An Adventure of Being

Group Exhibition

Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington
Arlington, VA
September 9, 2023
February 11, 2024
Featured Artists:
Vincent Cy Chen, Nicki Cherry, Jeremy Olson, and Stephanie J. Williams

Press Release

From the Curator

Reflecting visual influences from surrealism, science fiction, technology, and popular culture, An Adventure of Being explores the experience of having a body through artworks that exceed, break down, transcend, or blur the boundaries of the corporeal form. The paintings, sculptures, and installations included in the exhibition incorporate materials and forms that bring to mind living beings. Sometimes fully formed, sometimes represented by parts or substances, these human forms, non-human animals, plants, and otherworldly creatures are unsettling and humorous, alien and familiar.

The title of the exhibition, An Adventure of Being, is borrowed from Sarte’s Being and Nothingness and comes from a roughly 6,000 word rumination on slime that appears towards the end of the book. Sartre’s analysis focuses on the in-between-ness of the slimy or viscous, its refusal to be either this or that. He imagines the viscous as a threat because it seems to exist in a state of flux: “If I sink down into something viscous,” he explains,”I feel that I will lose myself in it, i.e., become diluted into the viscous precisely because the viscous is in the process of becoming solid.” Neither liquid nor fully solid, viscous materials are a “frozen instability” and, in Sartre’s telling, this instability makes them a threat to the individual who risks being subsumed into them.

While Sartre imagines the instability of the viscous as a threat to be avoided, An Adventure of Being confronts the shared experiences of vulnerability that come with states of in-between-ness, blurred boundaries, and bodily vulnerability. The works in the exhibition capture bodies or figures frozen in transitional states, moments of growth, birth, decay, or creation. They reconcile seemingly opposite states of being, holding them in tension and locating the simultaneous anxiety and allure they embody. They present corporeal forms as a means of empathizing with and more fully understanding the complexities of the human experience.

An Adventure of Being understands embodiment, in all its complexity and vulnerability, as an unavoidable aspect of the human experience. In Sartre’s account, the physical sensation of viscosity poses a danger to the very autonomy of the conscious self, “a threatening mode of being that is to be avoided, a concrete category which it will reencounter everywhere.” This anxiety points to one of the fundamental realities of physical embodiment—our experience of ourselves as autonomous individual beings, coupled with our physical vulnerabilities and interdependence. The blurred boundaries, physical breakdowns, and states of in-between-ness explored through the work in An Adventure of Being point to the permeability of the boundary that separates our physical selves from the world around us. Our bodies live in relation to our surroundings—the natural systems that surround us, the world we have built from them, and our relationships to one another.'

— Blair Murphy
Curator of Exhibitions, MoCA Arlington