Nothing Stable under Heaven reflects on our contested past, turbulent present and unpredictable future, examining how individual and collective voices can be heard in an uncertain world. A collaboration across five curatorial departments — Architecture and Design, Education and Public Practice, Media Arts, Painting and Sculpture, and Photography — this exhibition of contemporary artworks from SFMOMA’s collection explores the ways that artists inform our understanding of urgent social, ecological and civic issues, including security and surveillance, evolving modes of communication and political resistance.
Among the works presented are Hans Haacke’s News (1969/2008), a live newsfeed unspooling on rolls of printer paper; Trevor Paglen’s Autonomy Cube (2014), a sculpture with Wi-Fi access to a network that can anonymize data; and An Te Liu’s Cloud (2008), a system of 136 air purifiers, sterilizers, humidifiers, air cleaners and related machines running continuously. The exhibition features work in diverse media by 25 artists, including Andrea Bowers, Emily Jacir, Rinko Kawauchi and Glenn Ligon.
The exhibition title is drawn from James Baldwin’s 1962 essay “The Creative Process,” about the duty of artists to respond to social upheaval: “A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”