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Them That Believe

Jonathan Durham

A photo of Them That Believe
A photo of Them That Believe

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

July 5–September 24, 2011

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On July 5, 2011, Jonathan Durham will begin work on his project, Them That Believe, as part of Recess’s signature program, Session. Session invites artists to use its public space as studio, exhibition venue and grounds for experimentation. Durham’s project will take place at Recess’s new outpost in Red Hook, Brooklyn, continuing Recess’s ongoing collaboration with Charlotte Kidd and Dustin Yellin from Kid Yellin Studios

Over the course of two months, Durham will generate a series of photos, videos and sculptures that explore a literal translation of belief into radical action.

Three religious “edgeworkers”, people or groups operating on the fringes of their belief system, will inform and guide the work done over the course of the project. Durham will navigate the physical manifestations of the belief systems of Fanny Crosby, a prolific songwriter who penned over 8,000 hymns despite being blind since infancy.; Jim D. Adkisson, an out of work truck driver and former soldier who gunned down a group of his own church members in 2008; and the serpent handlers of Southern Appalachia who repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way with full faith in God’s power to protect them from poisonous snakes.

Visitors to Them That Believe are invited to participate in a series of actions, that engage with the iconography and rituals common to these edgeworkers including dancing alongside projected images of snake handlers, writing and passing notes found in the back of church pews, composing songs and writing out secrets and burning them. This exchange between the artist and visitors will take the form of “Community Potlach,” a kind of semi-destructive import/export zone that allows people to take away or deposit objects and new meaning as desired.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Jonathan Durham

Jonathan Durham was born in Lynchburg, VA the son of a music minister and school librarian. He received a BA in Art and Psychology from the University of Virginia before receiving an MFA in sculpture from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000. In 2007 he completed a two-year residency at the Core Program Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and currently he serves as the Director of Visual Arts at Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Durham’s work has been included in group exhibitions such as Gimmie Shelter, Mixed Greens Gallery, NYC, Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY, the Houston Area Exhibition, Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Learning by Doing at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Outpost, CTRL Gallery, Material Culture, Fort Worth, Library Project, Galerie fur Gegenwartskunst, Bremen, Germany. Durham’s drawings, sculptures and videos are in numerous private and public collections including the Aurora Picture Show Video Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In addition to his work as a visual artist Durham has published reviews in Modern Painters Magazine and curated exhibitions such as Insurance Is Not Always Assured, Jayson Keeling: Behind the Green Door, and Rick Cary: CREDO.


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