Raid the Icebox Now is a digital publication that accompanies a series of exhibitions at the RISD Museum. Participating artists were invited to engage in a long-term relationship over the course of 3 years, interacting with the collection as an extension of their studio practice. Raid the Icebox Now invited contemporary artists and designers Pablo Bronstein, Nicole Eisenman, Pablo Helguera, Beth Katleman, Simone Leigh, Sebastian Ruth, Paul Scott, and Triple Canopy, to create new bodies of work using the museum’s galleries and publication platform as a site for critical, creative production and presentation.
Unlike a traditional exhibition catalog, the digital nature of the publication offered artists an opportunity to further expand their practice and research beyond the physical parameters of the museum’s exhibition space. As a result, Raid the Icebox Now is an unconventional digital publication that presents original work in the form of essays and artist interviews, video and time-based work, musical compositions, fiction, and soundscapes.
As a whole, these projects explore a broad range of topics and issues that demonstrate the various ways in which the digital platform was implemented. These applications include using the digital publication to:
- Question dominant narratives
- Conduct artistic research
- Create and present new bodies of work
- Experiment with new mediums and practices
- Engage in a process of collaboration
- Discuss ideas and themes in their work
Selected case studies include:
In some cases, the digital publication allowed artists to deepen their research and create ancillary entry points to their installation. For example, in her piece, The Chorus, Simone Leigh created a new sound work that uses archival research to highlight the voices of women of color throughout history. In this piece, artists, writers, curators, and historians read texts written by women of color, including Saidiya Hartman’s essay, “Manual for General Housework” (2019), sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet’s diaries (1922–1934), and new text created for this project by historian Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. The final audio piece was presented within the digital publication as well as in the gallery space.
Using the digital publication as an opportunity to create new work, Pablo Bronstein developed a video piece that considers museological accuracy and the museum’s blurred relationship both as a place of scholarship and an inspiration for the home. In this piece, Bronstein uses choreographed gestures to draw our attention to and question our assumptions about specific objects in the collection
For other artists, the digital publication was an opportunity to further explore themes in their exhibitions and connect to spaces and people beyond the museum’s walls. Nicole Eisenman worked with a Providence-based author, Matthew Lawrence, to create a multimedia reading experience that combines original fiction and a series of video vignettes. In this narrative piece, Eisenman positions the museum as a site of desire, exploring issues of identity, gender, and sexuality.
In other cases, the digital publication provided a unique chance to expand mediums through the support of our creative production team. Beth Katleman, who typically works as a ceramicist, collaborated with local performers to create a short satirical film that explores the dubious life of the collector Charles L. Pendleton, whose collection is represented in the Museum’s decorative arts wing. The final piece serves as an alternative tour for her installation, Games of Chance.
Altogether, the projects initiated by the digital publication allowed artists to see new ways that the museum can be relevant to their work, and for the museum, to greatly expand what it sees as both possible and valuable as it continues to shift its practices toward being a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable institution.