2019 program pt 2

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An institution that touches itself

An institution that touches itself

Leen Rieth

Gallery 2
Opening 07.08.19 6-8pm
Artist Talks 29.08.19 6-7pm

Read exhibition essay here.

Leen Rieth is contributing to recent revisions of institutional critique that are focussed on unlearning institutional habits by rethinking how we perceive art institutions and how we work within them. An institution that touches itself deconstructs the gallery by sanding back its painted walls. This process chips away (1) at a material manifestation of institutional art to position institutional life as temporal and porous.

Art institutions are attributed power through their established connections with tertiary education, government and commercial enterprises and artist-run spaces. These connections generate and repeat Western hetero-colonial logics throughout administration and governance, and within processes of making art. For an artist, working within an art institution generally involves maintaining and affirming the power of institutions to receive social and financial capital in return. Although this is an ordinary transaction, the dynamic between artists and institutions is often an under explored mixture of exciting and tense opportunities. Sanding a gallery wall captures a moment of physical transaction with institutional space. It diverts gallery maintenance often done by artists into careful and deliberate deconstruction of the gallery.

Unlearning strategies involve ongoing critical exercises, understanding institutional structures, and physical intervention.(2) These strategies can be practiced within and around existing systems through collective resistance and shared learning.(3) Rieth aims to work with art institutions, Artist Run Initiatives, artists and arts workers to identify how working within these contexts and roles replicate aspects of institutional logics, and where and how we can individually and collectively practice unlearning.

1 S. Ahmed, “Feminism and Fragility,” feministkilljoys (blog), January 26, 2016,

2 E. Pethick, A. Phillips, K. Stakemeier, Y. Van Der Heide, B. Choi & A. Krauss, “Unlearning Exercises: Art Organisations As Sites for Unlearning.” Netherlands: Valiz/Casco, 2019.

3 F. Moten & S. Harney, “The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study.” New York: Minor Compositions, 2013.


Leen Rieth uses self-experimentation, and countersexual and queer methods to study experiences of institutional spaces and devise unlearning strategies. Rieth’s performances and sculptures invite detailed analysis of the role of artist and arts worker, and the physical, emotional and intellectual processes involved in participating in institutional art.

Rieth has exhibited throughout Australia including Boxcopy and Institute of Modern Art (QLD), with Liquid Architecture (Vic), Canberra Contemporary Art Space (ACT), Watch This Space (NT) and Constance ARI (Tas). Rieth is currently a PhD candidate at University of New South Wales Art and Design, and recently completed a residency at Cité Internationale des arts (Paris) aided by the Ross Steele Scholarship for a residency in Art & Design.


Leen Rieth, When I am here what do I do?, 2018, sanded paint dust and gallery walls, 3.6W x 3.3L x 3.3H

Leen Rieth, When I am here what do I do? [detail], 2018, sanded paint dust and gallery walls, 3.6W x 3.3L x 3.3H

Leen Rieth, When I am here what do I do? [detail], 2018, sanded paint dust and gallery walls, 3.6W x 3.3L x 3.3H

Earlier Event: August 2
2019 Fundraising Auction
Later Event: August 7
Brown Pillars