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Stanford University
Solo Exhibition by Celebrated Artist Nina Katchadourian

Solo Exhibition by Celebrated Artist Nina Katchadourian


Nina Katchadourian (U.S.A., b. 1968), Lavatory Self-Portrait in the Flemish Style #12. From “Seat Assignment” project, 2010–ongoing. C-print. Collection of Nion McEvoy, San Francisco. Image courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco

The Cantor Arts Center

Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser

Stanford, CA — The playful and perceptive work of Brooklyn- and Berlin-based artist Nina Katchadourian (b. 1968), is coming to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University this fall. Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser, a mid-career survey, will explore several major bodies of work in a variety of media including video, photography, sculpture, sound installations, and a live performance. Organized by the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, Nina Katchadourian: Curiouser is the first touring museum exhibition of the artist’s work. It runs at the Cantor — its only West Coast venue — from September 15 through January 7. 

Using humor and inventiveness, Katchadourian calls attention to often ignored and overlooked aspects of everyday life, revealing the creative potential that, in the artist’s words, “lurks within the mundane.” Often making art under self-imposed constraints, the artist’s practice is deeply conceptual while enticingly accessible.

“Katchadourian adeptly draws attention to our everyday surroundings and asks us to look more closely at the world in which we live,” said Cantor Assistant Curator Jennifer Carty. “This exhibition features a number of significant works by the artist, and to add to our excitement about this expansive presentation, Katchadourian was born and raised at Stanford, and has strong ties to the Bay Area.”

The artist’s interdisciplinary practice has led her to work largely beyond her Brooklyn studio and alongside many unexpected collaborators: making art in libraries, on airplanes, in forests and parking lots, while enlisting the assistance of sportscasters, zookeepers, museum maintenance staff, United Nations translators, an accent elimination coach, various animals and insects, as well as her own parents.

A highlight in Curiouser is Mended Spiderwebs, which Katchadourian refers to as an “uninvited collaboration with nature.” In this photographic series the artist attempts to repair broken webs found around her family cottage in the Finnish archipelago, filling gaps with red sewing thread, only to find the following day that the spider has rejected her repairs and restored the web using its own thread. Photographs depicting the artist’s meticulous work are paired with framed patches of the discarded red thread.

One of her most celebrated works, Accent Elimination (2005), plays a central role in the exhibition. This six-channel video installation was inspired by posters advertising courses in “accent elimination” that the artist encountered around New York. Katchadourian, whose foreign-born parents both have difficult-to-place accents, hired a professional speech coach to teach them to speak with a “standard” American accent, and to teach her to speak in her parents’ accents. The video captures the hybrid nature of the artist’s family, which she often describes as being like a “scrambled world map” and also as representative of countless households in the United States.

Integral to the exhibition is the artist’s ongoing project, “Seat Assignment.” Operating under self-imposed limitations of creating work while in flight, the artist produced a vast body of photographs and videos using only her mobile phone and whatever items were immediately available. Materials have varied from in-flight magazines and seatbelt buckles to snacks delivered by flight attendants. Spanning more than seven years and 200 flights, the resulting images include imaginative landscapes, still lifes, and even religious and spiritual imagery. Katchadourian explains, “I thought: Here I am with two and a half hours of time and why am I not going to consider this time as time that counts? Why not think actively, be alert and attuned to possibility?”

As part of “Seat Assignment,” Katchadourian spontaneously used the airplane lavatory as an artist's studio, leading to some of her most inventive and recognizable works. Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style consists of twenty-one self-portraits, most of them created on a single flight from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand in 2011. Using items such as paper towels and toilet seat covers as adornment, the artist transformed herself to recall 15th-century Northern Renaissance oil paintings and snapped photographs from her cell phone camera. Katchadourian also made music videos in which she is seen lip-synching the lyrics to classic rock ‘n’ roll and disco hits, such as the Bee Gees’ “Nights on Broadway” and Freddie Mercury and David Bowie’s duet “Under Pressure.” Eliciting both laughter and pause, Katchadourian’s work invites us to see our everyday surroundings as sites of creativity and discovery.

About the artist

Nina Katchadourian is an interdisciplinary artist whose work includes video, performance, sound, sculpture, photography, and public projects. She received a BA in both visual arts and literature from Brown University in 1989 and an MFA in visual arts from the University of California, San Diego, in 1993. Her video, Accent Elimination, was included in the 2015 Venice Biennale as part of the Armenian pavilion, which won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. Exhibitions have included shows throughout the world including at Palais de Tokyo, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katchadourian’s work has been widely published nationally and internationally, including a monograph, Sorted Books, released by Chronicle Books in 2013.  A commission titled Floater Theater opened at the Exploratorium in San Francisco in October 2016. Her work is in public and private collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Blanton Museum of Art, Morgan Library, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Margulies Collection, and Saatchi Gallery. Katchadourian, an associate professor at the New York University Gallatin School of Individualized Study, has been represented by Catharine Clark Gallery since 1999. She lives in Brooklyn and Berlin.


Accompanying the exhibition is the first substantial catalogue devoted to the artist’s career, published by the Blanton Museum of Art in partnership with UT Press. It includes an essay by Curiouser curator Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Blanton, offering the first in-depth examination of “Seat Assignment.” In keeping with Katchadourian’s own methods of creation, the text was written exclusively in-flight. The catalogue also includes an essay by Jeffrey Kastner, the New York-based writer, critic, and senior editor of Cabinet, as well as a lively interview between the artist and Stuart Horodner, director of The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. In addition, the catalogue features the artist’s personal accounts of individual works, paired with short creative essays by a multidisciplinary team of contributors, ranging from artist Ann Hamilton to animal behavior expert Laurel Braitman.

Public Programs

The Cantor is delighted to welcome Nina Katchadourian to campus on two separate occasions in conjunction with her exhibition.

Katchadourian in Conversation

On Saturday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. in the Cantor AuditoriumKatchadourian will be in conversation with Veronica Roberts, the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Blanton, where Katchadourian’s exhibition originated. Registration for this event opens on Aug. 12 and space is limited. Please check for registration information. 

Katchadourian Talk and “The On Hold Music Dance Party”

On Thursday, Oct. 19, there will be two exciting opportunities related to Curiouser. The first will be a talk by Katchadourian from 6:30–8 p.m. Information on program location can be found at Then, the energy really gets turned up with “The On Hold Music Dance Party,” a concept invented by Katchadourian. The public is invited to the Cantor Auditorium at 9 p.m. for a dance party consisting of music and other sounds recorded entirely from phone calls where the artist was placed on hold. Collaborating with DJ Shakey (Julie Covello) and DJ Stylus (Gabriel Willow), Katchadourian (DJ Dusty) and her collaborators spin this raw material into a surprisingly dynamic and extremely danceable set.

Gallery Talk

Another opportunity to learn more about Katchadourian’s work will occur on Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. in the Pigott Family Gallery, when Jennifer Carty, Assistant Curator at the Cantor, will give a lively and informative talk.

This exhibition is organized by the Blanton Museum of Art.

Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Suzanne Deal Booth; Eric Herschmann, Orly Genger, and family; and Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional gifts from George and Nicole Jeffords, the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation, Jenny and Trey Laird, Kathleen Irvin Loughlin and Christopher Loughlin, and Chris Mattsson and John McHale.  Support also is provided by Lawrence Banka and Judith Gordon, Nick Debs, Deborah Green, Pamela and David Hornik, Martin Z. Margulies, Karen and Chip Oswalt, and the West Collection, Philadelphia.

The accompanying catalogue is made possible by Nion McEvoy, with additional gifts from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, the Leanne Raesener Charitable Fund, and Judith Willcott and Laurence Miller and their families.

We gratefully acknowledge support of this presentation from the Elizabeth Swindells Hulsey Exhibitions Fund, the Special Exhibitions Fund, the Clumeck Fund, the Kazak Acquisitions and Exhibitions Fund, and the Contemporary Collectors Circle.

Cantor Arts Center
The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is a vital and dynamic institution with a venerable history. Founded in 1891 with the university, the historic museum was expanded and renamed in 1999 for lead donors Iris and B. Gerald Cantor. The Cantor’s encyclopedic collection spans 5,000 years, includes more than 45,000 artworks and beckons visitors to travel across the globe and through time: from Africa to the Americas to Asia, from classical antiquity to the present day. With 24 galleries presenting selections from the collection and more than 20 special exhibitions each year, the Cantor serves Stanford’s academic community, draws art lovers from the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond and attracts campus visitors from around the world. Free admission, free tours, lectures, family activities and temporary exhibitions make the Cantor one of the most well-attended university art museums in the country and a great resource for teaching and research on campus.