IN, 2022, Inkjet print, chalk, ink, 28 ¾ × 39 ⅞ in.

two artworks framed spaced evenly throughout a gallery space on white walls.
In the corner of a gallery space is a darkened projection with a bench. On the front wall a framed artwork. To the left a long shelf holding works on paper.
In a corner of a gallery space, a large digital projection of moving water with a bench and rug.

Speaking of the River, 2000/2020, Projected video, spoken text and sound on parabolic speaker, bench, Dimensions variable, 16:40

A white framed artwork with small texts and digital images of waterfronts.

Speaking of the River, Bear Mountain, 2002, Digital print, 24 × 27 in. *Produced by Diane Shamsh, Minetta Brook

In a corner of a gallery space, a large digital projection of moving water.
In a corner of a gallery space, a large digital projection of moving water.
In a gallery space, a bench containing a book shelf and pillow with a framed black and white photograph a person kneeling.
A small black and white photograph of a woman squatting with the text "I.T.I.L.O.E" painted on a wall.

Anne Turyn, Untitled, 1983, Gelatin silver print, 10 ⅞ × 13 ¾ in. Collection of Constance DeJong, New York