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Brendan Fernandes, Safely (2017)

January 13, 2018 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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As part of his commission for Sanctuary, Brendan Fernandes will present a site-specific durational performance that explores themes of reverence and sacred space. Titled Safely, the performance utilizes improvisational choreography to evoke the physical act of cleaning and the fallen body, suggesting larger notions of devotion, humility, trauma, and safety.

In the context of Sanctuary, the act of cleaning suggests the mundane and the elevated, much like the commissioned rugs themselves, which can be seen as ordinary floor coverings, or non-denominational prayer rugs, a call for humanity to honor itself. Fernandes’ performers will enact the gestures of cleaning these unique objects, motions of reverence and humility as well as of everyday chores. These meditative motions will activate the rugs in Sanctuary into locales of contemplative devotion. The gesture of falling—antithetical to more traditional notions of dance—suggests harm or violence against vulnerable bodies. The rugs will thus become indexical sites where the body meets the ground, or spaces of soft refuge where the body is welcomed and protected. A sanctuary.

An integral aspect of Fernandes’ current practice, the fallen body was originally explored in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting and its 49 fallen victims, where the sanctity of the gay dance floor was violently breached. In the context of Fernandes’ rug design, which uses the controversial anti-viral pill PrEP as a design element, the fallen body memorializes the victims of the AIDs crisis, which is at once a distant memory for some, and a very real current concern for vulnerable communities without appropriate access to healthcare. On another level, the fallen body takes on a universal meaning in light of the all-too-regular mass shootings, gun violence, police brutality, and hateful rhetoric that are deeply harmful realities of America today. Safely evokes this trauma in its search for a healing antidote.


Brendan Fernandes (b. 1979, Nairobi, Kenya, lives and works in Chicago) is a Canadian artist of Kenyan and Indian descent. He completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007) and earned his MFA from the University of Western Ontario (2005) and his BFA from York University in Canada (2002). Fernandes has exhibited widely domestically and abroad, including exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; The National Gallery of Canada, Ontario; The Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA: The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA; Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Sculpture Center, New York; The Quebec City Biennial; and the Third Guangzhou Triennial in China.

Fernandes has been awarded many highly regarded residencies around the world, including The Canada Council for the Arts International Residency in Trinidad and Tobago (2006), The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Work Space (2008), Swing Space (2009) and Process Space (2014) programs, and invitations to the Gyeonggi Creation Centre at the Gyeonggi Museum of Art, Korea (2009) and ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany (2011). He was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award, Canada’s pre-eminent award for contemporary art in 2010, and was on the long-list for the award in 2013 and 2015. In 2014, he was a recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Residency and Fellowship. 

Recent exhibitions include Lost Bodies, which originated at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Ontario (2016), traveled to the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto (2017) and culminated in a catalogue. His recent monograph Still Move, was published by Black Dog Press, London, fall 2016. Fernandes’ first solo exhibition at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, Free Fall, Chicago took place in January 2017; an expanded version of the performance, Free Fall 49, took place at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles in summer 2017. Upcoming solo projects will take place at the Graham Foundation, Chicago (opening January 25, 2018); and The High Line, New York (summer 2018). He is currently Artist in Residence and Faculty at Northwestern University in the Department of Art Theory and Practice, and is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.


January 13, 2018
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Fort Mason Chapel
Fort Mason Chapel
San Francisco, CA 94109 United States
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