Purposes (& Philosophy)
Founded in 2001, Triple Candie is a research-oriented, independent curatorial agency -- run by two art historians -- that produces exhibitions about art but largely devoid of it. Its primary purpose since late 2005 has been to explore the possibilities of exhibition-making as a truly alternative, critical practice. From 2001 to 2010, Triple Candie operated a series of galleries in Harlem. Since 2011, it has been guest-curating exhibitions for organizations in the United States and Europe. (For a full exhibition history see the Archive section of this website.)
Triple Candie operates from the position that,"the profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation."(1) Its methodology privileges the unfaithful copy, the unauthorized reproduction, and the annotated surrogate.(2) In distinct contrast to community-driven organizations and practices, its horizon is near autonomy, a sovereignty of vertical integration, wherein the organization operates as an almost closed system, controlling as many aspects of conceptualization, production, distribution, promotion, criticism, and historicization as is humanly feasible, given its directors' limited abilities and its modest means.(3)
Many of Triple Candie's exhibitions would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to show in any other context, be it a museum, small nonprofit, or commercial gallery. First, there is the issue of there being no original artworks. (A typical Triple Candie exhibition consists of reproductions, surrogates, models, stage-sets, or common objects, displayed using a combination of rhetorical devices borrowed from history and anthropology museums and community art galleries. There is no art.) Second, the shows are generally, though not exclusively, realized without the involvement, permission, or knowledge of the artists whose work may be their subject. (This is a sticking point for museums, which need to be understood as serving the interests of artists, whether they actually do or not.) And finally, the projects tend to be ambivalent or skeptical, and sometimes even openly critical, of their subjects. When a show is de-installed, the materials -- both the objects and the display paraphenalia -- are generally recycled for future use or discarded.
Triple Candie has frequently been mislabeled a conceptual art project. It isn't. The co-founders, Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, were trained as art historians and they do not self-define as artists. When Triple Candie had a physical gallery, it was sometimes characterized as a "fake gallery" that produced art historical or curatorial performances. Given the ephemeral nature of the projects, the frequent use of historical or fictionional subjects, and the lack of any obvious artist-agents -- this is, arguably, more accurate, but this too is misleading. The art-surrogates, props, and artifacts that are displayed rarely simulate their referents, the exhibitions are never copies or recreations of previously presented exhibitions, and there is no intention to deceive.
(1) Giorgio Agamben, from "In Praise of Profanation."
(2) Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, "The original is unfaithful to the copy."
(3) Michael Whipple (aka Sky Jones, aka Siren Bliss) serves as a model in this regard. The former colleague of Paul McCarthy , who founded and runs the itinerant Banker Art Museum, explained explained how the museum functions to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in a deposition in 2001: "You see by your own scholarly work in this case that that is what I do. I make up the paintings, the names of the paintings, the values, the institution that carries them, the guy that, you know, painted them, the guy he used to be, as well as the three assistants who help out.”