Past Talks & More | Artist Talks

Jonathan Berger

An Introduction to Nameless Love

Moderated by Thomas J. Lax


Artist Jonathan Berger joins us to discuss the five-year process of making the large-scale sculptural installation An Introduction to Nameless Love. Thomas J. Lax, curator of media and performance at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, moderates and Carmen Winant, associate professor and Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art in Ohio State’s Department of Art, provides an introduction to the program.

This latest installment of the Diversities in Practice series focuses on An Introduction to Nameless Love, an installation that takes the form of more than 533,000 tin, nickel, and charcoal parts. Berger’s exhibition chronicles a series of six extraordinary relationships, each built on a connection that lies outside the bounds of conventional romance. Even as they are persistently unacknowledged by contemporary society-at-large, these profound instances of what Berger puts forth as “nameless love” nonetheless enable people to live wholly fulfilling lives steeped in tenderness, ardor, empathy, care, vulnerability, salvation, redemption, and pleasure.

From 2014 to 2019, Berger conducted a series of dialogues with the diverse subjects in these relationships, subsequently drawing on his conversations and correspondences with them to produce a series of autonomous texts, each of which was generated collaboratively between Berger, the subject(s), and a guest editor of specific significance to each story. In this regard, every text becomes its own idiosyncratic, collectively produced work with Berger and the invited editor (none of whom are editors by profession) in some way supporting the subject’s authorship of their own narrative.

More about the exhibition

The exhibition presents each of these stories in the form of six differently configured and elaborately constructed large-scale text-based sculptures, evoking historical and cultural forms ranging from illuminated manuscripts to narrative tapestries and vernacular typography. Comprising some 33,000 one-inch tin letters, meticulously fashioned by Berger and a team of associates, each letter was soldered by hand to nickel wire and affixed in the various configurations, which constitute the installation. Imbued with a reverence for their subject, evidenced in the detail, effort, and labor of the human hand, the sculptures create at once elusive and present embodiments of the stories they tell and the figures within them.

An Introduction to Nameless Love was co-commissioned by the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University and Participant Inc New York and exhibited at each venue in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

More about the series

Diversities in Practice is a collaboration between Ohio State’s Wexner Center for the Arts, Department of Art, and Living Culture Initiative. This series includes talks and moderated discussions featuring a range of artists, thinkers, and practitioners engaged in compelling and critical work, centering projects ​that examine, shape, and push both material and ideological boundaries. This season we are happy to present Jonathan Berger, Torkwase Dyson, Cauleen Smith, Carolyn Lazard, Constantina Zavitsanos, and other artists who offer new insights and challenge our assumptions on issues of accessibility discrimination, race-based displacement, capitalism, labor, and systems of authority and authenticity. These presentations will be available online throughout 2020–21. ​Also available online are talks from 2020 with Christine Sun Kim, Stephanie Syjuco, Tomashi Jackson, Earlonne Woods, and Nigel Poor. Watch this site for updates and details.

Image of Jonathan Berger pictured from the neck up.

Jonathan Berger | Photo: Tikam Chand 

Black and white image of Thomas Lax standing in front of a white wall. He wears a black blazer and white shirt underneath

Thomas J. Lax | Photo: Paul Mpagi Sepuya 

More about the participants

Jonathan Berger chevron-down chevron-up

Jonathan Berger’s work centers around the practice of exhibition making, encompassing a spectrum of activity concerned with a rigorous investigation of the many ways in which the exhibition site can be repurposed and the subsequent potential for that site to allow for an expansion and reconsideration of what art can be and how it can be made. While his projects vary significantly, the exhibitions themselves are always the “work,” with the discrete parts contributing to a greater whole. He maintains an interest in abstract and experimental forms of nonfiction, including embodied biography and portraiture, as rendered through the creation of large-scale, narrative-based exhibitions made from both constructed and found objects. Most recently he presented the exhibition An Introduction to Nameless Love. His current project The Store is on view and open for business at the Aspen Art Museum through the end of 2021. He has also presented solo installation projects at the Busan Biennial, South Korea; Vox Populi, Philadelphia; Maccarone Inc and Karma, New York; Frieze Projects, London; Adams and Ollman, Portland; and VEDA, Florence. From 2013–16, Berger served as Director of 80WSE Gallery at NYU, where he mounted a wide range of collaborative exhibition projects presenting the work of Ellen Cantor, Bob Mizer, Printed Matter, James Son Ford Thomas, Michael Stipe, Vaginal Davis, Susanne Sachsse, and xiu xiu, among others. He is an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art Professions at New York University.

Thomas J. Lax chevron-down chevron-up

A writer and an interlocutor, Thomas J. Lax is currently preparing the exhibition Just Above Midtown: 1974 to the Present with Linda Goode Bryant, scheduled for 2022. He was the inaugural recipient of the Cisneros Research Grant, traveling to Brazil in 2020 to research contemporary Black art. He worked with colleagues across The Museum of Modern Art on a major rehang of the collection in 2019 and coorganized the exhibition Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done in 2018 with Ana Janevski and Martha Joseph. He has organized other projects at MoMA including Unfinished Conversations, Maria Hassabi: PLASTIC, Neil Beloufa: The Colonies and Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine. Previously, he worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem for seven years.

Cosponsored by the Wexner Center for the Arts and Ohio State's Department of Art's Visiting Artist Program.

American Electric Power Foundation

Ingram-White Castle Foundation
State Farm
Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
PNC Foundation
Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center
Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
L Brands Foundation
American Electric Power Foundation
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
Bill and Sheila Lambert
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation
Adam R. Flatto
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
Arlene and Michael Weiss

Carol and David Aronowitz
Michael and Paige Crane
Axium Plastics
Fenwick & West LLP
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
M/I Homes
Ohio State Energy Partners
Washington Prime Group
Lisa Barton
Russell and Joyce Gertmenian
Liza Kessler and Greg Henchel
Nancy Kramer
Matrix Psychological Services
Paramount Group, Inc.
Bruce and Joy Soll
Business Furniture Installations
E.C. Provini Co, Inc.
New England Development
Our Country Home


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Jonathan Berger