What Is Hospitality in an Era of Crises?

Gregory Volk, Hyperallergic, February 16, 2023

BUFFALO, New York — I dont know you like that: The Bodywork of Hospitality, at the University at Buffalo’s CFA Gallery and Anderson Gallery, is both exceptionally apt and prescient. It also underscores the potential of university museums and galleries, including those far from the art world limelight, to mount daring, innovative shows that most mainstream museums wouldn’t touch.

Guest curator, and former artistic/executive director of the Montreal Biennale, Sylvie Fortin began researching hospitality as a complex theme in contemporary art considerably before the COVID-19 pandemic and other decidedly inhospitable crises; the first (somewhat different) iteration of this show was last year at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska. Diverse artworks by 17 international and US artists engage Fortin’s hospitality/body theme from multiple perspectives that go well beyond the conventional meaning of “hospitality” as generosity and conviviality.
Cross-species hospitality, for example, in Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s engrossing, and disturbing, video “Hybrid: An Interspecies Opera” (2022), which explores the longstanding relationship between humans and pigs. Gorgeously scored by Bethany Barrett, with a libretto of quotations from scientists and archaeologists, the video’s five movements feature images of human-swine interaction from antiquity, wild boars at the edge of some town, genetically engineered pigs in research facilities and laboratories, and 3D-printed ceramic pigs. The live pigs — thoughtful, emotive, curious, tender — are being raised to donate their organs to humans, for which they will die. Talk about taking hospitality to the extreme.
Or humans-nature hospitality. Lithuanian Eglė Budvytytė filmed her mesmerizing video “Songs from the Compost: Mutating Bodies, Imploding Stars” (2020) at her country’s coastal Curonian Spit. In the video (also exhibited in The Milk of Dreams at the 2022 Venice Biennale) several young adults purposefully traverse a pine forest, sand dunes, and water, always remaining close and physically attentive to one another. Evoking animals on the move or a composite shape-shifting organism, they are part of nature and its processes, not its anthropocentric masters. The accompanying song is enthralling. 
While its two sites are several miles apart, this is a wholly integrated show in which correspondences — sometimes pronounced, sometimes subtle — develop between disparate works. Budvytytė’s video connects with London-based Adham Faramawy’s video installation “Skin Flick” (2019–21), which prominently features a horned, ever-changing protagonist, and likewise concerns bodily transformation, fluidity, and merging with nature, especially flora (the horned figure invokes the Daphne myth).