Our theme from September, 2012 through July, 2013 is Battle. In exhibitions and events, we explore how we fight: sparring with words, attacking covertly or clashing openly on the battlefield. However it occurs, in our minds, our bodies or in our communities, conflict appears to be inevitable. Our first exhibition, opening September 15, is War of Words followed by Secret Wars in January and Battle Ground in April.

Battle Ground

April 13 – June 30
Opening Reception: April 13, 7 pm

Battle Ground, the third and last exhibit of our yearlong Battle theme, will explore the pathos of the Battle of Brooklyn, stimulating our collective memory, evoking parallels between past and present, while focusing on the complexity, moral ambiguity, and devastation of this important Revolutionary confrontation. Historical imagery, rendered meaningless by over-use and political manipulation, will be revived in new forms.

The word “revolution” circles around us, forming the early consciousness of our country. History, also cyclical, repeats itself, and when it is forgotten, it haunts us, lying dormant in our collective memories. In 1776 one such haunting unfolded across a wide swath of what is now Brooklyn. Perhaps the battle if often forgotten because it was, in the words of Walt Whitman, a “resolute defeat.”

The battle-haunting still rages around us at Proteus Gowanus. Its culminating events took place just feet from our gallery location, along what was then the Gowanus Creek. The fields and marshes of 1776 are now a post-industrial urban landscape, and the Gowanus Canal is a hotly contested Federal Superfund and development site.

Battle Ground participants include artists, educators, urban planners and writers:

Paul Benney, Peter Bonner, Sasha Chavchavadze, Eymund Diegel, Robert Gould, Katarina Jerinic, Andrew Keating, Christina Kelly, V. Komar & A. Melamid, Angela Kramer, Robyn Love, Eva Melas, Duke Riley, Lance Rutledge, Robert Sullivan

Battle Ground is curated by Sasha Chavchavadze with help from Robert Gould, Angela Kramer and Eva Melas.

Battle History: The Battle of Brooklyn was a drama of epic proportions; an armada of more than four hundred British ships entered the harbor, looking like a “forest of trees”; a small band of Maryland farm boys lost their lives as they held off several thousand British troops; a life-saving fog descended on George Washington and his army, enabling them to complete their escape to Manhattan in the morning light in a flotilla of borrowed boats rowed by Massachusetts fishermen.

Concurrent installation at the Old Stone House: Running concurrently with the Battle Ground exhibit at Proteus Gowanus will be a mixed-media installation, Battle Pass – Revolution IV, at The Old Stone House, a museum housed in a 1699 Dutch farmhouse that played a central role in the battle. Revolution IV opening reception: April 25th, 6:30 pm at the Old Stone House, 3rd Street at 5th Avenue, Brooklyn. Revolution IV will be up through June 25th.

Secret Wars

January 12 – April 7, 2013
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 12, 7pm

Secret Wars, the second exhibition in Proteus Gowanus’ yearlong exploration of Battle, explores the cryptic ways of warfare waged behind the cloak of invisibility. From neurophysical conflict deep inside the human amygdala, to the broadcast signals used by spies and intelligence agencies, to the everyday observation of ordinary citizens by omniscient bureaucracies, Secret Wars reveals covert communications hiding in plain sight. Curated by Proteus Gowanus creative director Tammy Pittman and anthropologist Thomas Ross Miller, the exhibition brings artists from New York, Amsterdam and Berlin to trace the gaps, silences, and blackouts that conceal vital and deadly knowledge.

Who controls secret information, and who has the power to understand it? How do we protect ourselves from unseen enemies? Who wins and who loses when the battle is unending and unknowable? Through art, artifacts, books, sound and surveillance, these installations render what is absent present and what is invisible visible. Inside a special room, mysterious and hypnotic short-wave radio messages in unbreakable codes are beamed to hidden spies. Lost treasures, occult symbols and predator drones appear and disappear, closely guarded enigmas shrouded in obscure and half-forgotten codes.

Artists and works include:

Front404 – Panopticons
Joy Garnett – Predator series
David Goren – “Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero”: The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations
Nene Humphrey – Circling the Center with Zoe FitzGerald
Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic – NØbjects and Otophgraphs from The Mu{e}sum
Renée Ridgway – Revelation of the Concealed
Tony Stanzione – Safety First
Smudge Studio – TRANSCOM
Bryan M. Wilson – Canticle for Sebeok (Atomic Priesthood) with the work-in-progress, Vestments for Ten Millennia (Atomic Priest Suit), in collaboration with The Mildred’s Complex(ity)

War of Words

September 15, 2012 – January 6, 2013

Battle and war metaphors “infiltrate” our lingua franca. They are used to explain all sorts of things from existential dilemmas (“inner conflict”) to health issues (“cells attack”), sports moves (“launch a blitz”) and politics (“the war on women”) to name just a few.

Is it possible that conflict is at our very core? Do we fashion our language to reflect and represent this conflict at every turn?

War of Words grew out of these questions and presents art, artifacts and books that explore ideas of conflict of all sorts as filtered through the not-so-precise lens of language.

Artists in the exhibition are Rosaire Appel, Stephanie Brody Lederman, Carrie Cooperider, Paula Gaetano-Adi, Steve Clay of Granary Books (presenting the collaborative works of bpNichol and Barbara Caruso), Ligorano/Reese, Anli Liu, Angelo Pastormerlo, Lance Rutledge, William Powhida, Reed Seifer, and Cody Trepte.

Also included are a myriad of artists and writers who have participated in the hive-mind project entitled “Yes or No.”

And, finally, a collection of artifacts and books will be on display to explore the topic further.

War of Words was curated by Diane Bertolo in collaboration with Proteus Gowanus. Bertolo will be our guest blogger for the duration of the exhibition. Please visit Proteoscope for words and images “triggered” by this exhibition (view tag “war of words” if you’d like to narrow your search)

EVENTS FROM THE BATTLE YEAR: September 2012- July 2013

A Party for Cryptozoo, a new Proteotypes book
Saturday, September 22, 7pm

A book party for the newly published Proteotypes book, Cryptozoo, in which twelve writers respond to images from Erik Schurink’s portfolio on the world of animals he found on sidewalks and windows.

Be a Rebel or Just Look Like One
Saturday, October 13, 1-3pm

In this workshop, families will decorate tricorn hats with cockades they make from ribbons, buttons and feathers. During the Revolutionary War, soldiers wore cockades to declare their allegiance to a cause.  Whether you are a rebel, or not, come make a hat that shows the world where you stand!

War Games Room Opening; Discussion of Game Theory and War
Sunday, November 25, 12-6pm

War Games Room was a collective of war and battle themed board games up for play, accompanied by a lecture on game theory by Jon Freeman.

Can Dialectics Break Bricks? With Keith Sanborn
Friday, November 30, 7pm

As part of the War of Words exhibition, Keith Sanborn will screen, present and contextualize the Situationist film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (1973) by René Viénet. Viénet was part of the Situationist International and the film is a classic example of the Situationist strategy of Détournement. In this work, Viénet brilliantly appropriates a martial arts film and subverts its original meaning by dubbing in his own text dealing with class conflict and alienation.

Sanborn is a media artist, theorist, curator and translator who translated this work “in order to add to historical understanding and to release what remains of its revolutionary analysis and praxis—in short, its orgone energy.”

Scrabble Talk with David Bukszpan, Author of “Is That a Word?”
Saturday, December 1, 7pm

A discussion and strategically helpful lecture about a beloved war of words: Scrabble. Bukszpan will present scores of surprising words, offer tips and tricks, and share other highlights from his book to help word warriors from all skill levels.

Learn Diplomacy the Easy Way with Tom LaFarge
Sunday, December 2, 2pm

Proteotypes editor Tom LaFarge will conduct an instructional Diplomacy workshop in the Proteus Gowanus War Games Room. Diplomacy is a board game set in Europe just before WW1 requiring both negotiation and strategy in order to win. This workshop is intended for those who would like to learn the basic rules of play. When you’ve learned the basics, you can play the game in our War Games Room,

War of Words Reading
Saturday, December 15, 7-9pm

A Celtic curse. A duel of poetries. Language as virus. Language as a tool for ingeniously tormenting. The unsettling impact of Algonkian place-names in settler descriptions. Words of children as a vector for lethal disease spread among their parents: These and other word-struggles will be read aloud, to amplify the “War of Words” segment of our Battle year. Please come and enjoy the language of Jane Collier, William S. Burroughs, Ben Marcus, Paul Metcalf and Kurban Said, not to mention that aggrieved anonymous cursing Celt.

Translation workshop for the monolingual
Saturday, December 29, 2-4 pm

The War of Words contains at least one fruitful struggle: the clash of languages on the battlefield of the translator’s brain, as loaded vocabularies mass and charge. Yet no struggle is more pleasurable, since of all readers the translator enters into the most intimate relationship with the source text. But what if you know one language only? Or don’t know the language you want to translate? To this dilemma solutions will be offered by Writhing Society leaders Wendy Walker and Tom La Farge.

Secret Wars: Opening Reception
 Saturday, January 12, 7pm

The second exhibition of the yearlong theme, BATTLE.  Secret Wars explored the cryptic ways of warfare waged behind the cloak of invisibility

Bring Your Lost Things to the Portable M{}seum
Sunday, January 13, 4pm

Swedish conceptual artist Anna Livia Löwendahl-Atomic invites you to contribute your nØbjects–things lost or missing–to the Portable M{ }esum. Only that which is lost or missing can enter the m{}esum. Your lost thing will be written down and archived on a gallery wall.

Neuroscience, Art and Music Explain the Emotional Brain
Tuesday, January 15, 7pm

Artist Nene Humphrey has been artist-in-residence since 2005 in the neuroscience laboratory of Joseph LeDoux, focusing on the emotional brain, the seat of much internal warfare (often secret war).  On Tuesday, they will talk about their mutual interest in the emotional brain through video, song and discussion. They will be joined by Amanda Thorpe  of the Amygdaloids Band, guest singer Ward White and Zoe Fitzgerald, Humphrey’s video collaborator.

On the Air: Tuning In to Secret Wars Live from Cuba
Saturday, January 19, 4:30pm

Radio producer and audio archivist David Goren hosted a listening session and informal discussion about the way radio is used in battles of ideology and territory. This included a live playing of a Cuban numbers station intended for Cuban spies in the United States.

Poems & Stories by Two Immigrants: Anna Halberstadt and Mikhail Iossel
Saturday, March 2, 5pm

Teacher and clinician, Anna Halberstadt and professor of English, Mikhail Iossel read their poems and stories dealing with the Holocaust and the nature of memory and imagination.

David Kahn: How Code Breaking Helped Shorten World War II
Thursday, March 14, 7pm

As part of our exploration of Secret Wars, Proteus Gowanus is very pleased to present David Kahn, the world’s leading expert on the history of codes and cryptology. Dr. Kahn will discuss how the frantic race to break enemy codes helped bring about an earlier end to World War II.

Kahn’s monumental 1967 book The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing is the definitive account of secret writing from ancient hieroglyphs through the 20th century. The book was a finalist for the 1968 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, and was republished

Secret Wars: Readings
Sunday, March 24, 5pm

The battles fought at night between white and black witches. The battle fought at bedtime between a newly married royal couple. The battle fought in subway stations with poisoned chewing gum. The battle fought with children in a dream. The culture war fought as an emergent species struggles for recognition as a civilized kind. The key battles of such “secret wars” will be the matter read aloud from translations of Czech, Japanese, American, Italian, and Old Irish crypto-military histories. Organized by Wendy Walker, editor of Proteotypes.

The Atomic Priesthood with Artist Bryan Wilson
Monday, April 1, 7pm

Secret Wars artist Bryan M. Wilson will discuss his ongoing, multidisciplinary project, The Atomic Priesthood, and the two attendant installations at the Proteus Gowanus space, The Canticle for Sebeok and Vestments for Ten Millennia. Wilson will address the ecological stewardship, strategies for deep-time communication, and ritual inherent to the project and how an artistic practice can bridge seemingly disparate conditions.

Shipbuilding Workshop: A Battle Pass Project
Saturday, April 6, 1-4pm

Led by artist Eva Melas, this workshop explores the important role ships played in the Battle of Brooklyn. In the summer of 1776, Red Hook residents could see the imposing fleet of more than 400 British ships bearing down on Brooklyn. Gen. George Washington later rounded up humble vessels to make his retreat to Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights. Participants in this family workshop will  make their own improvised armada from objects found in Brooklyn today, such as coffee cups and cardboard packaging.

Secret Wars Party with Short Attention Span Theater
Saturday, April 6, 7pm

Join us for a final ‘surveillance’ under the watchful eye of spies, cameras and avian informers, present, of course, for your own good and the Homeland’s too. There will also be spy music  and wine to loosen lips.* At 8pm, David Goren, Secret Wars contributor, will present the radio-inflected soundscape, The Short Attention Span Audio Theater, featuring excerpts from Antimatter, a sci-fi noir tale of shortwave radio espionage written by the mysterious C.M. Stanbury.

Spy music mix created by the polymusicologist Friese Undine.

*We are required to inform you that your words and actions may be documented and used against you. No warrants required. 

Opening Reception for Battle Ground
Saturday, April 13, 7pm

The third and last exhibit of our yearlong Battle theme, explored the pathos of the Battle of Brooklyn, stimulating our collective memory, evoking parallels between past and present, while focusing on the complexity, moral ambiguity, and devastation of this important Revolutionary confrontation.

Dressed for Battle
Friday, May 3, 7:30pm

Join us for a presentation by vintage fashion and fabric expert Janice Everett on battle wear of yore. What has the charge of the light brigade got to do with cardigans? How did French soldiers’ underwear become a multi-billion dollar industry? Why did an article of World War I airmen’s military uniform end up on fashion runways? And what is the connection between Napoleon, rubber boots and Billy Connolly? Find out more about the relationship between battle and fashion at this fascinating presentation.

Tide Mill Family Workshop
 Saturday, May 4, 1-4pm

One of the first tide mills in America once stood not far from where Proteus Gowanus stands today. Brouwer’s Mill, built in the mid-17th century, used the power of the Gowanus Creek’s rising and falling tides to turn wheat into flour.  During the Battle of Brooklyn, the mill and its bridge burned, forcing soldiers to cross the rising waters of Gowanus Creek. This workshop will uncover the little known history of tide mills in Brooklyn, as families work together to build their own miniature mills. Presented by Angela Kramer, museum educator and a Proteus Gowanus core collaborator.

Retreat to Victory: A Performance by Paul Benney & Robert Sullivan
Saturday, May 11, 7:30pm

Performance artist Paul Benney and author Robert Sullivan (My American Revolution) will join forces in this interdisciplinary meditation on the Continental Army’s not-well-remembered retreat from Brooklyn to Manhattan, from loss to not-loss. In addition to Paul Benney’s ethereal choreography and Robert Sullivan’s words and song, the performance will include quilts by Suzanne Sullivan and music by Louise Sullivan. Time past and present will merge as guests are transported down our alleyway to the performance in a wooden boat.

Diorama Workshop
Saturday, June 1, 1-4pm

Educator Angela Kramer leads this family workshop in which participants will reflect on the relationship between Brooklyn past and present by making their own three-dimensional accordion books, or dioramas, using copies of old and modern maps, photographs, and other images. We will be working in the spectacular Othmer Library at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Walt Whitman in the Afternoon
Saturday, June 8, 5pm

The Whitman Project presents a reading of Walt Whitman’s Brooklyn-related work, including The Centenarian’s Story; related musical selections performed by contralto Nicole Mitchell; a presentation of Whitman memorabilia by collector Ed Centeno; and an open audience reading of their favorite Whitman pieces.