Installation image featuring a tv monitor with a blue background and green wallpaper with images.

The Backend

The Backend

September 14 – December 1, 2023
George Segal Gallery

The Backend is a group exhibition featuring works by 13 contemporary artists who delve into the protocols and agreements that shape our society and the framework of our participation. These often hidden structures, such as the code behind digital platforms or legal systems that dictate the use and access to information, significantly impact our daily lives and cannot be skirted without voiding participation. Artists approach these arrangements often already in place without mutual agreement, revealing societal givens we are born into regardless of our willingness and understanding. The artists aim to reveal these hidden structures and how they manifest, where encounters with refusals, confusion, bureaucracy, and denial function like dog whistles to investigate further.

Featuring works by Merlin Carpenter, Maia Chao and Josephine Devanbu, Johann Diedrick,  Sophia Giovannitti, Liz Magic Laser, Ari Melenciano, William Powhida, Bat-Ami Rivlin, Rose Salane, Finnegan Shannon, TJ Shin, and Julia Weist

Curated by Jesse Bandler Firestone, Curator and Exhibition Coordinator

Exhibition Resources

Opening Reception

  • Celebrate the opening of Montclair State University Galleries Fall 2023 exhibitions The Backend, Case Studies: Joseph Parra – the edge of flesh and blood, and Sound Booth – Brian Oakes
  • Thursday, September 14, 5 – 7 p.m. Remarks at 6 p.m.
Upcoming Events
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About the Artists

  • Maia Chao is an interdisciplinary artist who works collaboratively in performance, video, and social practice. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Brown University, an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Chao is currently a Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellow, a collective member of the  DIY art space, Vox Populi, in Philadelphia, and Professor of Social Practice at the Maryland Institute College of Design (MICA).
  • Josephine Devanbu is an interdisciplinary artist who draws upon social practice and community based participatory research to fight the systematic de-valuing of knowledge that exists outside whiteness, affluence, and western science. Devanbu holds a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in Science and Technology Studies from Brown University.
  • Johann Diedrick (he/him) is an artist, engineer, and educator who makes listening rooms for encountering new sonic possibilities off the grid. His performances, installations, and sculptures surface resonant histories of past interactions inscribed in material and embedded in space, peeling back vibratory layers to reveal hidden memories and untold stories. He shares his tools and techniques through listening tours, workshops, and open-source hardware/software.
  • Sophia Giovannitti is a conceptual artist based in New York. Through her ongoing series of Studies—encompassing performance, video, audio recordings, sculpture, text, and surveillance methodologies—she attempts to exploit, transgress, and re-choreograph traditional and traditionally shrouded modes of value extraction from artists. Her work has been shown at Recess, the Athens Biennale, DUPLEX, PPOW, The Bowery Hotel, Sophia Zero Inc., and ICA London, among other places both physical and digital. Her first book, Working Girl: On Selling Art and Selling Sex, was published by Verso in May 2023.
  • Liz Magic Laser is a multimedia video and performance based artist from New York City. Her work intervenes in semi-public spaces such as bank vestibules, movie theaters and newsrooms, involving collaborations with actors, surgeons, political strategists and motorcycle gang members. Her recent work explores the efficacy of new age techniques and psychological methods active in both corporate culture and political movements. Laser’s work has been shown at venues such as The Smithsonian American Art Museum (2023); ICA Boston (2023); Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2022); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2021); MUDAM The Contemporary Art Museum of Luxembourg (2021); Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2019); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2018); Metro Pictures, New York (2018); CAC Brétigny, France (2017); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2017); the Swiss Institute (2016); the Whitney Museum of American Art (2015); MoMA PS1, New York (2010); Various Small Fires, Los Angeles (2015); Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2013) the Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany (2013); Lisson Gallery, London (2013); the Performa 11 Biennial, New York (2011). Laser is the recipient of grants from Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Southern Exposure Off-Site Graue Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art. Sternberg Press published her monograph, Public Relations / Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, in conjunction with a solo exhibition at the Westfälischer Kunstverein, Germany (2014). Her work has been critically acclaimed in publications such as Text zur Kunst, Artforum, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and Art in America.
  • Ari Melenciano is an artist, technologist, researcher, and cultural theorist. Her art and research practice explores the societal subconscious intellect, computational anthropology, ethnographical morphing of artistic and psychological expression across diasporas, the formation and embodiment of mythology and rituals, and the materialization of polymathic research in the form of transcendent sciences.She currently teaches courses on emerging technologies surrounding A.I., art, design, and theory at New York University. She is also the founder of Afrotectopia, a cultural institution that is imagining, researching, and building at the nexus of new media art, design, science, and technology through a Black and Afrocentric lens. She guest lectures at universities around the world.
  • William Powhida (he/him) is an artist and arts worker whose work examines the paradoxes and ironies of the social, economic, and political infrastructure that produces the ‘art world’.  His work relies on research and participation to diagram, list, perform, and critique the forces that shape perceptions of value.  For many years, this self-reflexive practice included the artist’s own public persona and biography. His recent exhibitions include Language in Times of Miscommunication at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Condition Report at Haverford College, and Possibilities for Representation at Charlie James Gallery.Powhida has also been long engaged in activism in the art world working with groups like OWS Arts and Labor, the Artists Studio Affordability Project, and the (de)Institutional Research Team. Since March of 2020, he has been working with a dedicated group of artists and arts workers to develop the framework for a non-traditional arts union. He is currently on faculty at the School of Visual Arts in the MFA Fine Arts program and Queens College. He is currently represented by Postmasters Gallery, Charlie James Gallery, Poulsen Gallery, and Platform Gallery. He holds a BFA in Painting from Syracuse University and an MFA in painting from Hunter College.
  • Bat-Ami Rivlin is a NYC based sculptor working with found and surplus objects. Her work investigates function as an inherent part of am object’s material ontology. Rivlin holds an MFA from Columbia University, NY, and a BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY. Recent notable exhibitions include: COLAPSO, Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Tenerife, Spain; EN-SITIO, Museo de la Ciudad de Querétaro, Querétaro, Mexico; whereabouts, Hessel Museum of Art, CCS Bard, NY; No Can Do (solo), M 2 3, New York, NY; Untitled (inflatable house, zip ties, blower) (solo), A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Excess and Surplus, (two- person) Sharp Projects, Copenhagen, Denmark; INAUGURATION, Lo Brutto Stahl, Paris, France; In/Between, New York Live Arts, New York, NY; Performing Authorship: 31 Days in March, PS122 Gallery, New York, NY; Battleship Potemkin, Fredric Snitzer Gallery, Miami, FL; It All Trembles (solo), NARS Foundation, Brooklyn, NY. Rivlin’s work was featured in publications such as Artforum, Bomb Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Flash Art, Artnet, PIN-UP Magazine, Office Magazine, The Paris Review, Public Parking, Granta, and more. She is the recipient of Two Trees BSI fellowship, A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship, NADA House Studio fellowship, NYFA IAP fellowship, NARS Foundation Residency, among others.
  • Finnegan Shannon (b. 1989, Berkeley, CA) is an artist experimenting with forms of access. They invite intervention into ableist structures with humor, earnestness, and rage. Some of their recent work includes Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, an ongoing project that gathers people together who share an aversion to stairs; Alt Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of image description; and Do You Want Us Here or Not, a series of benches and cushions designed for exhibition spaces. They have done projects with the Queens Museum, the High Line, MMK Frankfurt, MCA Denver, moCa Cleveland, and Nook Gallery. Their work has been supported by a Wynn Newhouse Award, an Eyebeam fellowship, and grants from Art Matters Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Disability Visibility Project.
  • TJ Shin (b. 1993, Seoul) is an anti-disciplinary artist working across moving image, sound, architecture, and sculpture. Their practice explores social infrastructures and ecological systems of liberal humanism, globalized migration, and species governmentality. Shin has exhibited internationally at the Queens Museum, Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Arts, Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University, Roots and Culture Contemporary Art Center, The Bows, Doosan Gallery, Knockdown Center, and more. Shin lives and works in Los Angeles.
  • Julia Weist is a visual artist based in New York. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Jewish Museum among other collections. Her work has recently been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Queens Museum. Her most recent solo exhibition was with Rachel Uffner Gallery and her latest public artwork, Campaign, debuted in Times Square in 2022.