Leah Modigliani: How Long Can We Tolerate This?
September 1, 2017 - January 7, 2018
How long can we tolerate this? An incomplete record from 1933–1999 (2016) is an
assemblage comprising facsimile press photographs of evictions from twelve states. The
Philadelphia-based artist Leah Modigliani bounds this survey by focusing on the years
between the enactment and effective repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Designed to
disentangle commercial and investment banking, this act was signed into law by
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in March 1933. For the artist’s purposes, this
legislation symbolizes New Deal efforts to protect the public by keeping the forces of
capitalism in check. Modigliani selects one photograph from each year when the law
was in effect and reproduces both the recto and verso. As she notes, the installation
reads as both skyline and timeline, functioning as “a historical archive and a
representation of working and middle-class material displacement.”
Depression-era riots and rent strikes were expressions of community solidarity in an age
when there were significantly fewer evictions than there are today. The issue is now
more urgent than ever, with the affordable housing crisis escalating and new pressures
being applied by short-term rental companies. In the analysis of sociologist Matthew
Desmond, eviction is “a cause, not just a condition, of poverty,” with cascading and
corrosive effects not unlike those of incarceration. This year’s arts and humanities
theme is devoted to the study of “origins,” and Leah Modigliani invites us to reflect not
only on the fragility of “home” but also on the roots of structural disempowerment.
Leah Modigliani is an artist and scholar living in Philadelphia and is Assistant Professor of
Visual Studies at Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Her visual and written work is marked by an interest in critiquing the institutional context of art within contemporary economics and politics.
Banner Image: Leah Modigliani, How long can we tolerate this? An incomplete record from 1933–1999, 2016. Installation of framed archival inkjet prints. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.