Above: Haegue Yang, Sonic Intermediates – Triad Walker Trinity, 2020. Courtesy kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York. Photo by Nick Ash.

The Walker Art Center hosted its first two Instagram Live conversations Saturday on what was supposed to be opening day of the big spring exhibition “The Paradox of Stillness.” Curator Vincenzo de Bellis spoke with Poland-based Paulina Olowska and Berlin/Seoul-based Haegue Yang, two of the 65 artists in the exhibition. The actual, physical exhibition is postponed to spring 2021.

At 2 p.m. Minneapolis time, nearly 100 people following on Instagram Live saw shelves of books behind him. As artist Paulina Olowska appeared on the screen, it split into two rectangular frames. She greeted audiences with a wolf mask, then pushed it away from her face and said hi. It was already 9 p.m. at her studio in rural Poland. 

“It’s a tiny celebration,” said de Bellis, as he gazed into the phone camera at Olowska. A steady stream of emojis and heartfelt messages scrolled across the screen.

She planned to use the wolf mask for the wearable letter “W” sculpture as part of her piece “Sketches for Grotesque Alphabet (after Roland Topor),” which re-imagined the French cartoonist’s "Alice in Wonderland"-style alphabet. Each letter is made of a person’s body and head.

The novelty of Instagram Live waned after some technical difficulties, but the irony of the show’s first title, “Still Alive,” also became a topic of conversation.

“We have to acknowledge that a lot of people are not alive anymore,” said de Bellis. “Over 2 million people affected ... it’s something to be reminded of ourselves, that we are alive.”

Four hours later, de Bellis hopped back on Instagram Live to talk with artist Haegue Yang, who was in Seoul.

Yang’s sculptures “Sonic Intermediates – Triad Walker Trinity,” arrived in Minneapolis before the international art shipping shutdown. On the tiny Instagram screen, she showed pictures of her large-scale abstract sculptures, which are all on wheels, adorned with bells, and appear like a cross between scientific molecules and anthropomorphic creatures.

“After the second world war, artists created new way of working,” said Yang. “This crisis is the chance but we have to encourage each other, remind each other of the possibility we have that’s rather spiritual and mental.”

Yang is known to be in constant travel mode, but now she’ll be in Seoul for awhile. 

“We are ‘still’ in the sense that we can’t really move from one place to another but still we are really moving [online] – another way to show that nothing really stands still,” said de Bellis.

Walker on pause

Nothing is moving at the actual, physical Walker Art Center, which has been closed since March 14. Employees are guaranteed pay through May 31, but Executive Director Mary Ceruti was not sure when the Walker would reopen.

“It is really challenging to plan a month out, three months out, six months,” she said. “We are trying to be flexible and nimble about it.”

The June exhibition of German painter Michaela Eichwald is postponed to the fall. The July show “Don’t Let This Be Easy,” focused on contributions by women artists, is still scheduled to open, as is the fall exhibition "Designs for Different Futures," set to open Sept. 12.

For now, the Walker is planning to continue doing virtual events on new topics every Saturday at 2 p.m. CST. 

“Museums are critical as places of connections,” said Ceruti. “I don’t know when, but we’ll be back.”