With a wink and a smirk since 1949
Game for a laugh?
ANTONY GORMLEY IN HABIT
PARIS MARAIS MARCH – APRIL 2020
ANTONY GORMLEY, LEVEL, 2019, CAST IRON, 49,5 x 186,7 x 33,9 CM, © THE ARTIST
1962 – 1972
UNTIL 2 MAY 2020 LONDON
LAMPE-BOUCHE (ILLUMINATED LIPS), 1966, COLOURED POLYEST ER RES IN, LIGHT BULB, ELEC TRICAL WIRING AND METAL, 36 × 11 × 8 C M / 1 4 × 4 × 3 IN © ADAGP, PARIS. COURTESY THE ESTATE OF ALI NA SZ APOCZNIKOW / PI OTR STANISLAWSKI / G ALERIE LOEVENBRUC K, PARIS, PHOTO: THOMAS BARRATT
TO EXALT THE EPHEMERAL
The Lost Paradise II (detail), 2020
The Lost Paradise March 4â€“April 11
533 West 19th Street New York
RUDOLF POLANSZKY Gagosian New York
ArtReview vol 72 no 2 March 2020
Guilty leisures Conditioning. That’s what’s on ArtReview’s mind right now. Not that kind of conditioning, ArtReview doesn’t have hair; but rather, in the nature–nurture kind of way. Back in the mid-twentieth century, around the time when ArtReview was born (and maybe had a little bit of baby fluff), the idea of universal leisure-time started to fly around. Once machines started doing all the boring stuff, humans would finally have time to do, well, whatever they wanted: watching cat videos all day, sharing #foodporn pictures of every meal or, as some of the artists in this issue propose, talking to a corn field, or role-playing as Eva Braun and getting to screw Hitler. Naturally, the old folks didn’t actually mean leisure time for everybody. They were thinking inside a capitalist framework. Even if they were trying to escape it. The idea was conceived of within a capitalist system, where someone has to profit: so freetime became the ultimate commodity. Back then, Latin was part of a progressive education. So, not to let it go to waste, here’s one for you: the word ‘leisure’ comes from the Latin licere, to be permitted or to be free. So perhaps the real question is this: free to do what, exactly? Free to enact a set charade of predetermined leisure packages! Or, as seems to have been more properly the case, free also to turn our free-time into work-time, and our fantasies into income streams, where the imagination is just another space in which to do some problem-solving in relation to all those niggling issues in your inbox. We always find a way to keep ourselves busy, and always seem to want to work. Which is
a little suspicious, given that the people who own the companies that manage our emails and thus presumably our inboxes, want to keep us busy. So that they can have the lifestyle they, errr… deserve. Living the dream on our behalf. From Napoleon crowning himself – as he does in this magazine’s backpage – emperor of wokeness, to Wong Ping’s equal-opportunities self-shaming in his contribution to this issue, ArtReview knows that dreams are contested, uneven, or just plain unfair. Just because it’s your dream doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone, right? Which is why ArtReview looks forward to a time when attempts to teach machines to hallucinate and dream come to fruition; so that then humanity can be united by having something else to laugh at. And maybe then AIs can also be surprised at the outrage at their output and utter that age-old adage, ‘It’s political correctness gone mad!’ ‘There are things that robots cannot see,’ one Toyota factory worker states in Anna Witt’s Unboxing the Future, as he comes to terms with the seemingly inevitable loss of his job to an A I. But there are also things that humans cannot see. Imagining a life of freedom or another way of existing can of course be a bit, ah, blinkered by the existence that you’re conditioned to accept. Which is why this issue is filled with inhuman sensualities, improbable pregnancies and borderline personalities. After all, isn’t art the best route to imagine otherness? Whether it’s Tel Aviv-based Roee Rosen channelling fictional-historical characters ‘to dismantle Jewish identity and… the psychological construct of individual selfhood’, or Witt attempting to represent the workers’ experience through collaboration. Being whatever you want to be might be a question of attempting to re-engineer the contexts in which being arises in the first place, and ArtReview is here to do some re-conditioning, to encourage new growths. ArtReview
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Sagittarius, Medium Elliptical Glass, 2019, L.E.D. light, etched glass and shallow space, 53 × 71" © James Turrell
James Turrell February 11 – March 27, 2020 6 Burlington Gardens London @ PAC E G A L L E R Y PAC E G A L L E R Y. C O M
The Armory Show New York
Axel Vervoordt Gallery Stand 705
5 - 8 March 2020
Solo Booth Yuko Nasaka
Yuko Nasaka (Osaka Â°1938), Untitled, 2015, Plaster and pigment on wooden panel, 54 x 36,25 inch
LARI PITTMAN Found Buried March 5 – April 25, 2020 501 West 24th Street, New York Lari Pittman, 2019. Photo by Evan Bedford. © Lari Pittman. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul
DANCE IN MY EXPERIENCE
5.1 — 8.2.2020
3.20 — 6.7.2020
3.20 — 6.7.2020
Study for “Mesh Mirage”, 1977 Photo: Adam Avila
Caetano Veloso wearing P4 Parangolé Cape 1 (1964) by Hélio Oiticica, 1968 Photo: Geraldo Viola
Locus, 1975 Photo: Jack Mitchell
Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand
The entire year of 2020 at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand is dedicated to the Histories of dance, with solo shows of Hélio Oiticica, Trisha Brown, Senga Nengudi, Babette Mangolte, Teto Preto, Ana Pi, Mathilde Rosier, Edgar Degas, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa and Beatriz Milhazes, as well as the group show Histories of dance. The exhibition Senga Nengudi: Topologies is organized in cooperation with the Lenbachhaus, Munich; the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: Dance in My Experience is organized by MASP in partnership with the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro and the Projeto Hélio Oiticica.
Av. Paulista, 1578
HARUN FAROCKI & HITO STEYERL LIFE CAPTURED STILL
CURATED BY ANTJE EHMANN & CARLES GUERRA
IN COMPARISON, © HARUN FAROCKI, 2009
LONDON FEBRUARY – MARCH 2020
Breakfast with… Roee Rosen 28
The Sound of the Apocalypse by Patrick Langley 38
A Tale of Two Neighbours by Clarissa Oon 32
The Interview Huma Bhabha by Ross Simonini 40
Meanwhile, in Chelsea by Christian Viveros-Fauné 34
Coming Up Ten shows to see this month by Martin Herbert 48
The Kids Are Alright by Erika Balsom 36
page 48 Eva & Franco Mattes, Catt, 2010, taxidermy cat and bird, polyurethane resin, bird cage, wood pedestal, 55 × 40 × 40 cm. Courtesy the artists (see Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation)
Roee Rosen by Ben Eastham 56
My Fake Woke Confession by Wong Ping 70
Anna Witt by Mark Rappolt 64
Pedro Neves Marques by João Mourão and Luís Silva 78
page 78 Pedro Neves Marques and Catarina de Sousa, A Mordida, 2019, super 16mm transferred to video, colour, sound, 26 min. Courtesy the artist
Luca Vitone, by Barbara Casavecchia Naama Tsabar, by Jonathan Griffin Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time, by Rahel Aima Tschabalala Self, by Megan N. Liberty Vaivém, by Oliver Basciano Chantal Peñalosa, by Gaby Cepeda Richard Nonas, by Max Feldman 12th Bamako Encounters, by Kimberly Bradley
exhibitions 86 Sharjah Architecture Biennial, by Mark Rappolt Phantom Plane, by Ben Eastham Antony Gormley, by Sam Korman Cameron Rowland, by Chris Fite-Wassilak Stan Douglas, by Nina Power Larry Achiampong, by J.J. Charlesworth Donna Huddleston, by Kathryn Lloyd Marine Hugonnier, by Susannah Thompson William N. Copley, by Martin Herbert Derek Jarman, by Ben Eastham Jannis Marwitz, by Moritz Scheper Alain Bizos, by John Quin Miriam Cahn, by Phoebe Blatton Eva Kot’átková, by Rodney LaTourelle Gabriel Kuri, by Pádraic E. Moore Karen Russo, by Keren Goldberg
books 116 An Apartment on Uranus, by Paul B. Preciado, reviewed by Kevin Brazil Franz Parts Schule, by Franz Part, reviewed by Ben Street The Emperor of China’s Ice, by Jun Yang, reviewed by Mark Rappolt In Print: a roundup of new releases, reviewed by J.J. Charlesworth back page 122
page 108 Sondra Perry, ffffffffffffoooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, 2017. Photo: Clare Gatto. Courtesy Red Bull Arts Detroit
Maxim Komar-Myshkin’s Vladimir’s Night (detail), 2014, published by Sternberg Press. Courtesy the artist
For the main course see page 56 28
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Subject to modifications
June 18 – 21, 2020 Carl Andre: Aluminum Sum Ten (2003), Art Basel in Basel, 2015 [Top]; César: Un mois de lecture des Bâlois (1996), ART 27 in Basel, 1996, by Kurt Wyss [Bottom]
And they had made many wild statements 31
Wet Season (2019), the latest work by one of Singapore’s most decorated filmmakers, Anthony Chen, features an unhappy high school teacher, Ling, who forms a bond with one of her male students – a relationship that soon shades into more questionable territory. For her grounded, unvarnished portrayal, which offsets some of the film’s predictability and lack of narrative tension, lead actress Yeo Yann Yann won a Golden Horse, the Chinese-language film industry’s most prestigious award. To me, what is more significant than the film’s exploration of female frustration and desire is the fact that Ling is a Malaysian Chinese (as is Yeo herself), living in Singapore, seemingly blending in with Singapore’s ethnic Chinese majority, but for all of the two Southeast Asian countries’ proximity and shared history and all her years of residing in the city state, she remains an outsider.
Neighbour and muse
Singapore storytellers find inspiration in the country’s fraught history with Malaysia, writes Clarissa Oon
above and facing page, top Wet Season, dir Anthony Chen, 2019, 103 min. © Giraffe Pictures
Wet Season is one of a clutch of recent films and plays created by Singaporean artists that reflect wistfully on the country’s tangled relationship with Malaysia. These works appeared during key anniversary years in Singapore, such as last year’s bicentennial marking 200 years since the British set foot in their one-time colony, and 2015, when Singapore celebrated sg50 or 50 years of independence as a nation state. In 7 Letters, an sg50 anthology of short films, and in selected multilingual plays by Singapore theatre company Wild Rice, what is under scrutiny is not so much current bilateral ties, but the once-symbiotic historical relationship between the city state and its northern neighbour, which has since grown distant and transactional. Wet Season, which hit cinemas at the end of last year, makes this point through the weather and through language. It’s always grey, rainy and depressing in the Singapore Ling inhabits, compared to the one Malaysian scene that’s flooded with sunshine, and she cuts an isolated figure as a Chinese-language teacher in a country where many ethnic Chinese don’t take the language seriously (English is Singapore’s language of upward mobility, whereas Malaysia has kept its independent Chinese-medium schools and with that, a base of Malaysian Chinese invested in the language). Then there is how she codeswitches to Hokkien and Malaysian-accented Mandarin only when talking to her mother on the phone and to her brother, a truck-driving durian seller (Singapore once banned Chinese dialects from the mass media to encourage the speaking of standard Mandarin, and they remain officially frowned upon). From 1963 to 1965, the two former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, both multiethnic societies, were one country (along with Sabah and Sarawak) – until an unceremonious split. Malaysia went on to institute policies boosting economic and educational opportunities for the indigenous ethnic Malay majority, who today enjoy a privileged position. Singapore, faced with unease among Malays over an ethnic Chinese majority, borne of over a century of colonial-era migration, actively promoted multiethnic representation and mixing in areas ranging from politics to public housing, but minority races have over the years also criticised the entrenching of ‘Chinese privilege’. The constant traffic between the two countries, similar in many ways yet also diametrically opposite, gives rise to the tensions highlighted on stage and moving image. At the same time, the shared experience of decolonisation prior to 1963, with its sense of liberation and heady idealism, has also
inspired artists bent on unearthing a lost limb of Singapore’s past which has been effaced by post-1965 state narratives. One example is the bold 2015 epic Hotel, cowritten by noted Singapore playwright Alfian Sa’at and Marcia Vanderstraaten, which Wild Rice is reviving this coming June. A cocktail of history and fiction spanning exactly 100 years, the play is set in a Singapore hotel room where an energetic ensemble plays out different scenes, varying widely and at times jarringly in tone and style. One comic episode, set in the mid-1950s (before the merger with Malaya), has a starstruck Azizah from Penang bursting into the hotel room where her hometown hero, the iconic Malay filmmaker P. Ramlee, is auditioning actors together with Indian director Phani Majumdar and movie mogul ‘Mr Shaw’, one of the famous Shaw brothers. Replete with song-and-dance sequences channeling Ramlee’s films, the scene is full of joie de vivre and harks towards the promise of a new nation in all its multiethnic plurality. This is in stark contrast to a later scene where a much older Azizah and her family arrive at the hotel as Malaysian tourists, amidst post-9/11 heightened security and anti-Muslim paranoia. The harsh interrogation of this Malay Muslim family by Singapore police officers convey the walls that have sprung up – between countries and races – compared to a time when the borders were much more porous. While Hotel may be criticised for romanticising an earlier era in Singapore-Malaysia relations, Wild Rice’s newer work has been more reflective and nuanced in its polemics. Alfian cowrote Merdeka, staged in October last year, with Neo Hai Bin. Despite its potentially didactic premise of a book club set up to dismantle the Iegacy of Sir Stamford Raffles,
the man framed by school history textbooks as the ‘founder’ of ‘modern Singapore’, Merdeka ends up being akin to a very nimble, engaging lecture-performance. Deploying verbal cut-and-thrust, well-judged humour, Brechtian devices as well as emotionally resonant songs, the play brings to life lesserknown historical episodes in various ethnic communities’ skirmishes with colonialism. Its triumph must surely be leading the audience in a fist-pumping chorus of “Merdeka!” – the Malay word for independence, which closed Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s now-forgotten rousing 1963 speech announcing the end of colonialism and Singapore’s merger with Malaysia. While these works dive into Singapore’s past, the object of concern is really the here and now. Beneath the nostalgia lies growing anxiety among Singapore’s liberals at a new generation of political leaders tightening the reins to establish their legitimacy, further shrinking the space for outliers and dissenters in universities, the media and the public sphere in general. These buried historical narratives matter because the lack of selfawareness and criticality will cost us, these artists say. They include documentary filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, who directed Pineapple Town, one of the fictional shorts in 7 Letters, about a Singaporean woman’s journey to trace the Malaysian birth mother of her adopted baby girl. As the terse one-liner at the end of Pineapple Town puts it: ‘We are what we know.’ Clarissa Oon is an arts writer and editor based in Singapore
above Hotel, 2015, written by Alfian Sa’at and Marcia Vanderstraaten, produced by Wild Rice, Singapore. © Wild Rice
While the bigger-is-better bulk of costly New York museums such as The Shed and the newly refurbished moma has grown up around them, leviathanlike commercial galleries Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner have themselves spent the better part of the last decade building their own monuments to supersizing as the default mode of doing business. These expansions include but are not limited to adding artists to their respective stables, developing curatorial teams, inventing publishing arms (full disclosure: I recently published a volume with David Zwirner Books) and, of course, erecting ever-larger citadels in Manhattan and elsewhere (Paris, Hong Kong, Seoul, Menorca, Palo Alto, among others). Then, last September, Pace momentarily eclipsed its rivals by unveiling the Optimus Prime of commercial art spaces: a 7,000sqm, eight-storey behemoth in New York. Located on West 25th Street, Pace Gallery’s new global hq features a glittering veneer made of volcanic ash and aluminium, galleries that can house several major exhibitions simultaneously, private viewing rooms, office space for sibling outfits Pace/MacGill and Pace African & Oceanic Art, a 10,000-volume research library open to the public by appointment, a zone that seats 150 and serves the gallery’s new performance initiative, Pace Live, and a garden (with killer views of the Hudson River) capable of supporting 360 tons of art, a dedicated food truck and the cumulative weight of millions of artworld selfies. Not only does Pace’s new building boast more square meterage than the planned addition to the New Museum, it’s also bigger than the Met Breuer. Unsurprisingly, Pace hq’s price tag is similarly impressive. The building cost a reported $80 million, plus an additional $18.2m to build out the polished concrete, stainless steel and white-
Meanwhile, in Chelsea
Contemporary gibberish now goes from gafa to pdzghw, says Christian Viveros-Fauné
Fred Wilson: Chandeliers, 2019 (installation view, Pace’s new global headquarters, New York). © the artist. Courtesy Pace, New York
oak interior. Incredibly, Pace does not own the building. Instead, it is leasing the premises from Weinberg Properties for a figure estimated by Artnet News to be $704,000 a month (that’s $8.45m annually and $220m over the life of the 20-year lease, accounting for rent increases). Did I mention the property is built on a flood zone? Like other head-scratching corporate gambles (Northrop Grumman’s $2 billion-per-copy Stealth Bomber comes to mind), the dollars-and-cents logic of this financial legerdemain outstrips the cheque-balancing of mere mortals. To mogulsplain, Pace Gallery president and ceo Marc Glimcher and new curator Mark Beasley (the latter joining from the Hirshhorn Museum) have invoked an enter-through-the-giftshop rationale to partially describe their expandedbusiness logic: it’s about tapping into other commercial models, they say, including the experience economy, retail, Silicon Valley management and, yes, the real-estate industry’s obsession with, ahem, inseam measurements. At least one art writer validates these voodoo economics: Artnet News’s Brook Mason reports that at approximately $20 per person, the entry fee paid by the 500,000 visitors to the gallery’s exhibitions of Tokyo-based collective teamLab at Pace’s Palo Alto, London and Beijing locations would have brought in upwards of $10m. But is Pace really looking to reinvent the traditional saleable-object gallery model? And if they are, will its competitors follow? Whatever the answers – ie, the actual and projected payoff at the till – Pace’s supersizing is just the latest salvo in an arms race of epic expenditure among the gallery’s rivals, with – surprise! – a new round of expansions visible across Chelsea. The district’s wealthiest dealers are ramping up in scale and plunking down eye-watering sums for newly designed quarters. Hauser & Wirth announced it is adding a new Annabelle Selldorfdesigned building at 542 West 22nd Street to its property portfolio; Larry Gagosian has moved into the former quarters of Mary Boone and Pace, adjacent to his 2,500sqm gallery (his empire already totals 16,000sqm globally); and David Zwirner is set to break ground on a new fivestorey, $50m flagship at 540 West 21st Street, designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Renzo Piano. Unlike gafa – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple – art’s new world order remains, for the moment, a confusing consonant salad: pdzghw. Where will these gargantuan expansions lead? Like the gameshow said, that’s anybody’s guess, but one may safely assume they will result in additional Transformer-like synergies that hint at fantastical futures while running through piles of speculative cash. With New York-based megagalleries today, it’s all about keeping pace. Christian Viveros-Fauné is a writer and curator based in New York
23â€” 26 April 2020 Tour & Taxis
Contemporary Art Fair
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A curator friend says that anyone who decides to have children today is a climate-change denier. He’s joking – but only a little. More than ever, people are opting out of parenthood. Some cite environmental crises, others downward mobility or political doom: according to the antinatalist philosopher David Benatar, life is so full of suffering that forgoing procreation is an act of compassion. Many feel differently, of course. Either way, one thing is certain: the contested figure of the child carries the weight of our uncertain future. This has not been lost on artists who turn to children – vulnerable and guileless, untouched by cynicism and resignation – to confront the question of whether or not a better world is possible. After a spate of books, artworks and exhibitions on the theme of motherhood, recent works by Steve McQueen and Éric Baudelaire depart from considerations of the experience of raising one’s own child to consider the shared responsibility that we, as a society, bear towards those destined to inherit our mess. At the London Overground station near my house, 54 young faces stare out from a diptych of billboards, part of McQueen’s Year 3 (2019) project. Adopting the standard format of the class portrait, the British filmmaker dispatched a team from Tate to photograph some 76,000 pupils at London’s schools, with the portraits displayed as a gridded installation at Tate Britain and as posters around the city. This delegation feels a bit easy, but the lack of personal involvement also fits: the proprietary claims of parenthood are nowhere to be found. Critics have lauded Year 3 for its scale, optimism and celebration of diversity. To this, I would add the merit of framing London’s children as a matter of collective concern. McQueen’s 76,000 levy a silent demand for socialised care, a demand they may not even know is theirs. Yet passing the billboards almost every day, during the tumult of an election campaign, I began to feel the limitations of the photographs’ fixity and formality with increasing force. Sameness won out over difference. The class portraits resemble the seven- and eight-year-olds they depict in physical likeness alone, too bound by their mimicry of institutional protocol to capture anything of the children’s protean existence, their thoughts, gestures, hopes or fears. As a contrast, I recall Smadar Dreyfus’s immersive installation School (2009–11), shown at the Folkestone Triennial in 2011. In dark rooms, audio recordings of Israeli classrooms are heard, trans-
Fresh Air, New Lights
Are the kids alright? Erika Balsom thinks so
Steve McQueen, Year 3, 2019, billboards at Pimlico Tube Station, London Borough of Westminster. Photo: Theo Christelis
lated into white text appearing on black screens. Across lessons in citizenship, geography and other topics, the visitor grasps how the school functions as a lively site for the production of subjectivity, marked equally by indoctrination and resistance. To make No Ordinary Protest (2018), recently nominated for the Jarman Award, Mikhail Karikis worked with London schoolchildren, fusing the power of make-believe with a reflection on environmental crisis. The children share their thoughts on caring for the planet and collaborate on an adaptation of Ted Hughes’s 1993 science-fiction novel The Iron Woman, in which the titular figure takes vengeance on humans for their destructive ways. Dreyfus observes; Karikis participates. Both, however, approach children who are not their own as political beings in the making; both use time-based media to capture the flows of becoming. These objectives are at the heart of Baudelaire’s feature-length film Un film dramatique (2019), the centrepiece of the artist’s Prix Marcel Duchampwinning exhibition at the Centre Pompidou last year and on view in the Deep Focus section of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam. Baudelaire worked with Parisian middle-school students for four years, filming them – and, crucially, giving them opportunities to represent themselves and their lives – through a period of immense change. Un film dramatique reactivates the Godardian axiom that ‘the problem is not to make political films, but to make films politically’ by pursuing collaboration with, and durational commitment to, its subjects. The students consider what kind of film they want to make; they discuss identity, terrorism, daily life. They are not merely someone’s offspring and not blank slates, either. They are not mute witnesses to the events of adults, as were the child-seers of Italian neorealism. They are agents in their own right, inheritors of the world. Baudelaire shares McQueen’s interest in portraying the child far from the reproductive logic of the nuclear family, within the frame of political community. But where Year 3 imposes a template, the form of Un film dramatique is without predetermination, shaped in response to the students’ own images and concerns. If the child is a promise of futurity and transformation, of a world different and better than our own, Baudelaire’s film takes after its subjects, maintaining an open horizon and a desperately needed hope. Erika Balsom is a writer and lecturer in film studies and liberal arts at King’s College, London
Edmund de Waal library of exile 12 Mar – 8 Sep 2020 Free ‘a hymn to writers in exile’ The Economist
‘profoundly beautiful’ Artlyst
Edmund de Waal (b. 1964), psalm, I (detail), 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian. Photo by Hélène Binet.
Late one winter afternoon, in an incongruously shabby building on a London street lined with bluechip galleries and designer clothes shops, I witnessed the end of the world. Or rather, given that this was a night of experimental performances organised by an art institution, a representation of it. The interior of the venue resembled a squat-party in a building site – bare concrete floors, a Portaloo in the corner – populated by a leather- and spandex-wearing crowd resembling extras in Hackers (1995). Chatting with a friend before the headline act, I rolled my eyes at the derelict venue, expressed judgemental opinions about people’s footwear, and resented having to hang around in the cold. A press release about the headline act cited primordial voids, K-holes and an ominous return to ‘the end’. Which will likely translate to fits of screaming, I thought, hoping that I would be wrong. A crowd gathered beside the Portaloo, next to a hole in the floor from which came grinding, clanking sounds. We were ushered down rickety scaffolding into a dark basement in which a woman in black, head bowed, was dragging a length of scaffolding in circles along the floor and hitting it against the walls. Four people stood at a table nearby, armed with a black, plastic crate, an old desktop mac, a battered drum pad and other salvagedlooking bits and bobs. Thumping kick-drums, walls of distortion and jungle beats paired with infernal red glows and spasmodic strobe lights. One musician was wearing a headlamp, another a white veil. A man in a white shirt read a story about a planet poisoned by corporate greed and technological hubris. Projected against the far wall were photographs of blighted landscapes and ruined cities, the images sooty and blurred like dodgy photocopies from a school textbook. ‘But we don’t need history lessons,’ I thought self-righteously, ‘the world is on fire!’ The performances drew parallels between the so-called Winter of Discontent of 1978–79, marked by crippling strikes and the fragmentation of the left, and the present day. But by recapitulating the radical cultural forms that flourished in the years around the election of Margaret Thatcher, the apocalypticindustrial aesthetic felt outdated (and not just because bushfires, desertification and acidifying oceans feel like more present threats to the world’s future than those that loomed 40 years ago). In 1976, at Throbbing Gristle’s first performance at London’s ica, Genesis P-Orridge
Patrick Langley hears the trumpets of the apocalypse
intermission: White Noise Ballrooms, 2020, coproduction by Camden Arts Centre and 33–33, 5–6 Cork Street, London. Photo: Brian Whar
declared that the gig would be about the ‘postbreakdown of civilisation’ and described a bleak landscape informed by the looming possibility of a nuclear war. These grim prophetic visions, replete with references to serial killers and death camps, were not only nihilistic but sought to foment revolution. I couldn’t feel the same way about the spectacle playing out in front of me, which felt instead like a tribute to iconoclasts and apocalypses past. A musician was bashing a chain against a bucket and, as I had feared, the screaming started. This was my cue to leave. Heading back into the night, I tried to make sense of my frustration. Every generation has its own version of civilisational collapse – nuclear winter, global pandemic, ecological disaster – and perhaps all end-times feel at once impossible and inevitable, a future we are powerless to avoid and so doomed to act out imaginatively. But the end isn’t nigh. It’s already here, only playing out over a longer duration and moving in ways sometimes invisible to those who, like me, have been protected by privilege and geography from bushfire and flood. Which begs the question: how can art and music figure this accelerating crisis? In the Book of Revelation, the end of the world brings not only destruction but knowledge: ‘here is wisdom’. These days, it feels as if we are becoming more aware of the catastrophic consequences of inaction even as we fail to act on that awareness. The art that best captures the climate crisis foregrounds this paradox by accepting that human activity is making our planet hostile to life, acknowledging how difficult it is to process that reality and, by extension, how easily such knowledge is repressed: the first step towards effecting change is to highlight our devastating complacency. In the opera Sun & Sea (Marina) by Rugile· Barzdžiukaite·, Vaiva Grainyte· and Lina Lapelyte·, staged at the Lithuanian Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, bathers on a beach sing about dead coral reefs, erupting volcanoes, sun cream and boredom. At one point, in a leisurely refrain, they sing that “everything is fine”. The melody is gentle, the irony anything but. It depicts a scenario both more plausible and more imminent than cataclysmic war or divine punishment: that we sit back and watch the end of the world play out in front of our eyes. Patrick Langley is a critic and novelist based in London
OPERA WOZZECK — BERG
SIR SIMON RATTLE | SIMON MCBURNEY
COSÌ FAN TUTTE — MOZART
THOMAS HENGELBROCK | DMITRI TCHERNIAKOV
THE GOLDEN COCKEREL — RIMSKY-KORSAKOV AZIZ SHOKAKIMOV | BARRIE KOSKY
L’INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA — MONTEVERDI LEONARDO GARCÍA ALARCÓN | TED HUFFMAN
INNOCENCE-WORLD PREMIERE — KAIJA SAARIAHO
SUSANNA MÄLKKI | SIMON STONE
30 JUNE — 18 JULY 2020
OPERA CONCERTS INCISES INSTALLATIONS AIX EN JUIN ACADÉMIE MEDITERRANEAN
© IRMA BOOM
Photo: Elyse Harary Benenson
The Interview by Ross Simonini
“I have my own mythology, but I keep that to myself. You respond to it emotionally, but I’m not going to lead you there”
Huma Bhabha is careful when discussing her art. She reveals little of her intentions, preferring to affect her viewers in nonlinguistic ways. At times, she speaks of what she refuses – eg, the reading of her work through her identity – and, like a subtractive sculptor, she carves away unwanted interpretations, while we, the viewers, are left to behold the remains. Fittingly, Bhabha leaves a fair amount of her work untitled, and the titles she does assign, especially to her shows, often hint at the unknown – We Come in Peace (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2018), They Live (ica Boston, 2019), Other Forms of Life (The Contemporary Austin, 2018) – with references to aliens, horror films and the supernatural. This is an artist who places imagination at the forefront of her practice, and every piece
seems to add another character to her dark, fantastical underworld. Bhabha’s work is almost entirely figurative, from towering statues to collages to paintings on paper to floating heads on walls. Her exhibitions are populated with creatures that recall vengeful gods – humanoid in form, but not in spirit. As with Giacometti, the energy of her mark-making is most intensified in her faces, which wear expressions that recall the haunted grins of Chinese Guardian lions, the icy stares of Congolese wooden masks, the frozen agony of Francis Bacon’s popes. These idols appear like fetishes from antiquity, and Bhabha’s primary palette encourages this false history: black burns, oxidised rust, murky purples, speckled dirt and startling white. And yet her favoured materials
are the immortal polymers of mass production, especially chunks of Styrofoam and plastic, which evoke the dystopic junkyard of the future. Born in Karachi, Bhabha now works in an old firehouse in what she calls the “extremely urban” city of Poughkeepsie, New York. She moved there in 2002, with her husband, the painter Jason Fox, to escape the high costs and distracting competition of New York. I planned to visit her there in the fall, but she cancelled after feeling a bit overwhelmed with work. So we spoke two months later, on the phone, while she was in a Los Angeles hotel room. She had just installed her untitled solo show at David Kordansky Gallery, and was recovering from an unfortunately timed illness. She sniffled throughout our talk, but her mental acuity was undimmed.
Unpopular interests ross simonini Do you still look at a lot of art? huma bhabha Seeing my peers is very important to me. rs It’s funny, a lot of artists don’t feel that way. They stop seeing shows. hb You have to stay aware of your community. It’s another way of being in reality. rs You mentioned that you’re not feeling so well right now. What do you do when you’re sick?
an artist, pursuing it even though it wasn’t bringing in any money, or shows, or any promise of career success. It took a long time for all of that to come. rs It felt like a long time to you? hb It took 15 years after graduating to get my first solo show in New York. Many people I know stopped being artists in that time. They grew out of it, they said. And my work was not fashionable when it was supposed to be. I wasn’t interested in appropriation, which was the 80s, or relational aesthetics and identity, which was
hb Just sleep. I brought a book with me but couldn’t read it. The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories, edited by Jhumpa Lahiri. Seemed like easy material for a trip.
hb I made a lot more work in the last 15 than the previous 15 years, certainly. I had more opportunities, and I met them.
hb I read those a while ago. I watch a lot more science-fiction films than I read now, and 1980s horror movies – before they started with cgi. Early Cronenberg. James Cameron films. Aliens and The Terminator are classics for me. I watch a lot of film and tv. I like old black-and-white movies also.
The shuffling rs Do you have a lot of emotions while making the work? Is it an act of passion? hb Not so much while I’m working. I spend a lot of time just looking at my work. But the work is emotive.
rs I noticed the film noir The Mask of Dimitrios [1944, starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet] is used in one of your new titles. I just watched Laura and The Third Man. Now I’m going through all the Philip Marlowe films.
rs Are you drawn to the horrific? hb I’m looking for beauty, but that is very different for many people. Gore can be beautiful. I just like intensity. I’m interested in the genre of horror, and I’ve absorbed that into my work. I don’t want to scare somebody. But life is pretty horrific. It keeps us all horrified. It never seems to lessen. We’ve been in a state of war for 20 years. That’s why the younger generation is freaking out, they know they are getting screwed.
hb Great movies. Robert Mitchum is good. rs You were watching a lot of this work when you were growing up in Pakistan? hb American culture was around, and I just folded it into my culture. It was like speaking two languages at once. I’m comfortable speaking both languages in one sentence. It’s like that.
rs Is this generation uniquely screwed?
rs Do you read much horror?
rs I still can’t believe Mary Shelley wrote it at nineteen. The same age you left Pakistan for America. hb When you’re young, you make the most important choices of your life. rs What were yours? hb I met the person I would spend the rest of my life with, and I made the choice to be
hb While I was in grad school at Columbia [University], I worked for an artist for four years. Then I worked at a translation agency as a secretary for four years. Then I got some part-time jobs for graphic designers. Then I decided to take some time off working, and it happened to be then that I finally got some recognition. I’d been in many group shows but I couldn’t find a gallery to represent me. In 2004 I got my first solo show in New York [at atm Gallery], though I had also showed at a gallery in Los Angeles that didn’t exist for long. I also got a New York Times review, which put me on the map. Then I was in Greater New York [at ps1] in 2005. rs Did the recognition change the work for you?
rs Do you read much? I always hear Philip K. Dick associated with your work.
hb Just the classics. Dracula and Frankenstein, which is amazing.
rs What other jobs did you work in that period?
the 90s. For me, being original is most important. So my work was dismissed, because I wasn’t doing what other people were doing. It allowed me to do what I wanted to do and to build up my own personal mythology. I could develop interests that were not popular.
hb Probably not. You know, politics never came into the conversation before. Here, in the States, people never talked about it. Now they do, because things are bad. Things weren’t great before, but they were ok enough that it didn’t affect them. People could be oblivious to it. rs How was it different when you were coming up?
Untitled, 2019, ink, acrylic, oil stick and pastel on C-print, 203 × 127 cm. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
hb Well, people weren’t looking for younger artists to speculate on. I got a better education working for an artist than I did going to Columbia.
top Huma Bhabha, 2020 (installation view). Photo: Jeff McLane. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
above Huma Bhabha, 2015 (installation view). Photo: Hugard & Vanoverschelde. Courtesy the artist and Clearing, Brussels
rs Who was the artist? hb You probably don’t know him. His name is Meyer Vaisman. He was a contemporary of Ashley Bickerton, Richard Prince, Peter Halley. He had a gallery [International With Monument] where he showed these people. It’s funny, most people don’t know his name now, but he was quite an art star then. He worked with Castelli and Sonnabend. He’s still making work, but he lives in Europe. Some people survive the artworld. Some don’t. There’s always a shuffling. rs Do you think it’s a random shuffle? hb It always has to do with the quality of your work. You can do all the networking you want, but everything is reevaluated. Even dead people. We look back and wonder: was this person as good as we thought? But one of my favourite artists is Rembrandt. The older he got the better he got. That’s rare.
Always be insecure
hb For me, it’s more about the mark, the material. I do have my own mythology, but I keep that to myself. You respond to it emotionally, but I’m not going to lead you there. I might give you a hint with a title. But sometimes a title just makes it humorous. I think there’s a lot of humour in the work, it’s just a private kind of humour. rs You sound resistant to language. hb It’s not my forte. I’m uncomfortable with language. I would not put a text next to a work. I use my hands. I want you to feel. rs Do you enjoy that mystery around the work? hb Yeah. It allows me to imagine, and I think imagination is something that people in the artworld don’t consider much. rs Do you think many artists overly discuss their work? hb Sure. But I don’t even go there. I just look at the work. I respect conceptual work, but that’s not what I do. I don’t even make preparatory
rs To me, your work suggests an alternate reality.
rs Do you and your husband talk about art much? hb Oh yes. I’m very lucky to have found someone like that. rs Will you open up to him about your mythology? hb Oh yeah, totally. When you are comfortable with someone, you can sound foolish. We can talk about movies and whatever weird ideas I have. rs Did you grow up with much religion? hb My parents weren’t super-religious, but they weren’t nonbelievers either. There’s this idea about that part of the world, that it’s more religious, but it’s the same as here. I’d say it’s even more conservative here now. rs What about now? No religion? hb I don’t practise anything. Organised religion doesn’t have the answer to anything. I grew up believing more, but as I grew older I saw that religion was only hurting people. rs Do you believe in anything outside of religion?
hb Maybe it’s the same reality, we just can’t see it.
hb Sure. Spirituality and stuff like that.
rs Do you have a specific reality in mind?
Ghost of Human Kindness, 2011, painted bronze, 263 × 81 × 97 cm. Courtesy the artist and Clearing, New York & Brussels
drawings for my sculptures. My work is very intuitive. I’m a formal artist.
rs Any superstitions?
rs And you’re sick right now. Oh no!
hb [laughs] It’s just the flu. I’m not going to die. It’s just been lingering. The opening is the day after tomorrow and I’ll be fine by then. I think I caught it in the doctor’s office. I normally stay pretty healthy.
rs Do you have any beliefs around the ideas in your work, like say extraterrestrials? Or do you not engage with it that way? hb I don’t engage with it like that. I just use it as a way to stimulate my imagination. And the work does relate to other issues, like militarism. The work is about now, not the future or the past. rs Would you say your imagination is more or less developed now than in your youth? hb I think the more you experience, the more connections you can make, and that allows you to strengthen your imagination. rs One of the uses of horror, or fear, is the way it can stimulate the imagination. hb I like that. I want people to have a physical sensation in front of my work.
rs They say that hospitals are one of the top causes of illness and death. hb Exactly. Because you never know who is carrying what. rs You speak so practically but… hb I’m crazy otherwise [laughs]. I’m not a crazy person in life. Some people are. I’m open but there’s a lot of practicality in my work process. rs Styrofoam is practical. hb I use the packing-material kind and the coloured kind used for insulation. For me, it’s like marble. I wasn’t trained as sculptor so I can’t carve marble or stone. Styrofoam is sturdy and
light. It made sense to use light materials when you move things by yourself. My process is about a series of practical decisions. rs Is it a dangerous material to work with, in terms of your respiratory system? hb Less than resin. Less than fibreglass. I just wear a mask. rs From the outside you seem to be at a good point in your career. Does it feel that way? hb Yes. I feel good about the work. I’ve had many great opportunities and they’ve all brought me to new places. As an artist the most important thing is to be aware of what you’re doing. And to always be insecure. Never take anything for granted. My husband says it’s good to stay insecure. It’s a healthy thing. rs Do you feel stress around the success? hb I try not to. If I ran out of ideas, that would be bad, but I still have plenty. An exhibition of new sculptures and drawings by Huma Bhabha is on show at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, through 14 March
rs What are you afraid of? hb Regular stuff. rs Like death? hb Illness. My family members went through that. You don’t want to be sick for very long.
Ross Simonini is an artist and writer based in New York and California
Dailamite Highlander, 2019, cork, acrylic, oil stick and Plexiglas, 173 × 46 × 46 cm. Photo: Daniel Perez. Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
sculpturegarden Geneva Biennale
In collaboration with
With the kind support of
2 Aubrey Beardsley, The Climax, illustration for Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1893), line block print on paper. Photo: Stephen Calloway. Courtesy Tate
Cory Arcangel, Yoga / Lakes, 2017, part 10 looped digital file, media player, flatscreen, armature, various cables, dimensions variable. © the artist
3 Steve Reinke, Untitled (needlepoint), 2017, floss on plastic backing, 18 × 9 cm. Courtesy the artist; Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; and Western Exhibitions, Chicago
Coming Up by Martin Herbert
Future hellscapes; looming penises; a fast-and-cheap diary; the art-writer’s life; award-snagging dancer; Earth to Alpha Centauri; bitch omega; and hotwiring hand to id
‘The age of anxiety’ is a moveable feast. The show at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tate (2012–), in which, via algorithmic processing, headlines from the uae-based English-language Britain’s retrospective, the biggest display of his phrase was initially used to describe the 1920s, newspaper are turned into abstract paintings. drawings since then, and the first in the museum but the poetically inclined will identify it with since 1923, may trigger another one, fusing two Meanwhile we look forward to looking back midcentury and W.H. Auden, specifically his eras of decadence (at least for some). Expect on this era, from the likely hellscape of later eponymous 1947 poem set in a New York bar, approximately 200 works, including the artist’s this century, as relatively unanxious. rife with angst concerning industrialisation. If much art, too, turns genteel and softillustrations for Aristophanes’s Lysistrata (c. 411 Last year The Who’s Pete Townshend published edged as the decades and centuries pass, that bce) and Wilde’s Salome (1893), plus contextual a debut novel titled The Age of Anxiety, though influences including Japanese scrolls and works 2 can’t quite be said for Aubrey Beardsley, we’re not in a hurry to read Sharjah Art whose work and by Edward Burne-Jones and Gustave Moreau. that. And this year, in Sharjah, Foundation, Tate Britain, London, biography continue From 1989 to 1996, Steve Reinke Omar Kholeif is repurposing 3 21 March – 4 March – 25 May Mumok, 1 the phrase for Art in the Age to feel both edgy and made The Hundred Videos, an accurately 21 June Vienna, stylish, not least the Shunga-influenced erotic titled project featuring loosely confesof Anxiety, a group show that 6 March – in keeping with his curatorial and critical track drawings – cue huge looming penises – that sional, sketchlike and proposallike works, – 21 June record – situates the anxious era as our own, he asked, without success, to be destroyed upon a cumulative diary done fast and cheap, that he thought would take him until 2000, but tying it to the bombardments of the Internet his death. The Brighton-born aesthete, blessed didn’t. The Canadian artist saw this as a prefaand digital devices per se. Such a show unsurwith what Oscar Wilde famously called ‘a face prisingly finds room for Lawrence Abu Hamdan, tory work, a way of grounding himself as a young like a silver hatchet’, was still causing London artist. (He was thirty-three when he finished Cory Arcangel, Jon Rafman, Cao Fei and Trevor gallerists who showed his work to be pulled Paglen, but also there are relatively leftfield it.) He then began another series, Final Thoughts up on obscenity charges in 1966, some 68 years (2007–), intended to stretch until his death; choices such as Jenna Sutela’s musical film after his death from tuberculosis at the age of Nimiia Cétïï (2018), which explores ‘conscioustwenty-five; a short life, but long enough, so in Series Three of this, shown at the 2014 Whitney ness, neural networks and a new Martian it’s been speculated, for him to impregnate his Biennial, the artist – having recently turned language’, and a new iteration of Siebren sister. Nineteen sixty-six was also the year of the fifty – looked back on his life and considered first Beardsley revival, thanks to a celebrated which projects to carry on with, which to ditch. Versteeg’s big-screen Daily Times (Performer)
All of which is to say that Reinke’s life is thoroughly and reflexively entwined with his sexand-death-related art. ‘My work wants me dead, I know. It is all it ever talks about,’ he wrote in a letter quoted on Mumok’s website, relating to his current show (and first solo museum exhibition), Butter. Alongside a new video, An Arrow Pointing to a Hole (2019), the show incorporates a series of needlepoints and a sequence of text images, ‘all of which,’ we’re advised, ‘in a paradoxically precise manner, tell of loss of control, formlessness, and self-abandon’. Sounds like a typical day’s art writing, but we’ll likely still go along. Reinke made 100 videos in a few years; over her lifetime, from the founding of her own dance company in 1970, in her mid4 thirties, to her death in 2017, Trisha Brown wrote circa 100 choreographies MASP, São Paulo, 20 March – 7 June (as well as six
operas and all kinds of graphic works), and in the process rewrote dance to refract vernacular movement, mathematical sequences, abstraction and urban life. After her first decade, she transitioned from artworld settings to the traditional stage, continuing to dance herself until 2008, and snagging just about every major award in her field along the way. In São Paulo, the first major exhibition of her work, the aptly titled Choregraphing Life, reconstructs her hugely influential legacy via drawings, diagrams, photographs, films and videos. Mark Sealy, who runs Autograph abp, the highly regarded London-based gallery and charity supporting various venues, black photographic Houston, practices, has been 8 March tapped to direct this – 19 April 5 year’s FotoFest Biennial in Houston, the longest-running photographic/ new media festival in the us. The result, African
Cosmologies, is grand in scope: examining ‘the complex relationships between contemporary life in Africa, the African diaspora, and global histories of colonialism, photography, and rights and representation’, it positions photography itself as entwined with colonialism and the Western gaze. By way of counterpoint, Sealy is avowedly leaning on the inspiration of John Coltrane, whose harmonic explorations rerouted standardised musical forms – think, most obviously, of his 1961 visionary reworkings of My Favorite Things. Thirty-one artists circle around these themes, including Samuel Fosso, Carrie Mae Weems, Faisal Abdu’Allah and Zanele Muholi. We suspect this will be rather better than the ‘tribute’ to Sun Ra that a Berlin gallery recently organised, then forgot to invite any black artists to. In 2016 a racist idiot sprayed the phrase ‘saracen go home’ on a mosque in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, alongside the 4Chan slogan
5 Wilfred Ukpong, bc1-nd-fc: By and by, I Will Carry this Burden of Hope, till the Laments of my Newborn is Heard #2 (detail), 2017, mixed media. Courtesy the artist and Blazing Century Studios, Nigeria
4 Trisha Brown performing Locus, 1975. Photo: Jack Mitchell
5 Faisal Abdu’Allah, The Barber’s Chair, 2017, gold plating, leather, aluminum, cast iron. Courtesy the artist
8 Dawoud Bey, Alva, New York, ny, 1992. © the artist. Courtesy Addison Gallery of American Art – Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts
6 Sulaïman Majali, saracen go home, 2020, mixed-media installation. Photo: Tom Nolan. Courtesy Collective, Edinburgh
7 Sophia Al-Maria, Beast Type Song (still), 2019, video, 38 min 3 sec, colour, sound. Courtesy the artist and Project Native Informant, London
‘deus vult’ (‘God wills it’). The only good thing to come out of this, aside from the heightened public awareness of hate crime via news reports, 6 is that Glasgow-based artist Sulaïman Majali used the first phrase Collective, Edinburgh, as a starting point through 29 March and title for his show at Collective. In a monochromatic waiting room, the viewer encounters – alongside a poetic array of time-collapsing objects including a 3d print of a twelfth-century Muslim artefact from the Iberian coast, limestone and a ‘peacock sword tail feather’ – an audio collage. This, too, surfs through the centuries, from Scottish ‘orientalist’ painter David Roberts’s visit to Ottoman-era Jordan in the nineteenth century to Scots astronomer Thomas Henderson’s measurements of the distance from Earth to Alpha Centauri, taken at the Cape of Good Hope. Diasporic notions, then, are reversed, with elements of cultural
exchange and scientific progress beginning in Scotland and stretching out to distant territories, suggesting the value of cultural mobility and the ignorance and Julia Stoschek hypocrisy of telling people Collection, to stay in their homelands. Düsseldorf, Not many artists get to 8 March – 19 July invent and brand their own intellectual territory, but over 7 the past decade Sophia Al-Maria has made ‘Gulf Futurism’ her own. The London-based Qatari-American artist, writer and filmmaker’s compound practice has unpacked this nascent aesthetic – emphatically cosigned by Bruce Sterling – with its mix of runaway urban planning driven by oil wealth and edged by climate change, conspicuous consumption and obsession with cars and tech, situating it as an avant-garde microcosm, a foretelling of where the rest of the world is heading. That said, Al-Maria is not above having her
own work collected by the wealthy, and her first solo show in Germany comes under the aegis of the Julia Stoschek Collection, which has placed an emphasis on moving-image work. In bitch omega, Al-Maria offers a survey of her videoworks and moving image-based installations. Dawoud Bey 8 San Francisco Museum of has spent some Modern Art, through 25 May 45 years using his camera, and on occasion video camera, to record the underrepresented quiddities of black American life: from the street portraiture of Harlem, usa (1975–78), to, in the last couple of years, Night Coming Tenderly, Black (2017), a spectral series of landscapes documenting locations along the Underground Railroad, the clandestine line of routes and safehouses used by slaves to escape into free states and Canada. (Bey’s sequence of works imagines a fugitive slave’s journey to freedom.) Dawoud Bey: An American Project, featuring nearly 80 works,
tracks his career through eight major undertakings, including the grimly speculative The Birmingham Project (2012), which pairs photographs of local children the age of those killed in the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama (and the racial violence it triggered), and adults of the ages that they would be now; and Harlem Redux (2014–17), in which he returned to the streets of Harlem almost 40 years after first documenting them – and finding, of course, gentrification and displacement. 9 In 2014 Érro Reykjavík Art Museum, made a painting through 31 December featuring Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, Vladimir Putin and Miley Cyrus – the latter not a bad cultural reference for an artist born in 1932, though it later turned out that the Icelandic Pop master didn’t know who Cyrus was: he’d just seen this one picture of her (with her tongue out) a lot, found her sexual aggressiveness in keeping with women he’d painted before and is generally
he just did what he did, hand hotwired to id. fascinated by the technological circulation of images. The interface between tech, humanity 10 Josh Smith, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, though not and consumption has been a key issue for him Zürich, 13 March – 18 April on Pablo’s all along, and at least some of his ideas haven’t level, feels to act similarly. The voice in another really dated, as Cyborg ought to show. There’s artist’s head that might say, ‘No, it’s not ok to a great sync between his foundational medium make innumerable paintings featuring your – collage, which he tends to use as a basis for own name, or corny palm trees swaying against paintings, but also on its own – and his subject a sunset of stacked bands of colour, or dinosaurs, matter, a cybernetic organism (as the 1960s phraseology had it) being nothing if not a color overdetermined subjects like the Grim Reaper’ lage of the organic and inorganic. Meanwhile, – he seemingly doesn’t hear it. Of course, in this respect it’d be easy to see him as a Koonsian that Érro has tended to focus on women as his cyborg models might just align him with the provocateur, poking around in the unacceptable, Donna Haraway-reading crowd. To be fair, but Smith’s painting has an effusiveness that not all of his paintings line up with this readmakes it hard to take him as a tactician. Speaking ing – quite a bit of what he’s done playfully of his relationship to Expressionism and Ab-Ex splices art-historical motifs with gaudy pop in an interview in 2013, Smith said, ‘I have to take culture – but if this show is judiciously curated, everything from before when I started, simplify it ought to convince. it, and make it something an average person, Peter Schjeldahl once described Picasso as such as myself, can understand.’ You have to a ‘line-drawing critter’, meaning that he wasn’t hand it to him: averageness is the avant-garde held back by intellectual self-consciousness: everyone else missed.
9 Erró, Untitled, c. 1959, mixed-media collage. Courtesy Reykjavík Art Museum
10 Josh Smith, Untitled, 2019, oil on canvas, 76 × 61 cm. © the artist. Courtesy the artist; David Zwirner, New York; and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich & New York
54. INTERNATIONALER KUNSTMARKT 23. — 26. APRIL 2020
CONTEMPORARY Achenbach Hagemeier, Düsseldorf / Berlin / Akinci, Amsterdam / Alexander Levy, Berlin / Artelier, Graz / Guido W. Baudach, Berlin / Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen / Blain | Southern, Berlin / Daniel Buchholz, Cologne / Berlin / New York / Gisela Capitain, Cologne / Andrea Caratsch, St. Moritz / Charim, Vienna / Clages, Cologne / Gisela Clement, Bonn / Conradi, Hamburg / Conrads, Düsseldorf / Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana / Cosar HMT, Düsseldorf / Cristea Roberts, London / Crone, Vienna / Monica De Cardenas, Zuoz / Lugano / Milan / Deweer / Keteleer, Otegem / Antwerp / Diehl, Berlin / Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin / Ebensperger Rhomberg, Berlin / Eigen + Art, Berlin / Leipzig / Fiebach, Minninger, Cologne / Filiale, Frankfurt / Forsblom, Helsinki / Stockholm / Gaa Gallery, Provincetown / Cologne / Ginerva Gambino, Cologne / Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt / Karsten Greve, Cologne / Paris / St. Moritz / Barbara Gross, Munich / Haas, Zurich / Berlin / Häusler, Zurich / Munich / Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart / Hauser & Wirth, Zurich / New York / London / St. Moritz / Jochen Hempel, Leipzig / Jahn und Jahn, Munich / Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf / Mike Karstens, Münster / Kisterem, Budapest / Kleindienst, Leipzig / Klemm’s, Berlin / Knust Kunz, Munich / König, Berlin / Christine König, Vienna / Eleni Koroneou, Athens / Thessaloniki / Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin / Krobath, Vienna / Lange + Pult, Zurich / Auvenier / Simon Lee, London / New York / Hong Kong / Christian Lethert, Cologne / Löhrl, Mönchengladbach / Lorenzelli, Milan / Martinetz, Cologne / Daniel Marzona, Berlin / Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf / Max Mayer, Düsseldorf / Kamel Mennour, Paris / London / Meyer Riegger, Berlin / Misako & Rosen, Tokyo / Monte Clark, Vancouver / Mountains, Berlin / nächst St. Stephan, Vienna / Nagel Draxler, Cologne / Berlin / Munich / Neon Parc, Melbourne / Neu, Berlin / Carolina Nitsch, New York / Opdahl, Stavanger / Priska Pasquer, Cologne / Pearl Lam, Hong Kong / Shanghai / Rupert Pfab, Düsseldorf / Berthold Pott, Cologne / PPC Philipp Pflug Contemporary, Frankfurt / Produzentengalerie, Hamburg / Thomas Rehbein, Cologne / Petra Rinck, Düsseldorf / Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg / Paris / London / Philipp von Rosen, Cologne / Roslyn Oxley9, Paddington | Sydney / Ruttkowski;68, Cologne / Paris / Brigitte Schenk, Cologne / Esther Schipper, Berlin / Anke Schmidt, Cologne / Schönewald, Düsseldorf / Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich / Sexauer, Berlin / ShangART, Shanghai / Beijing / Singapore / Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf / Slewe, Amsterdam / Filomena Soares, Lisbon / Sommer, Tel Aviv / Soy Capitán, Berlin / Sprüth Magers, Berlin / London / Los Angeles / Stigter van Doesburg, Amsterdam / Paul Stolper, London / Walter Storms, Munich / Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt / Suzanne Tarasiève, Paris / Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman, Innsbruck / Vienna / Rob Tufnell, Cologne / Van Horn, Düsseldorf / Vartai, Vilnius / Waldburger Wouters, Brussels / Barbara Weiss, Berlin / Wentrup, Berlin / Michael Werner, Cologne / London / New York / XC.HuA, Berlin / Beijing / Zahorian & Van Espen, Bratislava / Thomas Zander, Cologne / Zilbermann, Istanbul / Berlin / Martin van Zomeren, Amsterdam / David Zwirner, New York / London / Hong Kong / Paris MODERN & POSTWAR 10 a.m. Art, Milan / ABC Arte, Genova / Rolando Anselmi, Berlin / Bastian, Berlin / London / Klaus Benden, Cologne / Berinson, Berlin / Boisserée, Cologne / Dep Art, Milan / Derda, Berlin / London / Die Galerie, Frankfurt / Dierking, Zurich / Larkin Erdmann, Zurich / Fischer Kunsthandel & Edition, Berlin / Klaus Gerrit Friese, Berlin / Grosvenor, London / Mathias Güntner, Hamburg / Hagemeier, Frankfurt / Henze & Ketterer & Triebold, Riehen / Wichtrach | Bern / Ernst Hilger, Vienna / Hoffmann, Friedberg / Heinz Holtmann, Cologne / Knoell, Basel / Koch, Hanover / Konzett, Vienna / Lahumière, Paris / Gebr. Lehmann, Dresden / Levy, Hamburg / Ludorff, Düsseldorf / Maulberger, Munich / Mo J, Seoul / Moderne, Silkeborg / Rabouan Moussion, Paris / Georg Nothelfer, Berlin / Panarte, Vienna / Thole Rotermund, Hamburg / Samuelis Baumgarte, Bielefeld / Thomas Salis, Salzburg / Julian Sander, Cologne / Schacky, Düsseldorf / Aurel Scheibler, Berlin / Schlichtenmaier, Grafenau / Stuttgart / Schwarzer, Düsseldorf / Setareh, Düsseldorf / Edition Staeck, Heidelberg / Florian Sundheimer, Munich / Suppan, Vienna / Taguchi Fine Art, Tokyo / Bene Taschen, Cologne / Thomas, Munich / Toninelli, Monte Carlo / Utermann, Dortmund / Valentien, Stuttgart / von Vertes, Zurich NEUMARKT Addis Fine Art, Addis Abeba / Nir Altman, Munich / London / Arcadia Missa, London / Blank Projects, Cape Town / Drei, Cologne / Emalin, London / Jan Kaps, Cologne / LC Queisser, Tbilisi / Max Mayer, Düsseldorf / Malcom X (MX), New York / Tobias Naehring, Leipzig / Project ArtBeat, Tbilisi / Deborah Schamoni, Munich / Station, South Yarra / Tanja Wagner, Berlin
Certain sections, however, were not altogether disconnected 55
Laughter in the dark by Ben Eastham
preceding pages The Buried Alive Group Videos: Historical Joke # 3 (still), 2013, video, 36 min 30 sec. Courtesy Rosenfeld Gallery, Tel Aviv
above and facing page Maxim Komar-Myshkinâ€™s Vladimirâ€™s Night (detail), 2014, published by Sternberg Press. Courtesy the artist
above and facing page Roee Rosen with Hani Furstenberg and Igor Krutogolov’s Toy Orchestra, Kafka for Kids, 2018–. Photo: Liz Eve. Courtesy Steirischer Herbst, Graz
‘Whatever you think of the Israeli occupation’ the stand-up His videos, texts and paintings use humour, sex and violence announces, ‘it is much better than the Nazis.’ She is Jewish; her audi- to dismantle Jewish identity and, beyond that, the psychological ence is Austrian. Having been announced onto the stage as Rosie construct of individual selfhood. Given that his experiments in disoRosen, she introduces another Rosen – a ‘kike’ gynaecologist – as rientation include a pornographic novel in which Jewish mystithe protagonist of one of her jokes. Trapped in the collapsing Twin cism is counterpointed with a character’s sodomy by an enchanted Towers with a whimpering wasp millionaire and a pregnant Swedish broom, an ‘entertainment experience’ inviting the viewer to enter goddess, this Rosen decides to order a plate of his mother’s Ostjuden the character of Hitler’s lover during the Führer’s last days in the cuisine from a magical, wish-granting goldfish that appears amidst bunker, and a short video in which a dominatrix casts out the spirit the fire and smoke. Watching from the wings, as this bewilderingly of hardline former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman from offensive (and very funny) live performance on the opening night of a young woman in the course of a bdsm session, I was intrigued to the 2018 edition of Austrian arts festival Steirischer Herbst breaks hear Rosen describe the project-in-progress he debuted at Steirischer down, is its writer: a neatly dressed, fiftysomething, male, Israeli Herbst as his greatest sacrilege yet. It’s called Kafka for Kids. And this artist named Roee Rosen. musical adaptation of The Metamorphosis Rosen uses humour, sex and The joke nods to the Russian folk(1915) – featuring bewitched furniture violence to dismantle Jewish identity and nursery rhymes about psychologtale, collected by the Brothers Grimm and later adapted for verse by Alexander ical breakdown scored by an orchestra and the psychological construct Pushkin, in which a poor woman abuses playing toy instruments – takes the of individual selfhood form of a film masquerading as a chilthe wish-granting powers of a golden fish to demand ever-increasing elevations of her status in the world. dren’s television show which is interrupted by a lecture on Israeli When she demands powers equal to God, the fish resolves the situa- military law. tion by returning everything to how it was before. In the artist’s world, Speaking by phone from his base in Tel Aviv, Rosen describes there is no such prospect. Which is to say – borrowing the punchline Franz Kafka as his one remaining “sacred cow” and the project as a to Rosie’s goldfish joke – that we’re all going to die. conscious “betrayal” of his literary hero. While it might seem profane In protest at the limits of human consciousness, the artist and to recast this giant of Jewish letters as a kids’ writer, it also extends (or writer has, over the past three decades, established a variety of rather overextends) a reading proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix avatars through which to disperse his experience of the world. They Guattari in Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure (1975), which reclaims include a neglected European Jewish painter, a paranoid Russian poet the joyful, subversive and ecstatic qualities of the Czech author’s who founds a collective devoted to resuscitating the Soviet avant- writing. Kafka’s world of transformation, in which things are always garde and a slippery character named ‘Roee Rosen’ who is played “in-between and becoming”, in Rosen’s description, is also attuned by, among others, unreliable academics and undocumented immi- to the artist’s preoccupation with the unsettling of authority and the grant workers. dissolution of selfhood. ‘There is an end but there is no way,’ as a Kafka
aphorism paraphrased in another of Rosen’s works puts it, ‘what we to André Breton’s assertion that beauty must be ‘convulsive’. Such uncontrollable bodily responses to emotional states – convulsion, call a way is only wavering.’ This movement is the key formal characteristic of Rosen’s oeuvre, crying, laughter, sweating – alert us to things that we would rather with ideas, images and phrases migrating across works and personae. keep hidden. To exploit those effects in the context of a discourse on His recent films have used channel-hopping as a formal device, suffering and injustice is not only audacious but also, to use a word montaging advertisements for commodities with news reports of to which Rosie pointedly returns in her routine, “improper”. atrocities, and revelling in the discomforting slippage of affects from Rosen describes the characters played by Furstenberg as “puppets”, one context into the other. Take the lecture that interrupts the broad- and the phrase brings to mind Vladimir Nabokov’s disdain for the cast of his kids’ take on The Metamorphosis, in which a legal expert, ‘trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand’ and dictating played by the Israeli actress Hani Furstenberg (who also performed their fates to the author. Fictional characters are not in charge of their as the comedian), delivers a detailed account of how a twelve-year- own destiny, Nabokov made clear, they are the author’s ‘galley slaves’. old Palestinian girl caught carrying a knife can be tried and impris- But what if the submissive slave enjoys being dominated? Sweet Sweat (2009), a novel written by Rosen oned as an adult while an Israeli child in “If something makes me sweat in the guise of Justine Frank, a fictional the same situation would be protected neglected female Jewish Surrealist and by her status as a minor. or giggle then I know That the juxtaposition between chillover of Georges Bataille, is one of several it’s worth thinking about” dren’s television programme and the works to explore masochism and sadism abuse of children’s rights is jarring is integral to its function. The as means of upending established systems of power. lecture segment was conceived as documentary, and Rosen went so A three-part invention, the book combines Frank’s novel with a far as to approach a think tank of activists, lawyers and legal experts biography and academic essay authored by Roee Rosen, nodding to to host a discussion. Yet he was wary of creating an “emotionally the structure of Bataille’s 1941 story Madame Edwarda (with its preface unambiguous experience” in which the presumptively liberal audi- warning that ‘if you laugh, it’s because you are afraid’). The combinaence would unreflectingly side against discriminatory policies. So tion of critical theory, fake histories and transgressive subject-matter he transformed his research on the subject into a monologue for is typical of Rosen, as are the links that seem to establish unexpected Furstenberg in which she sniffs suspiciously at her armpit (a recur- affinities between works in his oeuvre: the heroine of Bataille’s novel ring motif in Rosen’s work), seems to lose control of her bodily func- is a prostitute who, like the woman in the folktale, declares herself tions and veers into erotic reveries around a Ghanaian veterinarian to be God. named Kwame set 50 years from now while two bearded men in the It’s difficult to ignore that Justine shares a surname with the most audience kiss. Rosen seeks out the discomforts caused by these uncon- famous Jewish writer of all, and tempting to link the work to Philip scious physical reactions – “if something makes me sweat or giggle Roth’s equally sacrilegious The Ghost Writer (1979), the narrator of which then I know it’s worth thinking about” – and a line in the lecture nods entertains erotic fantasies about the woman he imagines to be Anne
Frank. But Rosen’s preface to Sweet Sweat posits Frank as related to the eighteenth-century Polish-Jewish heretic-mystic Jacob Frank (notorious for his doctrine of ‘purification through transgression’). Her first name, meanwhile, is surely borrowed from the victim-heroine of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine ou Les Malheurs de la Vertu (1791). Rosen delivered his own confessions in 2013 via three undocumented foreign workers speaking halting phonetic Hebrew to camera. ‘I have built my entire career on lies,’ is among the first of The Confessions of Roee Rosen (2008), ‘I have pretended not to be myself.’ The works force the viewer to ask whether the experiences being recounted are those of the named author – Roee Rosen – or the people delivering them to camera who, without the protection of a legal identity, must every day live a lie. Rather than demolishing the binaries that shape our experience of the world – self and other, truth and fiction, reason and unreason, childlike and adult, good and evil – Rosen plays in the dangerous no-man’s land between them. These states of consciousness can be achieved through humour and sex but also by inhabiting other subjectivities, which is to say by fiction. A phrase in The Confessions plays on Saint Augustine’s description – in his own Confessions (379– 400) – of his soul as being like a house, ‘small for [God] to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it.’ The power to remake the world belongs to those who can install themselves in the subjectivities of other people and things. The author’s responsibility to take the perspective of minorities, animals and objects was promoted by the Russian formalist critics to whom Rosen pays homage in a series attributed to the Tel Aviv-based Buried Alive Group. The group, whose work was exhibited in Rosen’s show at Kunsthal Charlottenborg earlier this year, was founded by Maxim Komar-Myshkin, the pen name of a Russian poet who migrated (in common with several of Rosen’s personae) to Rosen’s hometown of Tel Aviv. Responding to Sergei Tretyakov’s call
for ‘biographies of objects’, the collective shot a series of ‘animations for commodities’ such as Little Iron (2013), in which another of Rosen’s regular collaborators, Igor Krutogolov, serenades a midcentury steam iron to the accompaniment of a skittering, Prokofiev-ish piano line. The Dust Channel (2016), a 23-minute video shown in Kassel as part of Documenta 14, pays homage to the first Dyson-brand vacuum cleaner while also using the bigoted comments of its inventor to consider issues around the free movement of ideas and the restricted movement of people in a globalised society. Like Keston Sutherland’s epic poem The Odes to tl61p (2013), a love song to an obsolete washer-dryer that moves out into discussion of Marxist theory and the author’s sexual history, these mundane objects become the suns around which Rosen can construct a constellation of social and historical references running from the Sex Pistols to the treatment of asylum seekers in Israel. This literal take on commodity fetishism also presents a vision of the world as being, like Rosen’s oeuvre, inextricably entangled: everything relates to everything else. That might be understood as aspiring to the ‘impossible state of existence: autonomy without territory’ that Justine Frank seeks out. Rosen’s inhabitation of other subject positions – whether female, animal, object – is a risky and revolutionary project in the context of a society in which the deep-seated desire of human beings to transcend their individual selves has been constrained by the triumph of materialism and the entrenchment of identitarian politics. Yet Rosen declares himself “optimistic” that art and literature might continue to offer the opportunity to “become something else, which I experienced very early in my life as imperative: our need as human beings is to be more than one, not to be limited by what we were given.” ar Work by Roee Rosen is featured in Laughing / Lachen, a group exhibition at Taxis – Palais Kunsthalle Tirol, Innsbruck, through 15 March
above and facing page The Dust Channel (still), 2016, digital video, colour, sound, 23 min. Courtesy the artist
Anna Witt Letâ€™s go places by Mark Rappolt
Three men stand before a neutral background, their empty hands produce value? How is that value measured from the worker’s point of enacting machinic processes of grabbing, moving, positioning, view? Does it derive from overcoming challenges faced? Is it a question assembling, folding, counting, processing, unpacking or packing. of satisfaction? Is it entertainment value? Moreover, if work is starting At least those are some of the possible ways of interpreting whatever to seem like a form of leisure (albeit of the boring rather than the fun it is they are doing. The soundtrack is a series of chords struck on a variety), where does that leave leisure? The workers will reach that line stringed instrument, possibly a koto. It’s not quite clear if this is some of questioning later on. For now, they are worrying about the notion form of contemporary dance, calisthenics, meditation, or the effects that they might, at some fast-approaching point in the future, become of muscle memory and automatic behaviour. But it has a green-screen redundant. Or as they slip into a more human register, and work begins characteristic, in the sense that this appears to be a performance that to become a matter of relationships, that they might not be needed, will have context added to the content at some later stage. One of that they might be rejected. One of the participants describes a section the actors has ‘have a good time’ printed on his T-shirt pocket. It’s of the production line in which one worker operates a machine while equally unclear as to whether or not this is sincere, ironic, or simply a three others inspect what it produces. He worries that if, as seems matter of chance, but it’s the only direct possible, an ai takes over the inspection message in view. functions, then the machine worker What in other places is often will be left alone. It’s loneliness that is The scene marks the opening of a described as a job killer, is here, in the the problem. That worker is now on the three-channel videowork by Viennaface of Japan’s aging and declining centre screen, miming the production based German artist Anna Witt, titled Unboxing the Future. It is, in some ways, a actions. The screens to his sides show an population, an industry saviour follow-up to an earlier videowork, care empty space and a lonely pile of boxes. (2017) which focused on two Indonesian geriatric nurses caring ‘It can be hard to notice the signs that you are stagnating in your for dementia patients in Japan and a more general body of work job,’ ‘workplace thought-leader’ Liz Ryan noted in a slightly ott selfaddressing labour, precarity and societal formation. Unboxing the help article in Forbes back in 2016. ‘If you’re not learning new things Future was commissioned for last year’s ill-fated edition of the Aichi all the time, you are slipping backwards, because time doesn’t stop. Triennale (which was overtaken by controversies surrounding The only thing you will ever have to sell to a new employer or to your censorship following the closure of a section titled ‘After Freedom clients is your background – the experiences you’ve had, the judgof Expression?’) and is now on show at Galerie Tanja Wagner in ment you’ve acquired and the stories you are in a position to tell. Berlin. The actors in this undrama are workers in the Toyota factory None of these things will grow unless you are growing in your job all in Toyota city (formerly Koromo but renamed in 1959 because of its the time!’ So perhaps labour today is a question of accumulated expestatus as the headquarters and main production hub of the car manu- riences and stories, like the ones being shared in this video. Unless facturer) in Aichi Prefecture. Next to the factory is the Toyota Kaikan that’s a roundabout way of saying that labour is one of the ways by Museum, where new cars and occasionally new robots are displayed which people accrue identity. A personality. Indeed, later on in the to the public. Toyota, then, means many things. It is an industry, video, one of the workers will say that he is his job (until relatively an economy, a performance, a city, a lifestyle and a culture. And, of recently people working for larger employers in Japan expected and course, somewhere in the midst of all that, a brand of automobile. were expected to stay loyal for life). The museum is also the meeting point for daily public tours of The discussion moves on to describe how ai is in fact relatithe Toyota production plant in which the artwork is shot. Witt recalls vely inefficient at assessing quality. “There are things that robots being particularly struck by the production process on her first visit: cannot see,” one worker exclaims, pointing out that the human eye “On the one hand, it’s done by robots, and more particularly robot is an amazing construction. “That is our strength!” another says. But cameras are catching up. “The future is arms; on the other hand, you have these almost here,” a colleague warns as two line workers who are incredibly skilled, “There are things that robots of the channels cut to workers going super fast, and the way they move is like cannot see,” one worker exclaims, through the motions of an inspeca performance.” There’s a sense then in pointing out that the human eye tion, looking and pointing around which her performers are an objet trouvé. while only their upper bodies move. Cut to a conversation among a larger is an amazing construction As though they are reduced to torsos, group of workers (subtitled in English) and a move from objets to subjects. One describes how automation has heads and arms – their bodies slowly being erased. A robotic arm replaces one of the workers on screen, then another, reduced what was once a four-person job on the line to a solo occupation. ai is becoming an increasingly normal part of Japan’s manufac- until the worker in the centre increasingly looks like he is mimicking turing industry. What in other places is often described as a job killer the machines rather than any human action, and workers begin to (or in extreme cases, featuring rogue robots and military drones, just speculate about what a society without labour might be like. A society a killer), is here, in the face of Japan’s aging and declining popula- in which “we just do what we want to do”. “We chose our jobs to tion (predicted to drop from around 127 million people to under 100 follow our dreams,” one of them asserts. million by 2049), an industry saviour. The workers recognise this. But And what of free will? (The word ‘robot’ derives from the Czech this new kind of work is uninteresting, the workers struggle to find robota, meaning forced labour, and evolved from the feudal class system – although questions of class don’t seem to be much of an motivation or job satisfaction. Now work is too easy. At this point, for the viewer, a question arises concerning what the issue for these workers. While Witt points out that while the group function of labour might be today. Is it still to produce ‘stuff’? Is it to in the video was assembled to act as a type of ‘workers’ forum’, it is
all images Unboxing the Future (stills), 2019, three-channel hd video, colour, sound, 29 min 9 sec. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin
The workers are now performing synchronised actions in a circle. in fact comprised of both labourers and engineers, classes of worker that would not normally interact.) On the centre screen, a group The group discuss how work improves them as individuals and as a of workers are performing in sync as a group. Maybe ai will lead to social group. Meanwhile other people are putting utopian dreams in a new way of thinking, because it will take care of discussions about place on their behalf. There’s a revolution going on around them. efficiency and progress to the point that humans won’t have to think This January, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las about that anymore. The group, arranged in a grid, perform their Vegas, Toyota announced the construction of Woven City, a city of the actions (which now seem totally robotic) again. Some of the performers future, designed in collaboration with the Danish architect Bjarke talk to each other. It’s the first time this has happened outside of the Ingels’s firm big (a firm that presents its projects as artworks) on a 175-acre site that was formerly home to one of its factories. It will forum moments. Back to the discussion, where one of the workers reflects on the use it to test ai, driverless cars and advanced robots. And the ways in fact that if he works an eight-hour day and sleeps for another eight, which these interact with humans – the 2,000 of them (employees, and lives until ninety, he’ll only have 30 years of excess time to work researchers and their families) that will live there. ‘In an age when out what to do with, to have a ‘private life’. If you factor in overtime, technology, social media and online retail is replacing and elimithat might be only 10 or 20 years. But in a world without labour that nating our natural meeting places, the Woven City will explore ways might stretch to 60 years. How would he know what to do with that? to stimulate human interaction in the urban space,’ Ingels told cnn at Right now, leisure is a reward, it might lose its value if things change. the launch. ‘After all, human connectivity is the kind of connectivity Moreover, the group discuss, if you have to think about leisure it might that triggers wellbeing and happiness, productivity and innovation.’ become more like work. Even for those who don’t like their jobs. We’re Woven City ties into a larger plan adopted by the Japanese governreaching the horizon of an ambition. And the ambition is to have fun. ment in 2015 titled ‘Society 5.0’. It aims at creating ‘a human-centered In 1938, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga published Homo society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of Ludens, a study of the essential importance of play to the development social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and of culture and society. The book went on to influence the thinking physical space’. It’s an ‘improvement’ on Society 4.0 (the ‘information of the Situationist International through the 1950s and 60s and, in society’) ‘because there is a limit to what people can do’. recent years, game theory. In it, Huizinga offers five characteristics Witt’s workers worry about how they will earn money to that define play. The first is that is an exercise of freedom and free fund all this leisure time. They have a point: in worker communiwill; the second two determine that it ties around the world, leisure means is distinct from ‘ordinary’ or ‘real’ life; shopping malls, and shopping malls One worker reflects on the fact that if the fourth is that it requires order; and require money. “I like music,” says one. he works an eight-hour day and sleeps “Maybe I’ll start learning the guitar.” the fifth that it is without interest – that no profit can be gained from it. Above for another eight, and lives until ninety, The workers perform a discordant instrumental on a variety of stringed all, he asserted, it is about having fun. he’ll only have 30 years left over During their discussions about their instruments, among them guitars, lutes anxieties the workers cover issues that comprise the first four. And and shamisen. Drums and cymbals join in. The workers begin cutting they are about to come on to the fifth. But for the moment, the nervous, up each other’s grey-white overalls. Removing cuffs and sections. utopian discussion in Toyota City brings to mind New Babylon, the Creating everything from rags to what might pass as contemporary anticapitalist city of play (inspired by Huizinga’s study) imagined designerwear. A kind of play, that also looks a bit dangerous as the by the artist and sometime-Situationist Constant Nieuwenhuys in scissors cut so close to the bodies. a series of sculptures, drawings, paintings and films made between One of the workers recalls a time when he tried to grow rice using 1959 and 1974. Constant imagined a world in which automation had only manual labour. It was hard. Machines are good, he concludes. made work, rather than workers, redundant. His speculative cityscape They have liberated us. The problem, another concludes, remains was therefore designed to cater to and embody a society of leisure, a money. Society is too based on an economy where everything has a society based on play. ‘It is obvious that a person free to use his time for price. The Japanese are too serious, a female worker suggests. Too the whole of his life, free to go where he wants, when he wants, cannot much governed by rules. She feels trapped in a box. A times she feels make the greatest use of his freedom in a world ruled by the clock and compelled to raise her arms while queueing for the subway. She apolthe imperative of a fixed abode,’ the Dutchman wrote. ‘As a way of ogises to her colleagues for her outrageous assertions. They voice a life homo ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need for form of muted support. Cut to machine dials. The group perform the music and the dance play, for adventure, for mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of his own life… Homo ludens himself will seek they’ve been rehearsing all along. “I proposed some performance to transform, to recreate, [his] surroundings, that world, according to elements,” Witt confesses, “but a huge part of the work is the initiahis new needs.’ Which of course is a rather self-serving way of saying tive of the workers: they performed the music and created the chorethat homo ludens will turn to art. But what’s most striking, watching ography. It is very much their own input.” Press play. ar Witt’s videowork, is the way in which what for Constant’s generation was a utopian scenario – a model of living the dream – is, for the Unboxing the Future is on show at Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin, until 22 April Toyota workers a cause of anxiety and fear, if not quite a nightmare.
January & February 2020
January & February 2020
January & February 2020
January & February 2020
Pedro Neves Marques Ways of being by João Mourão and Luís Silva
The apparently indigenous woman is talkresearch facility in the city of São Paulo where ing to a field of genetically modified plants. genetically engineered mosquitoes are being Among the subjects discussed are reproducmass produced. The immediate desire of tive rights, infertility, labour and monoculthese characters is to survive the epidemic, carried by Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species tural farming. A man watches them. Limited also responsible for the transmission of by his humanity, he hears nothing of what dengue and yellow fever. Emotions escathe plants have to say, only the wind rushing late among the lovers and the power balance through the corn leaves. The woman, it turns among the trio shifts when the initially out, is an android, the man an oil worker, evacuated from a rig following an unpublicised spill that is contami- most submissive of the three – a trans woman – becomes more dominating the Brazilian coast. This is Pedro Neves Marques’s 2017 short nating, both emotionally and sexually, just as the research-indusfilm Semente Exterminadora (Exterminator Seed), a piece of speculative trial complex prepares to release an army of mutant insects across fiction that is typical of the New York-based, Portuguese artist’s work the country to fight their fever-carrying brethren. Neves Marques’s of the past decade: an oeuvre that has spanned filmmaking, installa- narrative is based on fact: in 2016 Oxitec, a British biotech comtion, editing and writing, and incorporated beguiling contradictions, pany, developed male mosquitos with a ‘self-limiting gene’ that would leaps of faith and a seductive exploration of identity and its intersec- prevent female offspring from reaching reproductive maturity. In the artist’s fictionalised version of the experiment we find the abiding tion with the natural world and non-Western cosmologies. The exchange between the android and the transgenic crop – the interrelating themes that drive Neves Marques’s work: sex, intimacy, two nonhuman ‘voices’ – indicates the possibility of an existence reproduction, violence and colonialism. that is located beyond human experience. The android and the corn The mosquito, for example, is both character and metaphor. challenge the assumption of exclusive rationality and emotion that It shares the house and the intimacy with the three (human) subjects has long defined us as human beings, and their interaction suggests while also leading the biotech response to the virus that threatens a queering of intimacy, closeness and care against the backdrop of them. Throughout the narrative it is acknowledged that the insect impending climate catastrophe. This notion of a relational space infects by drawing blood, an exchange analogous to extractivism: just outside the sphere of human understanding and control is apparent as natural resources are extricated from the planet, through activiagain in the artist’s two-and-a-half-minute looped video The Pudic ties such as deep-sea oil drilling (damaging numerous ecosystems in Relation Between Machine and Plant (2016). A disembodied robotic arm the process) so the mosquito’s need for blood is disastrous to its host. repeatedly touches a Mimosa pudica plant, which naturally recoils on The reading of the mosquito bite as a metaphor for the toxic and contact with the artificial digits. Simultaneously an act of desire and infectious nature of extractive activities is made explicit in the 2017 of violence, the video gestures towards the friction between pleasure digital animation Aedes aegypti, shown for the first time in the artist’s aptly titled solo show Learning to live with the enemy at Museu Coleção and pain that is a part of all sexuality. Both the tension and the ambiguity of Semente Exterminadora are Berardo in Lisbon that year. In one sequence, a mosquito sits on extended in A Mordida (The Bite, 2018), a two-channel video instal- human skin drawing blood, while in another two mosquitos are seen lation that was shown at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (the artist copulating. The violence of the mosquito bite is juxtaposed with the frequently remodels and reconfigures work: this formed the basis for violence of the sexual act, in all of its penetrating glory. a short film that later premiered at the Toronto International Film The genetically-engineered mosquitos released into the wild Festival in 2019). Amidst an epidemic of Zika virus – the work was are weaponised biology, or as Neves Marques states in his Viral Poems made two years after the outbreak that stalked (2019) – a series of framed, wall-mounted compoabove Autofiction, 2019, digital print, 60 × 42 cm Brazil in 2016 – three individuals are engaged sitions – ‘the militarization / of biology / is / the lanfacing page Becoming Male in the Middle Ages in a non-binary and polyamorous relationship guage / of suppression’. Sexuality is understood (still), 2019, in collaboration with and living in a house in the country’s Atlantic by the artist as an ecosystem, a macrosystem haut, five-channel surround sound forest. One of them is a scientist at an advanced that encompasses myriad interconnected and and video installation, 35 min (loop)
preceding pages ywy, a androide (still), 2017, 4k transferred to hd video, colour, sound, 7 min 40 sec top The Pudic Relation Between Machine and Plant (still), 2016, video, 2 min 30 sec (loop) above Aedes aegypti (still), 2017, digital animation video, colour, no sound, 1 min 50 sec (loop) facing page Pedro Neves Marques and Catarina de Sousa, A Mordida (still), 2019, super 16mm transferred to video, colour, sound, 26 min all images Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto di Marino, Naples
interdependent relations. It’s a system that includes both the social motherhood and femininity. Mining this arcane subculture, Becoming and cultural control of reproduction as well as the normalisation Male in the Middle Ages sheds light on this homonormative setup, of bodies and intimate relations – which seem to operate both on which replicates a toxic and straight understanding of masculinity humans and nonhumans alike. Neves Marques’s queering of sexu- even within the gay community. ality hints at a possible critical response to the growing reinforceNeves Marques has established a brand of speculative fiction tooled ment and self-replication of normative structures of power. Going to deal with some of most prescient issues of our time, from ecology back to the artist’s recent foray into poetry: ‘sex as care / in times to body politics. That he edited the first comprehensive English language anthology on Brazilian Antropofagia is perhaps telling of the of crisis / among friends / among enemies / polyamory’. The installation Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (2019), based on historic influences that prey on his work. Titled The Forest and The School/ a short story written by the artist, was made in collaboration with Where To Sit at the Dinner Table (2015), this anthology includes texts by music producer haut. It was presented at Castello di Rivoli, in Jean de Léry and Michel de Montaigne as well as, of course, Oswald Turin, a result of the Illy Present Future Prize, which Neves Marques de Andrade and Hélio Oiticica. This interest in colliding or duelling cosmologies is investigated furwon in 2018, and is currently being expanded for the Liverpool Biennial ther in a recent essay addressing indigNeves Marques has established a brand enous futurism, ‘Parallel Futures: One in July. Weaving a narrative that ties of speculative fiction tooled to deal with or Many Dystopias?’, where he poses endocrinological research with the online sci-fi genre of Mpreg (which the strengthening of competing or some of the most prescient issues of centres on male pregnancy fantasy), alternative narratives as a means to our time, from ecology to body politics resist the single-narrative, colonialthe 35-minute video follows a group of four friends, two couples in their driven construction of what the future midthirties, as they deal with the intricacies of reproduction. A male may be. The way such issues are inextricably entangled in capital’s homosexual couple are attempting to have a biological child and a construction of the nature-versus-culture binary is fundamentally heterosexual couple deal with infertility issues. When one of the gay violent, the artist’s poignant science fiction argues, and is felt directly men decides to implant an ovary in his belly in the hope of having on our bodies. Neves Marques understands the tropes of the genre a baby with his partner, it prompts the woman in the heterosexual in a manner that enables him to move from an anthropology to couple to ponder the consequences and reproductive rights of a male a cosmology of the dystopian futures that loom over our heads. In the being able to carry his own biological child in relation to her own femi- process, he gives us a glimpse of alternative, critical ways of being in nist ideals. Featuring bodily implants, gay parenthood and norma- the world. ar tive expectations of human reproduction, Becoming Male in the Middle Ages channels the discussion through Mpreg and its coded mode of Work by Pedro Neves Marques is featured in Fluidités: l’humain storytelling, as it adheres to specific tropes within gay culture, such qui vient at Le Fresnoy, through 22 April, and will be shown at the as the roles assigned to tops and bottoms, or masc and fem. Typically Liverpool Biennial, 11 July – 22 October. A Mordida is in competition in Mpreg stories the feminine partner assumes the reproductive role, as part of the Glasgow Short Film Festival, 18–22 March, and the Short Waves Film Festival in Poznan, 17–22 March thus reproducing the association, Neves Marques notes, between
And I have copied out a part to serve as a subject for medical research 85
Sharjah Architecture Triennial: Rights of Future Generations Various venues, Sharjah 9 November – 8 February In art circles, architecture exhibitions get a bad rap. ‘[I] wasn’t convinced that an art biennial should be hosting an architecture edition,’ writes Hoor Al-Qasimi, Sharjah Architecture Triennial chairperson, in the guidebook to its inaugural edition (she’s also president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, which organises the emirate’s longstanding art biennial). ‘I often found exhibitions about architecture limiting, and sometimes detached from the broader issues that surround them,’ she continues. Which already leaves you wondering whether or not this is going to be an exhibition about architecture at all. Part of the problem is that in architecture exhibitions you’re always conscious (with or without reason) that you’re looking at something that’s standing in for the real thing, a reference that has no independent ‘life’ beyond the referent. As opposed to artworks, say, which are supposed to be self-sufficient independent entities (even a portrait presupposes its subject’s death). So perhaps it’s not surprising that the triennial’s curator, Adrian Lahoud, has chosen to use this multivenue presentation, titled Rights of Future Generations and featuring 35 projects, to attempt to redefine the common-sense definition of architecture. Buildings are out (by and large); management of the environment, ecology, land rights and land use are in. At the Al-Qasimiyah School, a former elementary school constructed during the mid 1970s, whose repetitive cell-like classrooms
serve as one of the triennial’s main venues, the new ways are not always in evidence. Take Bangkok-based architecture studio (all)zone’s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (2019). The title (lifted from a 1968 Pink Floyd track) conjures apocalyptic sci-fi narratives: we’re all gonna burn! The work itself is more prosaic: a passive alternative to air conditioning that offers environmental and psychological (it connects people to the ‘natural’ environment) benefits. It’s an aesthetically pleasing red and orange fabric net, spanning a courtyard. The gallery next door is air conditioned, leaving you to ponder whether the work represents an idea, an ideal, a product, a colourful, decorative geometry or simply a throwback, a fantasy in a land in which architecture and air-conditioning are now so intricately linked that you’re not sure which is the product of which. Indeed, air-conditioning is one of the innovations that prompted the construction of a new souk in Al Jubail back in 2015, leaving the old market (constructed during the early 1980s) available to be the triennial’s second hub. ‘The old market was crowded, lacked proper ventilation and was smelly,’ one relieved shopper told The National at the time of the upgrade, not realising that she was talking about an important piece of the emirate’s architectural heritage that would one day anchor the triennial ‘within the context of Sharjah’s long history as a trade hub, with a vibrant, multi-ethnic landscape cultivated by migration and exchange’.
Internal view of Sharjah Vegetable Market, Al Jubail, Sharjah, 1980
Back on message (and in the former school), Dogma’s Platforms (2019), a series of geometric details and a book, archives the foundations of architecture through an index of 24 historical examples of the platform – from aboriginal Bora rings and Ancient Greek threshing floors to Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House – in order to suggest that the levelled ground from which architecture begins is not a pragmatic point of connection between a structure and a base, but rather a site upon which people meet or gather to interact: the byproduct of social and political negotiation. It’s a message that Dogma singularly fails to communicate in visual terms (perhaps because the argument is at best visually uninteresting or at worst fundamentally nonvisual), but that finds extension (and, in a sense, extension is what this exhibition is really about) in Feral Atlas Collective’s nearby ‘transdisciplinary experiment in the art of telling terrible stories’ (a multimedia archive documenting the nondesigned byproducts of human intervention in ecologies and landscapes). Feral Atlas (2019) is presented in such a way that it looks like an exploded ebook. Swiping through text and image, presented on tablets and screens, we learn about how railway construction in the Bay of Bengal led to the rampant propagation of water hyacinths clogging up its waterways, cutting out its light and increasing oxygen demand; we learn about how the poisonous cane toads introduced to Australian sugar plantations to control native pests went
Atacama Press Conference, part of the opening programme of Rights of Future Generations, 2019. Photo: Matthew Twaddell
Marina Tabassum Architects, Inheriting Wetness, 2019 (installation view). Photo: Antoine Espinasseau
rampant, devastating the indigenous ecology. ‘We work in the hope that this kind of noticing will make a difference,’ the collective concludes, without entering the specifics of how or to whom. But perhaps the real effect of this is to suggest that architecture’s status as the locus of political and social negotiation (an argument that was much more powerfully communicated in the talks programme that marked the triennial’s opening, covering topics such as the struggle for water rights of the Quechua people in the Atacama desert, the problematics of humanitarianism in Gaza and the protection of native seeds in Mexico, to name but a few) extends to its relationship with non-humans too. And yet despite a sense that one of Lahoud’s goals is to propose that ‘rights’ belong to landscapes as much as to people, it is humans that remain at the centre of the most successful elements on show here. Marina Tabassum Architects’ Inheriting Wetness (2019), a study of the changing territory in the delta region of southern Bangladesh, where land emerges and submerges in a way that forces a migratory living on local residents (whose houses are often built so that they be easily dismantled), provides an impetus to illuminate often murky ownership records for lands that may one day reemerge from the waters as an inheritance for future generations. Presented in three stilt houses (and as such one of the only projects that directly addressed building) it is nevertheless the interviews with residents and their personal
stories that bring the project and its display to life. ‘Someday my son will build me a brick building,’ says one of the elderly interviewees. Although the triennial, as a whole, buries such basic desires. Staying with the theme of people, the Ngurrara Canvas ii (1997) is an abstract painting that maps a territory and played a key role in a successful native title claim put forward by Aboriginal communities from the Great Sandy Desert in Australia. Almost uninterpretable by a non-native audience, the painting is on display at the Sharjah Foundation, where it was activated at the triennial’s opening when its makers and their descendants walked across it to describe the landscape it represents and to tell the stories of where they were from and where they had travelled.Meanwhile, in the local desert (about 45 minutes outside the city), dj and composer Nicolás Jaar (Chilean– American, based in New York) is seated on the ground outside the ruined Mleiha Fort, entertaining a crowd of lounging listeners, splayed out on cushions around him with a new ambient soundwork experienced via 16 speakers buried in the sand. The idea, one presumes, is that this meditative experience might encourage them to feel and hear the desert. But he abandons the work shortly before the end saying that they might better experience the landscape and its ruins without his intervention. More esoteric than that is artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s multimedia
lecture-performance Natq (2019), originally commissioned for last year’s Sharjah art biennial, which further positions storytelling as the central feature of this triennial via the work’s exploration of xenoglossy, reincarnation and the possibility of past lives as a legitimate (and perhaps the only) means by which hidden, concealed or overlooked injustices can be revealed and made right. Just as you’d learned that it was painting that was supposed to do that.One of the curiosities of the triennial’s vision of an expanded realm of architecture is that is seems to look everywhere except where it is in the rapidly urbanising territory of the uae. As intriguing as Tabassum’s display is (and, let’s face it, the way things are going the problems it covers are going to be shared by more and more of us), what of, for example, the estimated 700,000 Bangladeshi migrants, who often live and work under difficult circumstances in the country? What about the people who just want hygiene and shelter? There’s an abiding sense in which a real common-sense definition of architecture gets lost here in the attempt to create a definition that expands away from bricks and mortar. But the implications of Lahoud’s thought are as intriguing as they are problematic. Perhaps the real assertion in this triennial is that, left to their own devices, humans create problems not solutions. And that the best we can hope for from architecture is merely an organised means by which to clean up our mess. Mark Rappolt
Member of the Ngurrara Canvas ii Artist Group during the Ngurrara Canvas ii Awakening Ceremony, part of the opening programme of Rights of Future Generations, 2019. Photo: Talie Eigeland all images Courtesy Sharjah Architecture Triennial
Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong 5 October – 4 January Living in unhappy exile during the Second World War, Bertolt Brecht wrote that rapidly expanding Los Angeles was proof that God didn’t need to build two residences for the dead. Heaven alone would suffice, he suggested, because it could serve ‘the unprosperous, unsuccessful / As hell’. That the hypercapitalist city of the future will double as utopia and dystopia – it’s only a matter of wealth and privilege – is a trope of the science-fiction genre cyberpunk, to which this timely exhibition of work by 21 artists is addressed. On the ground floor, Lee Bul’s After Bruno Taut (Beware the sweetness of things) (2007) sets the tone by translating the modernist architect’s Alpine fantasia into a steel-and-glass model suspended from the ceiling. Such an Elysian project might have seemed emancipatory when Taut proposed it in 1918, but a century later Lee’s floating structure suggests the privacy-free megalopolises envisioned by surveillance states. That sense of menace permeates the eye-poppingly lit paintings of Tetsuya Ishida – in which isolated citizens inhabit a Kafkaesque bureaucracy ruled over by inhuman hybrids – and the mixed-media assemblages of Tishan Hsu – inorganic materials and biomorphic forms combining in grisly cyborgian visions. Made during the 1980s, these
works prophesy a near-future at once intricately networked and thoroughly alienating, a progress that imprisons as many as it liberates. Published in 1984, William Gibson’s Neuromancer was among the first genre novels to predict how the architectures of digital space would be designed to control transgressive desires. Cleverly installed in the museum’s lobby as a preface to the exhibition, Seth Price’s Romance (2003) documents the artist’s attempts to move freely through the artificially constructed world of an early text-based videogame. Conducted in a scrolling written exchange between artist and program, the latter’s impatient rebukes to the artist’s aimless curiosity (‘you find nothing of interest’) are a reminder that coded realities are, if anything, less tolerant of drift or resistance than their meatspace analogues. Which might explain why the antiheroes of cyberpunk are so often hackers, among them net.art pioneers jodi, represented here by the deconstructed videogame sod (1999). The desire to operate off-grid is shared by the groups of black-clad protesters who, in the streets around Tai Kwun on the day of my visit, are meticulously smashing cctv cameras. The relationship between the state, technology and freedom cannot be mistaken for an academic issue in Hong Kong, and several
works reimagine a city that served (like the Tokyo documented in Takehiko Nakafuji’s estranging black-and-white photographs) as model for cyberpunk’s visions of the future. Orientalist fantasies of neon-drenched Asian megalopolises collide with local anxieties about lost identities in Shinro Ohtake’s retrofuturistic assemblage Mon Cheri: A Self-Portrait as a Scrapped Shed (2012) and Ho Rui An’s video Student Bodies (2019), one of several to use ghosts as metaphor for those left behind by the technologisation of society and the abstraction of communities. A city in which residents take refuge from the dismal present in artificial simulations of an idealised past is the subject of an animatedvideo installation by Zheng Mahler (a collaboration between artist Royce Ng and anthropologist Daisy Bisenieks). Nostalgia Machines (2019) offers a final reminder that cities might no longer need to be segregated by class or colour to enforce social hierarchies: people sharing the same physical space will operate in different realities and, consequently, simply stop seeing each other. As I walk through Hong Kong’s elevated walkways, peering occasionally over the edge to observe the violence playing out on the streets below while fellow pedestrians attend to their phones, it seems that Ballardian future may already have arrived. Ben Eastham
Zheng Mahler (in collaboration with Reijiro Aoyama), Nostalgia Machines, 2019, video installation, 15 min. Courtesy the artists
Antony Gormley New York Clearing Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3, New York 5 February – 27 March Peering through New York Clearing (2020), Antony Gormley’s installation at the tip of Pier 3, I took notice of the skyline of Lower Manhattan, which is visible in the background. As a response to the orderly logic of Manhattan’s urban grid, Gormley has unspooled 18km of 25mm square-section aluminium, lashing it to itself here and there with steel lathing until it resembles a sizeable ball of yarn, a cache of razor wire or a bird’s nest, depending on how hospitable toward it you feel. It rises to 15m or so, and encompasses about the same area as a basketball court. The press release calls it a ‘quantum drawing’, and any child would be happy, despite rules against it, to amuse themselves in such an alluring playground. Otherwise, for adults, it’s hard to see any similar merits. There are some technical aspects to applaud. The work’s many points of intersection with itself are held together by multiple steel ribbons, so that particularly dense clusters resemble the unsettling nests of wires found
atop, say, Tokyo telephone poles, though, to me, they exhibit an uncanny similarity to the informal watering and ventilation systems my mom devised to grow cacti in her backyard year-round. As with one of her ad hoc greenhouses, it is equally impossible to discern in New York Clearing where one thing starts and another ends. In reality, the best part about Gormley’s construction may not be the thing itself, but its shadow, which collapses the composition’s airy linework into a dense, spatially disorienting photogram, as if László Moholy-Nagy had made a work on the adjacent sidewalk. Visitors may be momentarily distracted by Gormley’s three-dimensional scribble, but it is no match for the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. They simply tower over New York Clearing, broadcasting the names of such corporate behemoths as Verizon and at&T across the harbour. The corporate context is not inappropriate for the sculpture. New York Clearing is a commission of ‘Connect, bts’, a global public
art initiative sponsored by K-pop superstars bts. According to its website, the programme ‘aims to redefine the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice’. And I suppose it does: in 2020, global brands, seeking to insinuate themselves into every facet of public space, fund ‘pop ups’ and ‘activations’; effectively public gatherings that allow them to conduct social listening. In practical terms, this means scraping Instagram for data on everyone who tags, or even visits one of these temporary monuments; algorithms are already sophisticated enough to identify particular backdrops, especially unique artworks like New York Clearing. While place making is always fraught with contradictory interests – the surrounding park itself doubles as a flood wall to protect neighbouring apartment buildings – Gormley could unravel 384,400km of square-section aluminium, enough to reach the Moon, and still this corporate space could contain it. Sam Korman
New York Clearing, 2020 (installation view, Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 3, New York). Photo: Christopher Burke. © the artist
Cameron Rowland 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73 Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 29 January – 12 April There are ghosts haunting the ica, crowded into the mostly empty rooms of Cameron Rowland’s first solo exhibition in the uk: those of countless people captured and abused in the British slave trade from the seventeenth century onwards, as well as the numerous merchants and clerks in the uk who processed and administered the industry. But foremost here is the spectre of Rowland himself, in the role of an exasperated history teacher. The primary element of this show is the handout, which contains a densely footnoted essay, in which Rowland posits the institutions of slavery as foundational to the British state, informing the police, prison and financial institutions that followed. The abolition of slavery in 1833 was primarily enabled, he states, by the wealthy players of the trade to avoid taxes, and changed nothing: ‘Abolition preserved the property established by slavery’. The exhibition comprises a few scant historical objects dotting the main gallery, effectively illustrating this text, each with lengthy explanatory captions: Guineas (all works 2020), a framed two-guinea piece, made from gold mined in Africa; Credit, a small eighteenthcentury mahogany desk mounted on the wall at waist height (a gesture towards the bureaucracy that enabled the transatlantic trade),
made from wood derived from British colonies in the Caribbean. In the middle of the floor is Pacotille, a pile of bonelike beads and U-shaped bits of oxidised brass – objects that were used as a one-way trade for slaves, that ‘Europeans would offer as payment but would never accept’. These are resonant and harrowing – but perhaps better contextualised in, say, Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum or the Museum of London Docklands. Alongside this minimal presentation are two transactions that form the more conceptual backbone of the show. Mooring is a yearlong rental agreement for a boat mooring at the Albert Docks in East London, apparently the location of a former warehouse for Rathbone & Sons, a timber merchant who in 1784 was the first to import raw cotton from the us. The mooring is intended to remain empty for a year. More elusively, Encumbrance is a series of five works (represented in the gallery by framed legal documents) in which the ica has mortgaged several mahogany doors, doorways and handrails in the building to a company Rowland has set up. The ica leases its premises from the Crown Estate; their deal with Rowland effectively makes the property worth a little less.
At a point when racist and neoimperial rhetoric is swelling in the uk, the legacies of slavery do need to be brought more publicly into the present. But are an empty mooring, some artefacts and withholding a bit of cash from the royal family the means to achieve that? This, only a few metres from Buckingham Palace, an epicentre of wealth enabled by faith and given the protective veneer of legality (and who also must have surely been in on Encumbrance’s mortgage deal to approve it). There’s a double bind in Rowland’s work, where a desire to reveal the spectres of the past lurking in the present is smothered by a historical determinism, where history is a path to which we are unwittingly bound – as one-directional as the intended transactions of the ‘pacotille’ strewn on the floor. His legal transactions are symbolic gestures of reparation, counteractions to the contracts, affidavits and paper money that came out of slavery; bureaucratic acts that were themselves originally symbolic gestures, accruing enough belief to be enforced and perpetuated. It seems his teachable point is that we are all already underwritten, our fate was signed away several centuries ago. It’s this belief that Rowland only ends up reinforcing, resigned to reinvest in the power of paperwork. Chris Fite-Wassilak
Pacotille, 2020, brass manillas manufactured in Birmingham, eighteenth century; glass beads manufactured in Venice, eighteenth century, 103 × 68 × 3 cm, rental European goods traded for enslaved people were manufactured specifically for this purpose. Manillas were used as a one-directional currency, which Europeans would offer as payment but would never accept. The Portuguese determined the value of slave life at 12–15 manillas in the early 1500s.1 Birmingham was the primary producer of brass manillas in Britain, prior to the city’s central role in the Industrial Revolution. The British also used cheap beads acquired throughout Europe to buy slaves. Eric Williams describes the ‘triple stimulus to British industry’ provided through the export of British goods manufactured for the purchasing of slaves, the processing of raw materials grown by slaves and the formation of new colonial markets for British-made goods.2 The production of European goods for the slave trade supported domestic manufacturing markets. British trade in West Africa was understood to be nearly 100 percent profit. ‘What renders the Negroe-Trade still more estimable and important is, that near Nine-tenths of those Negroes are paid for in Africa with British Produce and Manufactures only…We send no Specie or Bullion to pay for the Products of Africa, but, ’tis certain, we bring from thence very large Quantities of Gold;… From which Facts, the Trade to Africa may very truly be said to be, as it were, all Profit to the Nation.’ 3 Goods produced for the trade of slaves, which carried nearly no value in Europe, were called pacotille. Pacotille translates from French to English as ‘rubbish’. 4
1 A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, ‘The Major Currencies in Nigerian History’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 2, no. 1 (December 1960), 146
2 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, 2nd ed. (1944; repr. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 52
3 Malachy Postlethwayt, The National and Private Advantages of the African Trade Considered, 2nd ed. (London: John and Paul Knapton, 1746; London: William Otridge, Bookseller, 1772), 3. Citations refer to the Otridge edition
4 Marie-Hélène Corréard, ‘pacotille’, in Pocket Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary: French-English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 594
Stan Douglas Doppelgänger Victoria Miro Wharf Road, London 31 January – 14 March For many today, the world seems backward. The right talks online about a ‘clown world’, dominated by liberal values in which everything is upside-down and absurd in equal measure. The left, meanwhile, mourns the election of those they see as clowns, wondering why their progressive ideas are not more popular. The question of perspective as such is left open: where we see things from is rarely itself explored. Art, on the other hand, is nothing other than a perspective on the world – it is here we see how we see, and take a step back, or closer, to understanding how the world, or the cosmos, is framed. In Doppelgänger, Stan Douglas’s double square-format video installation (first presented at last year’s Venice Biennale), viewable in the dark from both sides, we are in the space-age proper: generic technology and a global cast take us out of, or at least beyond, contemporary partisan politics for a while. An astronaut, Alice, a black woman in her forties, is teleported to a distant planet (or, perhaps, through the looking glass). In one version of the story she returns to her space station with her colleagues; in the other, she arrives backwards, her organs on the wrong
side of her body, her passwords reversed, her very being under suspicion: she is quarantined and put under guard, mistrusted as a potential ‘terrorist’ whose continued existence becomes a matter of speculation. The same people who greet her in one version fear her in another: your relation to others is always a matter of perspective and who decides if you’re in or out. The individual emotional psychologising of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Solaris is here transplanted to relations within groups. Douglas’s film plays with questions of ethics – is Alice one or two? What is her relation to her double? Are they clones or sisters? – but more profoundly with questions of communication. When reversed, Alice gets a password ‘wrong’, spoken from the ‘incorrect’ side: to the question ‘if you measure your life by the tick of the clock’, instead of the answer ‘[you] live reified time’ she replies ‘emit deifier evil’; all correct words, certainly, but backwards. This simple act of miscommunication, as much of our dialogue with one another ultimately comprises, reflects the recto-verso paradox of perspective: there is no neutral position from which to judge. Douglas throws in a nod to quantum theory, as well as to the native-settler dynamic in
North America, in a joke made by one of the space station crew, who compares the colonisers’ obsessions with ‘aliens’ to their inability to accept their own colonisation of North America. Douglas the cinematographer is a consummate framer; everything is just so, from the lamp in the quarantine suite to the seatbelts and clipboard on the spaceship. The work’s form – forward-backward, looped, double-storied, paralleled but different narratives, clones, copies and reversals, issues of right and wrong – creates the overall impression of zero gravity, a nearweightless commentary on the absence of a centre. Doppelgänger reformulates Leibniz’s question ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ as ‘why are there two things rather than one?’, and this double-sidedness then spins off into a cosmic fantasia with moments of stark beauty; not least in the images of celestial voids, double planets, a delightful soundtrack and kaleidoscopic images of space-parachutes landing into water. In viewing Alice’s two stories next to each other, we are made to understand that we are always opposite, or alien, to someone else, and they, in turn, are different to us. What is surprising is that we ever, left or right, see things the same way: perhaps we do not. Nina Power
Doppelgänger, 2019, two-screen projection, duration variable. © the artist. Courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner
Larry Achiampong When the Sky Falls John Hansard Gallery, Southampton 25 January – 21 March The past and the future of race, the experience of African diaspora and the relationship of history to identity drive Larry Achiampong’s When the Sky Falls, in which childhood biography spirals quickly into reflections on bigger political realities. Versions of the artist’s pan african flag for the relic travellers’ alliance (motion) (2018) – motifs of red, yellow and green bands around a black disc, alongside 54 black stars (for each African country) – adorn the façade of the gallery. These relate to Achiampong’s recent Relic films (2017–), in which a future united Africa sends out ‘relic travellers’ to scour a ruined West, collecting oral testimonies of those once oppressed by its disappeared civilisation. Africa’s precolonial past is projected towards a postcolonial future. The narrator of the videowork Sunday’s Best (2016) recalls his childhood puzzlement over the fact that the only image of a white man in his home was a picture of ‘white Jesus’. A rapid, barely legible sequence of images, referring to colonial rule, Christianity and racisms old and new, is followed by scenes of the interior of a Victorian Gothic church, as the narrator remembers his evangelical Christian upbringing: the charismatic pastor, the rapturous, all-day worship, the threadbare meeting hall.
He goes on to muse on the names used for Jesus – Jesu Christo, but also Nyame – while a black woman, dressed in vividly patterned traditional dress appears, ghostlike, singing passionately in the staid English church. The use of Nyame – the god of Ashanti religion – leads the narrator to conclude that his congregation’s forms of worship had little to do with European Christianity transposed to Africa, but were rather the submerged traces of Ashanti culture, carried through a long century, from the time of the Ashanti uprising against British rule in 1900, in what is present-day Ghana. If Sunday’s Best rescues diasporic identity from historical erasure, The Expulsion (2019) crackles with indignation over continued inequality. As its narrator recalls accompanying his mother to nighttime cleaning jobs in London offices during the 1990s, the film follows a black woman as she mops and dusts gloomy interiors. She is one of the ‘twilight people’, ‘hidden from the white-collar types’, ‘invisible’ labourers who nightly perform the ‘expulsion’ of dirt from boardrooms in which the wealthy ‘dictate our future’. Achiampong’s narrator loathes this drudgery, while observing that his white working-class classmates and their parents have it better than his family. His mother’s advice is every
The Expulsion (still), 2019, 4k colour video, 14 min 5 sec. Courtesy the artist and Copperfield, London
migrant’s aspirational escape: ‘Make sure you excel’. As for us, the audience, we watch The Expulsion sitting on office chairs, surrounded by potted palms, watched in turn by a gathering of ‘Henry’ vacuum cleaners – the ones with the smiley, slightly sinister, upward-looking eyes. By this, Achiampong deftly offers a moment of institutional critique, looping the narrative back into the gallery space. If the narrator is Achiampong, then the artist of the present has indeed ‘escaped’: to the art gallery, with the cultural capital this position offers, to both the artist and us, the audience. Yet we know that come closing time, the ‘twilight people’ will clock in, and that cleaning galleries pays the same as cleaning offices. If there’s an art-historical echo in The Expulsion, it might be The Nightcleaners, a 1975 documentary by the Berwick Street Film Collective; a vision of low-waged nightwork seen through the lens of gender – white and black women fighting male bosses and maledominated unions. The Expulsion is more bleakly resigned to such social divisions, while class solidarities fade behind the surer focus on ethnicity and race. But the question for that future Africa may still be: will the pay be better? J.J. Charlesworth
Donna Huddleston The Exhausted Student Drawing Room, London 28 November – 1 March Often depicting groups of young women, Donna Huddleston’s drawings distil fluctuating and formative states, such as the transition from adolescence into adulthood, into the stillness of a tableau vivant. For her first solo show in the uk, the Irish-Australian artist has turned to her own biography, weaving narratives from her time as a student of theatre design together with fragments and images by Anton Chekhov, Raphael, Diego Velázquez and Tennessee Williams. The result is a body of work that is carefully staged even as it reflects on what it means to stage life in art. The focal point of the exhibition is the titular drawing (all works 2019), which is over 2m wide. Made up of eight sheets of paper, it is arranged on a freestanding wall that is placed in front of a series of fabric acoustic wall panels of the type used in theatres. The composition is borrowed from Raphael’s similarly sized The Deposition (1507), but in Huddleston’s reworking, Christ is replaced by a young woman who has collapsed into
the arms of those around her, a dripping paintbrush in her splayed hand calling to mind bleeding stigmata. Mary Magdalene is played by a woman with a face covered in freckles or scalelike marks, her pale-yellow hair encasing her head like an immovable wooden wig. In contrast to the Magdalene’s desperate, clutching distress at Christ’s dead body, this woman looks over the student with a distanced, clinical expression: she holds her listless hand as if checking her own pulse. The figures are built up through layers of coloured pencil, and their clothes give the impression of having gone through the wash too many times, the original vibrancy of colour bleached out. Expressions are conveyed through theatrical signifiers: a hand raised to the mouth, the whites of eyeballs visible as they roll backwards. Huddleston builds personality through detail: a dated beret, a pencil behind the ear, bloodshot eyes, nail varnish colour, wrinkles. In The Call a woman holds a rotary telephone to her ear with a dramatically crooked bend of the
elbow, her brow furrowed in anguish. Her laboured performance acts out the significance of the call but divulges nothing else. Focusing on gesture and ritual, the artist rinses her scenes of any deeper signification, presenting them back to us as pure affectation. More references to theatre and art history arise throughout the carefully coded works in this exhibition. The frontal gaze and structured dress in The Call are reminiscent of Velázquez’s Las Meninas (1656), while the scaly, lizardlike print of her outfit nods to Williams’s 1961 play The Night of the Iguana, quotes from which the artist incorporates into her enigmatic exhibition text. Although the scenes they depict are static, these drawings never quite settle. Instead they evoke a feverish, dreamlike state in which the separation between theatre and life might collapse for a ‘suffering’ student exhausted by their own ambition. Slipping between self-parody and sincerity, The Exhausted Student is a wry study of creative labour, sacrifice and ambition. Kathryn Lloyd
The Exhausted Student, 2019, coloured pencil on paper, eight parts, 145 × 226 cm (overall). Photo: Angus Mill. Courtesy the artist
Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh 1 February – 28 March The three buildings occupied by Ingleby Gallery over the past 22 years have always presented a challenge to critics. The immaculate and elegant interiors are so distractingly beautiful that it can be hard to see artworks at all. Ingleby’s new home was designed and built as the Meeting House of the Glasites, an austere eighteenthcentury Scottish sect whose beliefs included the view that beauty and art were inherently corrupt – followers of the Reverend John Glas were forbidden to indulge in superfluous decoration or art of any kind. It is ironic that their place of worship is now a gallery, though the building’s iconoclastic history makes it a fitting site for new works by Marine Hugonnier, an anthropologist and philosopher turned artist, whose career has centred on the politics of representation and image-making. Hugonnier is primarily known as a filmmaker for works such as the trilogy Ariana (2003), The Last Tour (2004) and Travelling Amazonia (2006), and her Travel Posters continue The Last Tour’s examination of the tourist gaze through a series of large-format images of Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar’s iconic 1971–72 Pan Am advertising campaigns. Using existing
Magnum photographs, the designers created exotic, evocative jet-age posters of travel destinations. They suggest rather than depict the countries they represent: there are no identifiable landmarks or travel advertising tropes such as traditional dress, exotic animals or local cuisine. The works evoke the romance of travel itself, eliciting desire and dreams of escape, and rather than acting as an illustration of the country name (spelled out in Helvetica at the top or bottom of each poster), the hazy, distant images of sunsets, seas and lush foliage are contemplative, allowing the viewer a level of associative agency unusual in design of the period. In re-presenting these works as her own, the exhibition might appear as latter-day appropriation art – the Argentina works in particular seem to invite this comparison: ochre-hued cowboys against a huge setting sun. Yet Hugonnier reroutes these assumptions. Alongside the originals (provided by the designers themselves) are similar, but not identical iterations. Hugonnier presents the works as c-prints encased in custom-made Perspex box frames: three of Hawaii, three of South America and five of Argentina. Hugonnier has stalked the
images’ passage from object to data, charting the ‘journey’ of the posters over decades by finding and comparing apparently identical versions of the posters online. Close analysis of changes in the data of the images allowed her to trace where and when specific works had been uploaded – the resulting differences in hue, tone and resolution across various iterations are revealed when the works are hung together. In the case of Hawaii, the additional pixilation almost enhances the meditative effect of surfers immersed in a shimmering sea. Titles become itineraries of the works’ journey: Pan Am Hawaii / Housed in Palo Alto, California – 06.09.2015 (2019), for example, was one of 12 found in a restricted two-day internet search. But though Hugonnier’s intervention and ‘compare and contrast’ detective work facilitates and increases our appreciation of the works and their travels, it is Chermayeff and Geismar’s singular, nostalgic designs that ultimately hold our attention. As John Glas cautioned, images have the power to undermine ideas. Beauty can lead us astray. In a windowless room, lit by a large cupola, the shimmering posters transport us to places far beyond Edinburgh and the headturning space of the gallery. Susannah Thompson
Pan Am Argentina | Housed in Ingleside, Illinois – 16.05.2012 (left), Pan Am Argentina | Housed in Detroit, Michigan – 12.03.2010 (right), part of the community of 34 occurrences of appearance bound by a search done on the internet between 27 and 29 November 2019, c-print, 175 × 117 cm (each). © Chermayeff and Geismar, 1971. Courtesy the artist and Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh
The Ballad of William N. Copley Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 17 January – 7 March If William N. Copley had never picked up a paintbrush, you might still want to read a biography of him. During the 1940s he was a California gallerist specialising in Surrealism, a friend of Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia (an apparent influence on his own later art) and Man Ray. He began exhibiting his own paintings, of which more in a moment, during the early 50s, under the name cply; by the mid-60s, in the wake of the second of his five divorces, he was again in entrepreneurial mode, publishing portfolios of twentiethcentury artist collaborations titled, notably, sms (for ‘Shit Must Stop’). During the 70s his own art turned from erotic to borderline pornographic, foxing what constituted his American public. He died in 1996. The Ballad of William N. Copley, a miniretrospective that nevertheless leaves out Copley’s signature painted screens, stretches from 1959 to 92. In the earliest work, Palladium (1959–63), Copley has already established his trademark unabashed fascination with the mythic locales of the heterosexual American male (remember, five divorces), in this case a revue where lace-wrapped black women frolic together while men sit nursing wines and, distantly across a chequerboard floor, the band plays
on. This work, with its compulsively symmetrical composition and faceless figures, is on the lip of what used to be called outsider art. But Copley was very much an insider, and one can’t miss the influence of Henri Matisse in the patterning and rhyming curves of the Western barroom scene Natchez Nan Watched Derringer Dan (1966), with its two behatted men playing poker while a woman prowls around them, a painting of a female nude behind them rendered in the same sophistication-meets-slapstick style. The core of the show is a roomful – a suite really – of works from this period, full of tipsy cavorting and gunplay, appended with selfexplanatory titles like A bunch of us boys were whooping it up in the Malamute Saloon (1966). They feel steeped in cinematic male fantasies of sex and violence, thankfully leavened by humour, gendered self-mockery, a general sense of knowing oafishness. By 1981’s Card Players, things are bawdier. A clothed man plays cards with a naked woman – shades of the famous photo of Duchamp playing chess with Eve Babitz – while two other nudes prop up the bar. Sardonic works like Feel Like a Hundred Bucks (1986), a painting of a ripped-up banknote with an oval mirror in its centre, don’t recall anyone and stand as out-of-time Pop.
The show’s strangest and most diverting work might be Saturday Night at the Movies (1985), an interlocking mix of depictions of men’s shirts and trousers, bits of city architecture, a horned red-eyed man and myriad miniature half-naked figures scrambling about, as if escaped from one of Copley’s bars. (The gramophones that often feature in his saloon scenes reappear here.) There are touches of Öyvind Fahlstrom and Hariton Pushwagner in this work, and a frisson of consumerist critique, but the painting mostly fascinates because of its recalcitrant opacity. Much else on display boils American culture down to a vast, rambunctious, perpetually humming machinery of desire, one that might get you shot by your wife, poisoned by your husband or shitfaced in the whorehouse – all those scenarios play out here – but which was approximately as true during the 1960s as it was in the Wild West. Because Copley never really rendered his own time but filtered Americana through French modernist aesthetics and cartoons, his work isn’t pinned to the moment of its making. It likely looked brazenly askew back then; today, in an age of identitarian art where the hangups of straight white males are rightly being downgraded, it does so again. Martin Herbert
Card Players, 1981, acrylic on linen, 163 × 133 cm. © the estate of the artist and Artists Rights Society (ars), New York. Courtesy the estate of the artist; Kasmin, New York; and Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin, Paris & London
Derek Jarman protest! imma, Dublin 15 November – 23 February The visitor to this revelatory survey is greeted by the checked gaze of the sixteen-year-old Derek Jarman, almond-eyed and curly haired, in a 1959 half-length self-portrait in oil. The young artist looks over his left shoulder, chest angled towards the threshold leading into the next room in the exhibition. Through it streams a blue light that picks out the cobalt panels in the painting’s Cezanne-ish patchwork background, accompanied by a voice reciting the litany of treatments associated with late-stage aids. Pairing the juvenile painting with Jarman’s elegiac monochrome film Blue (1993) establishes the points between which this retrospective oscillates: figuration and abstraction, stillness and movement, materialism and mysticism, the body and the soul. The scratches that fleck the film’s otherwise immaculate frames of International Klein Blue, meanwhile, introduce a body of work that seeks transcendence in the flawed physical world. These career bookends also establish a narrative arc – from the performance of artistic identity to naked self-expression – that an otherwise chronological presentation sometimes supports and other times complicates. Charting his education at London’s Slade School of Art in the mid-1960s, a room of early experiments in modernist painting – from Fauvism to Vorticism, Art Informel to Pittura Metafisica – suggests an artist trying on styles to fit, although the canvases are elevated above pastiche by the student’s facility and the emergence of motifs that will recur throughout his career. These magpie early canvases do not disguise the influence of artists as varied as Wyndham Lewis and William Crozier, while also suggesting an artist seeking to distinguish himself. Indeed, Jarman never abandons the impulse to ventriloquise – as late as 1991, he is inspired by a Frank Auerbach exhibition to knock out some spiky impasto landscapes – or the fondness for sgraffiti and pentimenti that suggest hidden and partially revealed meanings.
A series of paintings from the late 1960s mark Jarman’s achievement of a style appropriate to both his own preoccupations and the times through which he was living. That the cartographical lines and printed matter of Landscape with a Blue Pool (1967) recall the architectural collages of Milan’s then-recently founded Superstudio feels more like synchronicity than cross-pollination: different artists catching the same wind. Indeed, so compelling are previously unexhibited works including Landscape with Crow (1967) – loaded with symbols and spells – that it’s hard to suppress a pang of regret that his imminent discovery of filmmaking, and his own restless curiosity, diverted Jarman from devoting more time to the possibilities opened up by these paintings. The story told by the rest of the exhibition is more familiar, although the opening, with its focus on rarely seen paintings, illuminates the grammar underpinning Jarman’s work in the languages of theatre, literature, pop music, horticulture, film and activism (a legacy extended by his many mentees, from actor Tilda Swinton to filmmaker Isaac Julien and costumier Sandy Powell, whose creations for Jarman’s 1993 film Wittgenstein are displayed here). While the curating resists the temptation to refer everything back to Jarman’s celebrated feature films (a screening programme makes them available without attempting to shoehorn them into the exhibition’s narrative), it does help to situate them within his broader artistic development. A looping compilation of Super 8 shorts, for instance, reveals the increasing sophistication of his editing techniques as well as his evolution from Warholian flatness into a more expansive literary romanticism. The impression that Jarman’s multifaceted practice is best understood collectively is reinforced by the intelligent, cross-referencing arrangement of sketches, photographs and films. The recurrence of esoteric and alchemical symbols including sphere, stone and pyramid in drawings,
facing page, top Self-portrait, 1959, oil on canvas, 76 × 64 cm. Courtesy imma, Dublin
paintings, films and costumes illustrate how a single artistic project can be refracted through different media. The sheer volume of his production means that these forays into set design, poetry and music videos are inevitably teasing rather than satisfying, prompting the hope that offshoot exhibitions might pick up the thread. The ‘protest’ of the exhibition’s title, most literally represented by film and photographic documentation of Jarman’s crusading work as an aids activist, is a principle underpinning his work rather than an end to which it is put or extracurricular activity. The provocatively priapic paintings exhibited at the height of Mary Whitehouse’s moral crusade during the early 1980s, for example, are a stark reminder that no work here is untouched by the experience of a politically active gay man living through Thatcherism and the crisis. But the more explicitly activist works should not be separated from gentler surprises, including an orgiastic and never before exhibited 1979 painting (Pleasures of Italy), which half-conceals a swirl of poetic fragments under a dirty white screen of paint. The work protests the suppression by a materialist and prescriptive society of the mystery and esotericism that are fundamental to Jarman’s version of beauty. Yet even the foreknowledge of how this must end will not inoculate visitors from the devastating effects of the final rooms. First come a series of monumental canvases composed with the help of studio assistants (the ailing artist reduced to pulling his bare fingers through the acrylic to inscribe desperate five-furrowed tracks and circular swirls in their surfaces). Finally, a series of wall-hanging assemblages created in the seaside cottage to which the dying artist retreated, first exhibited in 1992, foreground the impedimenta of illness: pill boxes, vials, syringes and pumps. They attest to 35 years making art out of a radical life and untimely death. Ben Eastham
facing page, bottom i.n.r.i., 1988, oil and mixed media on canvas, 34 × 27 × 9 cm. Courtesy Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London
Jannis Marwitz Narch Till June / Närz bis April Dortmunder Kunstverein 23 November – 9 February A ‘continuous shock’ is an oxymoron, since shocks are defined by their singularity. And yet such a notion, or that of a steady succession of shocks, is appropriate to Jannis Marwitz’s painting. The Brussels-based artist’s earlier trompe l’oeils of stone grave plates from GrecoRoman antiquity, disturbingly painted in bright, contrasting colours, demanded strong reactions. Of late, though, Marwitz has turned to a mashup of styles, from Late Gothic Flemish painting to the Italian Renaissance. His provocation lies in the anachronistic depiction and vulgar genre-hopping, playing with the styles of the Old Masters without copying them. Instead of placing the old on a pedestal, the artist is mischievously reworking it, like wet clay. In the palm-size, precisely painted Untitled (all works but one 2019), a pensive adolescent, his physiognomy redolent of Flemish Old Master painting, is washed around by waves; a crab pulls his tongue, a sea snake winds around him, a green, witchlike figure pinches his cheek. Water, billowing grey clouds, skin, the fall of the folds – the texture-rich composition is a cluster of painterly porn in the tightest of spaces. Especially enigmatic are two reddish bars, one on the boy’s forehead and the other on his breastbone. Their shape evokes bricks or girders, yet their consistency seems anything but solid.
Everything here appears soft, floppy, liquefied, giving the painted world a puzzling instability. Directly adjacent, and in close correspondence, is the large-format Die Frösche (The Frogs). Against an elegiac background of clouds and hills we again find a young man, maybe the same one, menaced by two geese and an enormous beaky bird, which, again, pulls his tongue. In comparison to the landscape, the figure of the youth appears gigantic, or far above it; in relation to the birds, he seems dwarfish. The composition gives the impression of an allegory, its meaning withheld from us by our ignorance of ancient lore. This sense is enhanced by the fact that a version of this painting recently appeared in another show by the artist at Sundy, London, as if the motif were a popular one, understandable to different audiences. It’s interesting to consider the clustering of feathers and beaks in Die Frösche in relation to another untitled work: a bob-haired young woman sitting with a pretzel in hand, a quilted jacket hung on the back of her chair. The painting depicts Marwitz’s partner, artist Christiane Blattmann, in whose own works – made of burlap and silicone – feathers, wings and beaks appear as leitmotifs. It’s painted in a completely different register to the others, with shades of Neue Sachlichkeit
The Net, 2019, oil on canvas, 80 × 130 cm. Photo: Simon Vogel. Courtesy the artist
(Germany’s 1920s New Objectivity movement). So Marwitz again employs the patina of a historical style, activating the viewer’s emotional attitude to and knowledge of this era, though the painting remains hard to decode. Instead, the different yet connected temporal layers – rustic interior and shiny quilted jacket – grind against each other. While images appear in different variations, certain motifs and gestures recur. The goose returns in Poacher, a large canvas depicting a muscular man with a fish on his back, another favoured Marwitz motif. The head of the fisherman, which brings to mind antique representations of Heracles and looks strangely superimposed, repeats identically in a different painting, depicting a group of three (Poachers). Such moments of recognition help build a tight web of connections among the paintings, albeit adding up to a mysterious, vague muttering. Even though Marwitz surfs the history of his medium, availing himself of various styles and techniques long superseded (his paintings hang anachronistically from thick wire), every canvas is a jamais-vu. As a viewer you get a glimpse of how paintings might have worked when they were still seen in sacred contexts. Moritz Scheper Translated from the German by Liam Tickner
Alain Bizos Politically Incorrect Polka Galerie, Paris 15–25 January ‘Good artists borrow, great artists steal’: whether Picasso said this or not, we can be pretty sure he didn’t mean pilfering down at the mall. But looking at the two black-and-white photographs that comprise Smile (1971), one suspects Alain Bizos took those words quite literally. The first photo is of an old surveillance camera and a sign that reads smile shoplifters you are on camera. It sits above the second, a full-faced shot of Bizos grinning. The real action begins with Vol des lettres v.o.l. (1970), six photographs that show the artist stealing three large adhesive letters that spell out the French for ‘theft’, ‘steal’ and ‘flight’. An emboldened Bizos then graduates to larger sporting items – Vol du jeu de croquet (1971) – and a suitcase, Vol de la valise (1971), whose documentation also captures Bizos legging it down a New York street. These works, strongly recalling early conceptual pieces by Joseph Kosuth, have three components: framed documentation of the action, the photographs of the thefts themselves and the actual item stolen. (Naughty.) With Vol du spot (1971) the joke is intensified by the fact that the nicked light illuminates the work. These purloined goods implicate both the gallery as ‘fence’ and any putative buyer
as a receiver of stolen goods. Proudhon’s notion of all property being theft is thus cheekily and amusingly referenced by enfolding others in a criminal conspiracy. Bizos made these works in the aftermath of the protests in 1968 and the France of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (1967), with its cell of student Maoists. With Bye-Bye Mao (1976) Bizos charts the declining intellectual influence of Maoism in Paris – plus by extension the triumph of the moneyed bourgeoisie – by showing five posters illustrating the progressive degradation of the Great Helmsman’s image as it is ripped off a hoarding from left to right. Bizos is clearly still something of an angry soixante-huitard. Mariane-Colère (2010), 48 photographic portraits of young women wearing blue or red Phrygian caps, refers to the republican symbol of Marianne. They frown or scowl, some bare their teeth; a few have their protective glass shattered. For Bizos the Fifth Republic is a conflicted place: the republican icon of the left has been appropriated by the gilets jaunes movement and even co-opted by senior politicians into the ludicrous debate over whether burkinis were un-French. Art about crime and punishment: Bizos ups the stakes with the most surprising body
of work here, which features one Jacques Mesrine. Not knowing anything about Mesrine before seeing Bizos’s pictures of a bloke making insolent ‘up yours’ gestures (Le Bras d’honneur, 1979), I took them to be a parody of macho silliness. Le Tir, Jacques Mesrine (triptych) (1979) depicts a figure reaching for his holster, removing his pistol, then pointing the barrel straight at your face. Another photograph, La Guillotine (1979), shows Mesrine’s head protruding from the bottom of a cardboard box, his eyes comically staring upwards – he’s playacting. And then the reveal, for those unfamiliar with French crime stories: Mesrine was the Ronnie Biggs of France, a Clyde Barrow type, an actual bank robber on the run. He took the piss out of the police and became something of a hero to Bizos and The People. You look again at those determined eyes as he aims that gun and realise that Mesrine had done this for real. In the year the last photo was taken, the police shot him 15 times in his gold bmw on the streets of Paris, an extrajudicial killing. He was forty-two. That decapitation picture was a prophetic gag. The press printed images of his slumped body, but this time it was no act. John Quin
Le Tir, Jacques Mesrine (triptych), 1979. © the artist. Courtesy Polka Galerie, Paris
Miriam Cahn I As Human Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw 29 November – 1 March Ambiguously positioned between pleasure and pain, perpetrator and victim, numerous figures in extremis feature in Miriam Cahn’s first retrospective in Poland, I As Human. Taken from Cahn’s automatic writings, this statement confuses the subject/object, and the idea that everyone or -thing, to allude to a specific work’s title, couldbeme. In this 2017 work the Swiss artist paints a veiled woman and child in a gridded, barren landscape appearing to flee as two men advance gripping their penises, or the bloody place where one once was. A sense of peril extends beyond the obviously ‘human’. In a frenzy of chalk, megalopolis (1987) peers down on a modern cityscape, teeming with phallic architecture. classic(al) loving (état de guerre / state of war) (1983) comprises ten quickfire abstract drawings horizontally applied to the wall, evoking a filmstrip, and expresses Cahn’s experience of harassment on a train. Featuring hanging breasts and an apelike face, mammal (1998) is a more subtly volatile work, exemplifying how Cahn, as she’s said, ‘dissolve[s] the oil-painting-ness, just as previously I dissolved the so-called drawing-ness through the sheer size and quantity’. Its gaseous surface speaks to the slippery spectrum upon which mammals (a word that has its origin in ‘of the breast’) are ascribed subjectivity.
Born in 1949 to Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi persecution, Cahn became a peacemovement activist and a feminist, notably withdrawing her work from Documenta 7 in 1982 following what she purportedly considered unfair treatment by director Rudi Fuchs. (She made a celebrated return in 2017’s 14th edition.) Cahn’s history is often evoked to elucidate her ‘radical empathy’ (to quote a term used by the exhibition’s public programme curator Natalia Sielewicz), and as ‘a document of my helplessness’ (in Cahn’s words), her work is an undoubtedly sincere interrogation of the ever-emmeshed personal and political. But how does it play to an audience increasingly desensitised to violent imagery, yet sensitised to more oblique structural violence and privilege? decay (2017) might be a self-portrait, and depicts a white female figure grimacing at us, with cartoonish red-rimmed eyes, bald head bent forward at a cruel right angle, a fist clenched. In blackwomanwarrior (2018) a black woman’s face is further abstracted in the modernist ‘primitive’ style, and the genitals are notably exaggerated. The argument that Cahn schematises all bodies through varying degrees of abstraction doesn’t prevent me reading this painting as another manifestation of the crass, violating tropes that white spectators have historically
decay, 2017, oil on canvas, 96 × 78 cm. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris, and Meyer Riegger, Berlin & Karlsruhe
inflicted on black bodies, regardless of other intersectional experience. In the cavernous white cube of the Museum of Modern Art’s temporary pavilion, I feel coerced into this sense of unilaterality by Cahn’s self-directed hang. Eschewing any division of the space, the nonchronological, salon-style presentation, which includes sculpture and digital media, feels conceptually heavy-handed in its choruslike approach. A series of 31 colourtreated scans, including Second World War aerial photographs of concentration camps, comprise processing (2019). It strikes a particularly bum note as I squint up at the images set high above other works, these harrowingly real apertures into mass annihilation reduced to motifs, even if that was the point. I am drawn back to the more liminal paintings and drawings, notably the radioactive emptiness of the blue house (1992) in pigment and charcoal, a vast tonal chalk drawing of a bed (1981), appearing mundane yet aggressive and isolated, and geology (2017), a panorama in oils of the Swiss mountains as viewed from Cahn’s window, thrumming with Douglas Sirkian drama and portent. Suggesting something queer in the quotidian, these works become portals through which disquieting associations might channel, and ferment in the manner of her ‘dissolving’ surfaces. Here, I feel something akin to empathy. Phoebe Blatton
Eva Kot’átková Confessions of the Piping System Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen 21 September – 16 February Recalling early-twentieth-century avant-garde practice and influenced by the Surrealism of postwar Czech film and theatre, Eva Kot’átková’s work wraps abstract sculpture in psychological narratives to articulate social breakdown on behalf of the voiceless and disenfranchised. Here, visitors first encounter the eponymous Confessions of the Piping System (2019), a low, horizontal metal grid-structure festooned with fragments of images, sculptures and short texts on protest-sign placards. This is further activated at times by performers, who move on their backs within its restricted space while reciting stories, real and fictional, selected, commissioned or written by the artist. Among these are unsettling tales of the infirm and disadvantaged; tragic yet objective descriptions of precarious lives cut off from care and assistance. Penetrating the sculpture’s metal grid – which reads as both structure of orientation and repressive system – the placards display short quotations from the stories such as, ‘I speak for the sick who cannot afford to be sick’. The contrast between these fragile messages and the usual display of power and solidarity typically expressed by protest slogans is an empowering gesture. While the oppressive forces targeted are left unnamed, it’s easy to make a connection to the pressures of today’s
gig economy, the ongoing social havoc of neoliberalism and the collapse of social structures Kot’átková experienced while growing up in post-Communist Czechoslovakia. In the second room, an inset vitrine painted spectral red presents hundreds of images and fragments of text cut from books and newspapers – among them images of autonomous limbs, children at play, birds, reptiles, anatomical diagrams – each held in place by white string. Titled Error (2019), the collection materialises an alternative system of classification, questioning established taxonomies and defining the world – and the artist’s collage-based approach – as political. Also here is Place for Speaking Out, Place for Making the Private Public (2018), a vertical cage scaled to the dimensions of a single person. This work, originally situated in a public square, emphasises Kot’átková’s desire to give a public voice to people who need it by offering a protected, safe yet paradoxically restraining space to talk from and through. Participation and the act of cutting-out come together in Room for Restoring Empathy (2019), comprising the remnants of a children’s workshop about ‘how to speak through objects or personal items’, in which difficult emotions were dealt with by snipping and sewing clothing. An oversize pair of scissors leaning against
the wall stands in for how cutting, collage and editing might be positive ways to deal with negative psychologies. Borrowing from the clinical method of psychodrama, speaking ‘through’ an object is central to Kot’átková’s work, both providing an unspoken language for the voiceless and playfully instrumentalising the nonverbal communication of visual art and sculpture itself. An oversize bed occupies the final room: visitors can crawl into it and listen to children’s dreams recounted via headphones. The scale ensures that anyone in the bed feels small, and the nature of the recounted dreams give a further sense of powerlessness and dysfunction. Rooted in daydreaming but also anxiety and politics, the brightly lit installation is titled Dream Machine is Asleep (2018). Kot’átková has described the imaginative power of dreams not as an escape but as an essential step in the transformation of reality. Her work is powerful not only because it allows victims of the systemic and often hidden brutality of our present moment to articulate their situations, but also because it offers hopeful tools of resistance, with a ‘light’ visual vocabulary that is playful, colourful and accessible – so that once the message of her mediating devices sinks in, your perception cannot but be transformed. Rodney LaTourelle
Dream Machine is Asleep, 2018, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen
Gabriel Kuri sorted, resorted Wiels, Brussels 6 September – 5 January A preoccupation with ordering and indexing is conspicuous throughout Gabriel Kuri’s survey show at Wiels. The urge to tabulate is palpable as a rationale behind discrete pieces, but also in the Mexican artist’s overarching conceit, which entails arranging all works in the exhibition (numbering over 60) into four categories: metal, paper, plastic and the more heterogeneous ‘construction materials’. Navigating the exhibition, one has the cumulative sense that Kuri’s compulsion to sort (and resort) is rooted in a desire to interrogate ‘civilisation’ by scrutinising the substances that make up its infrastructures. Many works in the show could be described as assisted readymades; found elements alchemically combined so as to transcend their original function and assume new metaphorical lives. In this sense, much of Kuri’s oeuvre evokes Pierre Restany’s definition of Nouveau Réalisme (as outlined in that group’s 1960 manifesto) as the ‘poetic recycling of urban, industrial and advertising reality’. Another strategy frequently adopted by the artist entails fabricating enlarged replicas of quotidian objects related to financial exchange, such as his upscaled till receipts (here transformed into tapestries) or plastic bread clips. In reconstructing the administrative detritus of commerce, Kuri combines ethnographic analysis with formalist concerns.
A particularly successful aspect of this show is how the schema responds to the postindustrial architecture of Wiels, whose galleries vary in size. The scale of the human body, and its role as a vital conduit in the cycles of consumerism, are constant foci in Kuri’s output: this is touched upon in Complementary cornice and intervals (2009), an array of miniature toiletry products gleaned from various hotels, balanced atop slabs of variegated marble. Yet moments of monumentalism also punctuate the exhibition, as exemplified by .)(. (2013), consisting of a skip and a curved sheet of metal, both tipped upright and pinioned by the weight of two boulders. The central positioning of this edifice, which relies upon counterforce to keep it upright, is significant. Its seemingly haphazard contingency radiates volatility onto all of the surrounding artworks. Precarity also emanates from Untitled (Charted Missing Data) (2016), inflated condoms nestled into a honeycomb slate structure and displayed on a stainlesssteel table. This assemblage instantly evokes a cross section of an insect colony; the tightly inflated latex membranes possessing a distinctly larval appearance. The material Kuri ‘denatured’ to greatest effect, however, is hard cash, which appears throughout the show in various guises. In some instances money is presented
.)(., 2013, skip, powder-coated metal plate, stones, 230 × 520 × 168 cm. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy the artist and Franco Noero, Turin
in a manner that elevates its inherent worth while also highlighting its aesthetic properties, as in Box for Four (2014), in which wads of colour-coded notes are lodged inside a minimalist stainless steel cube. Elsewhere currency is presented as something disposable, abject and orphaned from the circuits of exchange that conceived it. The immersive installation Donation Box (2010–19) comprises vast expanses of sand, stretching across the gallery floor and speckled with cigarette butts and oneand two-cent copper coins. Belgium recently followed the example of several eurozone nations in discontinuing the circulation of these coins, having deduced that they were too costly to produce. More copper coinage appears in Broken Line (2011), scattered like bird droppings under an elegant armature studded with hostile antipigeon spikes. Here, money and waste are conflated, currency cast as filthy lucre. Although Kuri’s work is anchored in materiality and engaged in an art-historical dialogue (with postminimal sculpture in particular), it is his ability to give form to invisible realities that imbues his art with relevance. Without didacticism, he asserts that the fabric of society is shaped by abstract, unseen transactions that hold the power to make the value of everything – even money – mutable. Pádraic E. Moore
Karen Russo Myths of the Near Future Tel Aviv Museum of Art 6 September – 18 April Comprising charcoal drawings and three 16mm films transferred to digital, Myths of the Near Future continues Karen Russo’s preoccupation with German history, probing temporal slippages in its national narrative. Each film draws from a different historic architectural endeavour, the earliest in Junkerhaus (2019), a black-and-white film shot in the house of the late-nineteenth-century architect Karl Junker. The film’s expressionist use of light, rhythmic editing and folkloristic soundtrack turn the house, which is filled with ornamented, woodcarved furniture and frescolike imagery, into a claustrophobic space haunted by primitivist motives. This menacing air lifts at the film’s end with a shot of a naive painting depicting a man greeting a woman and a child through an open window. The image hints at the inner world of a man who lived as a recluse while being obsessed with building a family house; a psychic tension between outside and inside, further induced by footage of the woods surrounding the house. The artist-project-cumhome is offered as an alternate architecture of introspection, at odds with the German Romantic ideal of the open landscape as emblematic of collective national sentiment. The other two films – both addressing projects by German expressionist and Nazi party member Bernhard Hoetger – give shape to the political tension between individual
and collective implied in Junkerhaus, and monumentalise the idea of a building as a gesamtkunstwerk. In tet-Stadt (2016) a camera moves through an architectural model of a largescale Egyptian-styled building complex, originally commissioned by German biscuit manufacturer Hermann Bahlsen in 1917 to house his factories and workers, but never built. Images from Germanen gegen Pharaonen (dir. Anton Kutter), a 1939 Nazi propaganda film that alluded to the Germanic origin of the Pyramids, are woven into the film. The film not only distorts the viewer’s perception of scale, but also of chronological time, as these grainy, ghostlike images function as an ideological successor to tet-Stadt’s racial ideology of self-mythologisation. Pseudoscientific claims regarding the Germanic peoples’ connection to Mesopotamian cultures go back even further, to supposed origins in Atlantis. Haus Atlantis (2016) combines archival and documentary footage with staged scenes in a fictional narrative where patients suffering from a strange seasickness believe they once lived in Atlantis, while a mutant kelp colonises the streets. The film was shot in Haus Atlantis, another of Hoetger’s ambitious projects, built in Bremen in 1931, and at other monuments by him. Commissioned by businessman Ludwig Roselius, Haus Atlantis was intended as a cultural foundation and museum of ancestral history that would reconnect
German identity to its ancient origins. Eventually, Hoetger and Bahlsen’s mythological inclinations were replaced by the aesthetic project of fascist neoclassicism, and they themselves were later condemned by the Nazis. Haus Atlantis’s sci-fi fantasy of a delusional state conflating past and present points cryptically to a ferment of cultural interest in paganism, occultism and romanticism that may later have informed Nazism. These temporal back-and-forths are further entangled in the charcoal drawings depicting peculiar monoliths or pagan worships sites. They reference German statues such as Hoetger’s Niedersachsenstein (1923), Der Schwebende (1926), by Ernst Barlach, and Arno Breker’s Kameraden (1941) and Junges Europa (1979), fused with scenes from George Pal’s and Saul Bass’s sci-fi movies of the 1960s and 1970s respectively. This cultural hotchpotch presents a marginalised lineage of monumental aesthetic, suppressed into a kind of pop-culture subconscious. Russo’s show fascinatingly whirls together fiction, mysticism and national sentiment, extremely relevant in today’s increasingly rightwing, patriotic political atmosphere. At times, though, Russo resorts to conventional genres – such as sci-fi, expressionist film and outsider art – without colliding these in such novel ways as she treats the temporal layers of the works’ historic subject matter. Keren Goldberg
The Great Gates, 2019, charcoal on paper, 97 × 143 cm. Courtesy the artist and Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv & Brussels
Luca Vitone Romanistan Centro Pecci, Prato 8 November – 15 March Eppur si muove (‘And yet it moves’) is a sardonic Italian saying, originally attributed to Galileo Galilei in 1633, at the end of his trial for heresy by the Inquisition, which forced him to proclaim the Earth as the stationary centre of the universe and sentenced him to perpetual immobility (ie, house imprisonment for life). Since the early 2000s, Luca Vitone has used Eppur si muove as the collective title for an ongoing series of installations, sculptures and works on paper in which freedom of thought and movement are represented by his encounters with the nomadism of Roma culture. Romanistan groups them, but also inscribes them in a broader ‘nostos narrative’ (nostos being the Greek word for ‘homecoming’), an odyssey across space and time that is both collective and private, and infused with nostalgia (nostos + algos, ‘the pain associated with longing’). The exhibition reflects a number of journeys. The foremost is the migration of the Roma and Sinti people from India to Europe; Vitone recently reversed it by travelling by camper van from Bologna (where Roma are cited in an official document from 1422) to Chandigarh (where the first international centre of documentation on Roma opened in 1970). He was joined by a group of friends
guided by the Roma musician, musicologist and lecturer Santino Spinelli and his son Gennaro. During the trip the artist shot a road movie (Romanistan, 2019), screened once a day in the museum’s cinema, while a monumental video projection in the exhibition space condenses this to a short loop (Romanistan (Video), 2019). The film is often silent, with long tracking shots of the landscapes flowing outside the window, from the Mediterranean and the Balkans to the Caucasus and beyond. As in Vitone’s signature ‘atopic maps’, where the conventions of cartography are replaced by personal notations on what makes a site ‘specific’ (Carta atopica (Atopic Map), 1988–92, is on display), landmarks remain unmarked, such as the prehistoric stone circle of Carahunge (‘speaking stones’), in southern Armenia, where the wind blows through circular holes pierced atop the megaliths, possibly to observe the same solar trajectories studied by Galileo. The stops along the road are punctuated by interviews with Roma politicians, activists, musicians and academics who voice their opinions on Roma culture, identity and discrimination. The term ‘Romanistan’ was originally coined by the Bulgarian activist, theatre director and politician Manush Romanov to describe
an imagined country formed by all the Romanes-speaking peoples. In another rearward journey, the show traces Vitone’s practice back to 1994, when he involved Cologne’s Roma community in his exhibition Der unbestimmte Ort (The Unspecified Place) at Galerie Christian Nagel. A wall is painted green (land) and blue (sky), a red wooden cartwheel at the centre – the Roma flag. The photographic diptych Eppur si Muove (Alba) (2005) documents the donation of a plot of land by Situationist artist Giuseppe PinotGallizio to Sinti families in 1956, so that they could legally reside within the borders of his city (Alba, in Piedmont). The third journey is very much a sentimental one. In 1977 a teenage Vitone embarked on a family car trip from Genoa to Iran. The driver was his father, the artist and poet Rodolfo Vitone, now recently deceased and evoked by a pair of old leather sandals, cast in bronze (Romanistan #3, 2019). During his trip to Chandigarh, Vitone decided to put himself literally in his dad’s shoes, by wearing them, and to keep in touch with his teenage son Leo by sending him 11 postcards from all the countries he visited (Romanistan (Postcards), 2019). To close a circle, and then move on. Barbara Casavecchia
Der unbestimmte Ort (The Unspecified Place), 1994, mural painting, wheel cart. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nagel Draxler, Berlin
Naama Tsabar Inversions Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles 10 January – 29 February I noticed no actual signage letting gallery visitors know that it was ok to touch certain of Naama Tsabar’s wall-mounted artworks. Fortunately, Israeli-born, New York-based Tsabar is becoming increasingly well known for her interactive Works on Felt series, begun in 2012: panels of thick felt, curling away from the wall (or, initially, the floor) under tension from taut piano wires. Those wires are connected to hidden microphones, which are in turn connected to cables that hang down and plug into nearby guitar amps. When struck – as a gallery director helpfully demonstrated, encouraging me to do the same – the wires produce a twang whose pitch can be modulated by flexing the felt. Stroking the felt creates a sound too. Four iterations of the series hang in this exhibition, variations (to use Tsabar’s terminology) 21 through 24. The association with Robert Morris’s felt works of the late 1960s is unavoidable, and intentional. It is also somewhat unresolved, and ultimately a distraction from the many qualities that make these works compelling. My reading is that Morris features here as a kind of hypermasculine, authoritarian, antiexpressionistic straw man; he is one of a number of museum-grade Minimalists
evoked by Tsabar (others include Ellsworth Kelly and Lucio Fontana) whose hegemony is supposedly undermined half a century after the fact by works that are tactile, interactive and feminised. (Tsabar uses female or gendernonconforming musicians when she activates her sculptures in performance – as she will towards the end of this exhibition.) To me, Morris – his bizarre 1974 Artforum ad notwithstanding – seems almost an antimacho artist: a pioneer of antiform and interactive sculptures, and a maker of entropic, defeated piles of floppy material. By contrast, Tsabar inserts carbon fibre inside her sheets of felt in order to maintain precisely the right semblance of flop, and public interaction with them is encouraged only under careful supervision. Tsabar’s Transition works, a series begun in 2015, are based on deconstructed (though still functional) guitar amps. The kind of woven fabric that would usually cover the speaker is instead stretched over large paintinglike frames; these are inset with jacks, knobs, switches and blinking red leds and strung with electrical cables, giving the once-dudely hardware the appearance of looms. These pieces, apparently, are not meant to be touched, although other works
by the artist can be plugged into them. When they are idle, they emit a low buzz – an ironic analogy, perhaps, of the crackling aura that emanates from certain Minimalist paintings by Agnes Martin, which one superficially resembles. A new body of work, Inversions, features stringed instruments built into cavities in the gallery walls, implicitly transforming the entire building into a music-making device. In the sense that these esoteric sculptural interventions look like nothing so much as themselves, and do not rebound from preexisting artistic models or histories, they might be the most successful works in the show. Only the imperfect quality of their craftsmanship – which emulates guitar, harp, banjo and violin construction techniques – lets them down. (Luthiers set the bar pretty high.) Inversions is also the title of the show. Maybe all art must declare what it is not – what it subverts, or inverts – before we understand what it is. I just wish that the art in this exhibition – which is undeniably strong both in form and in content – prioritised its own inherent generosity and sensuality, rather than foregrounding the precedents that it so obviously means to invert. Jonathan Griffin
Work on Felt (Variation 22) Purple, 2019, felt, carbon fibre, epoxy, wood, archival pva, bass guitar tuner, piano string, piezo microphone, guitar amplifier, 185 × 165 × 73 cm. Courtesy the artist and Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles
Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying Red Bull Arts Detroit 18 September – 3 November In a former Detroit brewery, I have a rare experience of joy. I am half-submerged in a bed of black beans, surrounded by Mylar emergency blankets tented like a golden crown, feeling the tension drain out of my body. Fannie Sosa and Navild Acosta’s installation Black Power Naps: Black Bean Bed and Altar to the Ancestors (2018) is about racialised sleep debt, or the unequal distribution of sleep among different populations: the whiter and wealthier you are, the better you sleep at night. Alongside is a small altar and an accompanying zine with pieces on sleep equity and rest as reparations; the artists have requested, through wall text, that only persons of colour take copies. The installation is part of Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying, curated by Taraneh Fazeli and housed at Red Bull Arts Detroit. This is the fourth iteration of a show that has travelled to Omaha, St Louis, Houston and New York. I am there to attend an exhibition closing that functions – given how the show experiments with duration and the fact that Fazeli’s residency at the noncommercial space is ongoing – more like a midpoint in the project. The exhibition begins one floor underground, where visitors encounter Carolyn Lazard’s video crip time (2018). Here, against an embroidered tablecloth, a pair of disembodied hands methodically sort medication into seven colourful dosage containers, each of which is subdivided into morning, noon, evening and bedtime. The process is accompanied by little asmr-y clinks and pops, and robust closed captioning that annotates things like ‘(another breath is taken)’. It effectively introduces the major concerns of the exhibition: time marked by sickness and sickness marked by time; exploitation and accessibility; care and community. Jen Liu’s extremely pink video Pink Slime Caesar Shift (2018) is screened in a womblike, beanbag-strewn side room. The work speculates
a project in which bovine stem cells are altered, embedding syndicalist messages in dna in order to secretly communicate with female factory workers in China. Animated sequences and wearables emphasise the links between labour and time even as the piece alludes to various forms of medical research and gene therapy. It’s occasionally heavy-handed, in the deployment of an instrumental version of The Internationale that spills out into the rest of the exhibition at regular intervals. This form of solidarity is faintly discomforting, presented on behalf of, as opposed to with, others. Elsewhere, Park McArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos’s Score for Before (Scores for Two or More) (2013) pairs sculptural grab-bars with a wall text instructing the reader how to back a wheelchair up a ramp, while Jordan Lord’s poignant filmic treatise about undergoing open heart surgery emphasises the often-invisible collective labour of caretaking, using the scopic access of medical imaging technologies to speak to a broader lack of access for disabled populations (After... After...(Access), 2018). Captioning is especially descriptive here, functioning like alt text on Instagram. This is paralleled in the show’s online documentation: for example, the website text accompanying a still from Lord’s video reads, ‘At the bottom of the frame, an open caption appears over a black bar that reads: “the frame is filled by a blanket that moves up and down with my heartbeat”.’ The heart of the exhibition is its mimetic ‘Waiting Room’, replete with nondescript purple chairs, potted plants, a water cooler and magazine racks filled with radical publications emphasising the self-determination of care. The installation hosts a number of other commissions, including a food justice-themed Feed the People (c. 2013) colouring book by former Black Panther Wayne Curtis, who now runs a community garden. On the walls are posters advertising Cassie Thornton’s long-running
facing page, top Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time, 2019 (installation view). Photo: Clare Gatto. Courtesy Red Bull Arts Detroit
project Give Me Cred! (2013–), which here takes the form of an alternative credit report workshop held at the local library in the weeks after the show closes. Sosa and Acosta’s Black Power Naps will also have an extended run as part of Fazeli’s programming series in the spring, which moves the show into offsite community spaces. “With autoimmune diseases, the body doesn’t know where to begin and end,” Fazeli says in a filmed lecture that plays on a small monitor opposite Katya Tepper’s beguiling mixed-media sculptures-cum-wall-drawings, which illustrate this metaphor of the porous body. The exhibition’s boundaries were equally leaky. Its rigour and generosity suggest a show honed through years of conversation – Fazeli and several of the artists are members of Canaries, a collective of cis women, nonbinary and trans artists living with chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions. But there is a sense that the artworks are incidental beyond their status as necessary byproducts of an institutional transaction and inseparable from their role as supports for a broader curatorial project. There is a concerted effort to return to the etymological roots of curating as care work, not just as cute metaphor but to leverage personal and institutional prestige to effect material change. One of Fazeli’s major undertakings is into the fabric of the institution itself, working with local disability consultants Detroit Disability Power to permanently make the site more accessible (interventions range in scale from installing an external ramp to providing scent-free soap in the bathrooms). Most interesting is her strategy of hardcoding these improvements into the curatorial budget so as to ensure that they are an institutional priority. Accessibility is an “interesting lens” through which to see Detroit, Fazeli told the assembled press. So it was, for a city whose recent history has been characterised by extreme disparities in access, to both real estate and care. Rahel Aima
facing page, bottom Jen Liu, Pink Slime Caesar Shift, 2018, single-channel video, 24 min 20 sec (loop). Photo: Clare Gatto. Courtesy Red Bull Arts Detroit
Tschabalala Self Out of Body Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston 20 January – 5 July Tschabalala Self’s figures cannot be confined to the canvases onto which they are painted and stitched. The fabric wrinkles, bunches and moves into three-dimensional space; pieces of cloth hang over the edge of the stretcher; she even paints figures directly on the gallery walls. Incorporating patterned and hand-printed fabrics, paint, pencil, socks and plastic bags, her works draw on her experience growing up in Harlem to present a mixed-media and multifaceted depiction of black urban life in the United States. Out of Body (2015) – from which this solo exhibition derives its title – depicts two figures, one with brown skin and the other with turquoise. Both are shadowed by ghostly, dark-brown silhouettes. The turquoise woman’s torso and upper thighs are clad in a bright yellow found fabric with a printed pattern of strawberryfilled baskets, while her outstretched hands display matching blue nails. Her companion’s one visible hand (portrayed in a blue patterned fabric) presents sharp orange nails while her foot is clad in a black-and-white floral pattern, like a sock. These details complicate the resemblance of these voluptuous figures – protruding butts, breasts and lips – to caricatures of black
women. Rather than refute those representations, Self’s work reclaims them by using signifiers including patterned fabrics to convey individual personality, taste and preference within specific cultural constructs. These fully formed women seem to emerge out of the doubled, monochrome and generic brown figures behind them. This small survey show spans three galleries with fourteen works on canvas, four sculptures, and wall paintings, arranged by theme rather than chronology. Ol’Bay (2019) shows a woman standing nude in a space that can be identified as a kitchen by a square of fabric adorned with images of teapots, plates and cookware. This is the fabric, according to the exhibition wall text, from which Self’s mother fabricated the curtains in her childhood apartment. The shelves are lined with cans of Goya and La Morenabrand beans, familiar from the bodegas that Self recreates in her Bodega Run series of installations – which replicates these corner shops and social spaces in the gallery – while the title namechecks the Cajun spice that is a signature of the cuisine of Self’s home neighbourhood. While a bodega installation is not included in the show, many related works are. Next to
Out of Body, 2020 (installation view). Photo: Mel Taing. © the artist. Courtesy the artist
Ol’Bay is Racer (2018), showing the back of a man squatting down to examine a wall of Tide bottles hand-printed onto the canvas. On the back of his jacket, the same brand of bottle is rendered as a logo made out of collaged and hand-painted fabrics. On the other side of the same gallery, Thank You (2018) uses the same hand-printed Tide backdrop, while the centre of the room is occupied by two Milkcrate (2019) sculptures, outsize duplications of the containers familiar from bodegas. In the gallery, they are elevated to the status of plinths on which Self has placed two wire-and-plaster-gauze sculptures of legs. They are painted in a shade of purple matching the figures rendered directly onto the wall, whose legs spread out behind the canvases. The references in Self’s paintings suggest an attempt to memorialise the culture of the Black and Hispanic communities increasingly displaced by New York’s gentrification. And so the woman in the painting stands looking over her shoulder at the viewer, asking us to look at her, and to acknowledge her body and the materials by which she is surrounded as the proper subject of art. Megan N. Liberty
Vaivém (To-and-fro) Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro 27 November – 17 February In Duhigó’s Nepũ Arquepũ, a 2019 acrylic-on-wood painting, a woman starts a month of postpartum recovery in a hammock strung across the beams of a straw-roofed, mud-floored maloca. The naked young mother cradles her newborn as the local shaman of the Tukano tribe, an indigenous people of the Northwest Amazon, sits close by, administering blessings and medicine. It is a touching, strange scene, one of many such moments in Vaivém, curator Raphael Fonseca’s densely researched cultural, political and economic history of the hammock. With exhibits ranging from arte popular to Lina Bo Bardi’s 1948 tripod chair (which features a single piece of leather strung on an iron frame), as well as contemporary works by indigenous and nonindigenous artists, colonial painting and historic documents, he uses this subject to swing round some of the most pertinent curatorial questions of our moment, not least indigeneity, cultural appropriation and the hangover of imperialism. A series of semiabstract acrylic paintings by Yermollay Caripoune describe the Caripuna origin myth of the hammock: following the death of a baby shortly after birth, Temerõ, the creator, appears in a vision and teaches the mother how to harvest thread and weave
hammock fabric, attach lanyards and anchors, decorate with a trim and suspend from a tree – a cocoon in which to keep future offspring safe, presumably. The fact that birth features in so many works here is testament to the central place the hammock occupies in indigenous life. A curatorial text alongside Isael Maxakali and Juninho Maxakali’s series of paintings depicting the process of extracting cecropia fibre, a material used in weaving, notes that the cecropia tree is known as the ‘mother tree’. In both Claudia Andujar’s photographs of Yanomami people, young and old, asleep between tree trunks, and Maureen Bisilliat’s photographs of Indigenous People in Xingu from the 1970s, naked flesh is enveloped and camouflaged by the fabric, imagining hammocks as extensions of the body. It is a fraught journey from rainforest to urban living room, and from these idyllic beginnings the exhibition takes a darker turn. Johann Moritz Rugendas’s 1850 oil on canvas depicts a wealthy white woman in a blue dress fanning herself while being carried in a hammock by two black men. A sculpture by Aline Baiana titled Expropriation (2016) consists of a hammock loosely woven with barbed wire;
an allusion, albeit unsubtle, to the occupation of indigenous lands that continues today. Denilson Baniwa burlesques questions of exoticisation in Voyeurs (2019), a digital collage in which smartphone cameras are trained on a traditionally linedrawn Amerindian family. While the colonial powers appropriated its design for their own leisure, the hammock also became a racialised symbol of laziness. Fonseca includes plates from Mário de Andrade’s 1928 book Macunaíma, in which the titular indigenous antihero, ‘jet black’ and born to the ‘virgin jungle’, spends most of his time loafing. Elsewhere, Disney comics featuring José Carioca are displayed. The Rio-dwelling parrot, a feathered friend to Donald Duck, was funded by the Roosevelt government as part of attempts to spread us imperialism south. The bird, whose laziness is offset by his sly cleverness, is invariably shown reclining as he schemes. Vaivém is a sprawling, comprehensive affair, and while the hammock is the central motif, it is more a MacGuffin through which Fonseca explores his hot-button themes. The exhibition could have collapsed under its own weight, yet though it took me several hours to tour, I didn’t tire once. Oliver Basciano
Duhigó, Nepũ Arquepũ, 2019, acrylic on wood, 186 × 276 cm. Photo: Edson Kumasaka. Courtesy the artist
Chantal Peñalosa Unfinished Business Garage Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City 7 November – 21 December The term Border Art can be traced back to the us–Mexico frontier in 1984, when the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (baw/ taf) was founded in San Diego. Counting David Avalos, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Sara-Jo Berman among its members, the group worked predominantly in conceptual and performance art addressing the political situation in the region. As the border came to be defined by the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (nafta) in 1994, both baw/ taf and InSite, the influential cross-border art event that ran from 1992 to 2005, interrogated what it means to protect freedom of trade while harshly restricting the movement of people. These are the histories that have nourished the art of Chantal Peñalosa, born in 1987 in Tecate, Baja California. The title Unfinished Business Garage hints at her relationship to the work of her predecessors, whose legacy remains highly present locally, while part of it looks and feels like a memorial to an era past. Peñalosa has framed archival photographs of works created
for InSite by artists including Helen Escobedo, Silvia Gruner, Alfredo Jaar and Marcos Ramírez erre and placed them in the locations on both sides of the border where the projects they document originally took place. In a gesture that both puts these ghosts to rest and appropriates their glories – like most memorials – she photographed the framed pictures on location and shows them here with updated titles inscribed on tiny gold plaques: Afterlife of By The Night Tide by Helen Escobedo, 1994 (2019); Afterlife of The Middle of the Road by Silvia Gruner, 1994 (2019); Afterlife of The Cloud by Alfredo Jaar, 2000 (2019), etc. Another piece in this sparse show sets Peñalosa’s desire to understand the artists in whose footsteps she follows, the big names whose big gestures defined the Border Art movement, against their work’s resistance to simple meaning. Unfinished Business Garage i/v (2019–23) comprises a series of metal shelving units (of the kind you might find gathering dust in a garage) holding a disparate array of
objects: ceramic snakes, a pre-Hispanic(ish)looking clay mask, the silhouette of a cowboy hat carved in stone, tools, boxes, clothes. Peñalosa met with students at the art department of Tijuana’s Universidad Autónoma de Baja California to investigate the ‘forms’ that border artists used in their works in those genredefining years, and these are the resulting formal experiments (the forward-looking date might express the hope that this is an exercise to be continued). Whether the nondescript look of the objects is itself a calculated gesture is unclear: they seem inchoate, unsure of their place in a legacy. However successfully the collective exercise translates into the exhibition setting, it’s clear that Peñalosa is trying to disentangle what this very recent art history could mean to us today. It’s not an easy diagnosis to make: what can the forms and discourses that she holds in high regard pass on to her and her art community, at a time when borders and the logic that enforces them are more violent and determined than ever? Gaby Cepeda
Unfinished Business Garage i/v, 2019-23, ceramic objects, metallic bookshelf, storage objects, 220 × 425 × 46 cm. Courtesy the artist and Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City
Richard Nonas swerve (of shore) to bend (of bay) Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna 17 January – 29 February Richard Nonas’s sculptures play with some strange dialectics. The veteran American artist, whose work both converses with and diverges from Minimalism, gives with one hand and takes with the other. He reckons the viewer should feel how his works, as he says, ‘create place itself’, distinguishing between ‘space’ (just there without us) and ‘place’ (which is named, used and lives in our collective memory). He wants his sculptures to transform space into place; at the same time, although his poetic verbal and written statements often refer to time, change and memory, the relation between narrative and space is never resolved. It’s unclear how you get from space to place beyond the act of plonking a work in a gallery or museum. This limits our emotional responses by forcing us in two directions at once: requiring unemotional phenomenological reflections on how we look at these objects as we do so, while staying open to them in their pure silent presence in this place at this time. The two simple, austere pieces in swerve (of shore) to bend (of bay) (both 2020), whose title comes from James Joyce’s 1939 Finnegans Wake, are easily described. swerve consists of 82 rough-
hewn, light brown woodblocks placed on the floor at regular intervals, the sequence curving from one end of the gallery to the other. bend is a collection of 19 angular, rusty black-steel sculptures, placed on the walls like small paintings, in evenly spaced groups of three. Ponder all these, and the contradictions between what we can see (or just think about) on the one hand, and the space/place story on the other, start to pile up. Over the years, critics have clarified Nonas’s relation to Minimalism. Unlike its first wave, the intelligibility of Nonas’s work does not, they say, rely on the existence of unified ‘ideal’ space. That only deals with one side of the contradiction, though, because it ignores time. Thinking like this makes swerve a kind of sequence without succession, showing us what makes it possible to perceive anything as anything in general, while at the same time suppressing time as one of the two a priori conditions of experience. Nonas doesn’t deny time is real or necessary; but it’s strange that an artist who initially studied literature and anthropology, and always mentions myths and ancient storytelling traditions, resists narrative. He gives viewers their independence, letting
them decide for themselves how space turns into place. But if he isn’t telling a story, feeling something about the work in this gallery, here and now, becomes tough. One way around this is so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable. It’s about the viewer’s body, not the objects. You can only see the whole sequence of swerve, curving from the back room towards the street-facing window at the front, from a strictly delimited space – determined by your height and leg span – towards the back of the main gallery space. There is, however, no way for one pair of eyes to see all the wall sculptures (bend) at once, because the shape of the rooms and angles of the walls do not permit it. This isn’t a visual or spatial trick, but a contradictory device that briefly gives you the illusion of taking a timeless view of space but still lets the object dictate your movements. Nonas isn’t showing us objects with complex histories, but the appearance of things in space at some basic level. Doing that, however, undermines what he says about his own project. This is another contradiction, just one more open question that won’t ever close. But, Nonas would say, it just is. Max L. Feldman
swerve (of shore) to bend (of bay), 2020 (installation view). Photo: Simon Veres. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna
12th Bamako Encounters: Streams of Consciousness Various venues, Bamako 30 November – 31 January My first morning in the Malian capital, I parted my hotel-room curtains and saw the River Niger. Broad and blue-brown, framed in deep green foliage, flowing through a chaotic urban landscape on its long path to the Atlantic – it took my breath away. And clearly it also had an effect on Bonaventure Ndikung, in his guise as director of this 12th edition of the Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial: the Niger is the most literal among the Streams of Consciousness that flow through his exhibition. The river sometimes appears as a backdrop or character, as in Djoliba, Fleuve Niger (2019), a video by Malian multimedia artist Dickonet about a spirit possessing a woman and ultimately purifying the river, and Halima Haruna’s Other Side of the Creek (2018–19), a five-minute video exploring ancestral spirituality as an antidote to the devastation wreaked by the oil industry in the Niger Delta. But Ndikung (a Berlin-based Cameroonian) runs just as far with the psychological, literary and musical interpretations of the biennial’s titular phrase. Indeed, South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and African-American drummer Max Roach’s 1977 improvised jazz piece of the same name was clearly an inspiration to Ndikung. The piece’s legacy of African/African-diaspora collaboration (the biennial features over 85 artists and collectives from Africa and beyond) and mashed-up genres resonates throughout the event’s many venues: as in editions past, the Malian National Museum, the Palace of Culture, the District Museum, the Conseratory of the Arts and Multimedia and the Modibo Keita Memorial; and this time, a girls school, a defunct cinema and other smaller venues join in. The multiple topics addressed within the show’s four ‘chapters’ (their pithy titles, like ‘We Came from Left, We Came from Right’, culled from poems by Ghanaian author and politician Ama Ata Aidoo) emerge slowly: displacement, the politics and poetics of
ecosystems, future hopes, solidity and invisibility. Videoworks are deployed to pack in historical references (The Otolith Group’s The Nucleus of the Great Union, 2017, dives into African-American Richard Wright’s photographic archive of his first trip to Africa in 1953). And just as often to offer poetic pause: in Bouchra Khalili’s The Typographer (2019), poet Jean Genet’s final sentence – ‘Put all the images in language in a place of safety and make use of them, for they are in the desert, and it is in the desert we must go and look for them’ – is seen being slowly typeset and printed. In Buhlebezwe Siwani’s twochannel AmaHubo (2018) a group of white-clad women in an arid landscape – presumably Siwani’s native South Africa – perform rituals as the artist’s steady voice recites lines of resistance in English and isiZulu against violence and spiritual colonisation. The work additionally speaks to the biennial’s subtle focus on female perspectives. Documentary photography in all its subgenres is plentiful. The Invisible Borders TransAfrican Photography Organisation, for example, is an ongoing rotating collective (one of several collectives in this biennial) of photographers, filmmakers and writers who roadtrip through the continent, documenting landscapes and people along their journeys with an almost photojournalistic methodology presented here as a slideshow. Other series trace the urban lives of African diasporas in Toronto (where Yannick Anton shoots dancefloor images of queer nightlife); China (where Mansour Ciss Kanakassy follows African traders in Guangzhou, home to one of China’s largest African populations); South London (where Adama Jalloh captures her local community’s bustling street life in stark black-and-white images); and elsewhere. Then there’s continent-spanning portraiture. Felicia Abban’s portraits of Ghanaians
facing page, top Buhlebezwe Siwani, AmaHubo (still), 2018, hd video with sound, 13 min 1 sec. Courtesy the artist
during the 1960s and 70s reveal raw postindependence optimism and, incidentally, some fabulous 1960s fashion. While Fanta Diarra’s contemporary images of Malian women modelling castoff fast-fashion from the West show intercontinental cause and effect. (The latter are part of Fatima Bocoum’s show-within-a-show Musow Ka Touma Sera –‘This is Women’s Era’ – featuring work by six female Malian photographers, collectively challenging patriarchal cultural norms.) Khalil Nemmaoui’s staged ‘portraits’ of the boxy Renault 12 sedan in filmic Moroccan settings depict the cars that locals customise so they can run on (much cheaper) propane and become fetish and livelihood alike. Few artists visibly manipulate photographs to play with the medium, and those who do often question identity: Egypt-based Ibrahim Ahmed’s elegant mixed-media collages Burn What Needs to be Burned (2018) grapple with how normative masculinity clashes with or connects to individuality; his muscular self-portraits are rife with exaggerations, erasures and superimpositions. And in Fixing Shadows, Julius and I (2018–19), Ghanaian photographer Eric Gyamfi digitally melds his own self-portrait with a much older image of musician Julius Eastman to create hundreds of hybrid portraits, densely installed over both sides of a vast freestanding wall; here, time and space palpably compress and expand. Like a river, Encounters flows and meanders. But throughout is an undertone of strength and hope: it is former rapper Fototala King Massassy’s Tenir (2019) – a series of blackand-white portraits of the same clenched fist sporting oversize rings inscribed with sacred symbols or secret formulas – that best captures this biennial’s combination of clear messages and mysterious layers, its shouts and soft whispers, sometimes in the same piece. Kimberly Bradley
facing page, bottom Fototala King Massassy, Tenir (Anyway), 2019. Courtesy the artist
Books An Apartment on Uranus by Paul B. Preciado, translated by Charlotte Mandell Fitzcarraldo Editions, £12.99 (softcover)
Paul B. Preciado has had enough of our world and wants, as the title of his latest book suggests, to escape to Uranus. The planet provided Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, all the way back in 1864, with a name for members of the ‘third sex’: Uranians, masculine souls in feminine bodies, feminine souls in masculine bodies. Preciado begins by conjuring up this episode of speculative fantasy from the history of sexuality, announcing that ‘my trans condition is a new form of Uranism’, in order to dream of a world beyond our current imaginations of gender and sexuality, and the ‘limits of techno-scientific capitalism’ that constrain them. Alas, we soon crash-land back into prosaic Planet Earth. An Apartment on Uranus consists of newspaper columns written by Preciado from 2013 to 2018, reassembled to function as a chronicle of the decade that has just ended. If the meaning of a decade is a fiction we impose upon it with the benefit of retrospect, then Preciado’s form is a way of reading one person’s experience of history as it unfolds in real time. For Preciado, this was a decade that was full of revolutionary hope, until, suddenly, it wasn’t. As the columns flit past, the recent history of Europe appears like an animation produced by flicking images sketched on the pages of a book. Occupy, the Indignados, the manufacture by the eu and the imf of the Greek debt crisis, the equally manufactured migration crisis, the Catalan independence movement, the election of Donald Trump. If it seemed for a while that ‘the foundations of a postcapitalist world were being invented before our eyes’, those foundations soon crumbled. It turns out that ‘we… instead are progressively regressing to the beginning of the twentieth century, as if Europe desires, in an ultimate melancholic delirium, to relive its colonial past, returning to an era from before the independence movements’. Yet who ‘we’ are, who is experiencing this historical regression, is something else that has become uncertain. The book is also the chronicle of a more personal story, a record of the transition from Beatriz to Paul B. While Preciado’s experiments in selfadministering testosterone informed the speculative theorising of 2008’s Testo Junkie, in 2014 he began what he calls ‘a medical-psychiatric sex change procedure’ whose effects are recorded here: vocal cords thickening, constant inspections in airports, requesting permission to legally change one’s name. For Preciado, the historical
and the personal are not separate stories: he is convinced that it is ‘processes of transition that best allow us to understand the political shift with which we are confronted worldwide’. ‘Sex change and migration’, he writes, ‘are two practices that, by calling into question the political and legal architecture of patriarchal colonialism, of sexual difference and racial hierarchy, of family and nation-state, place a living human body inside the limits of citizenship, even of what we understand by “humanity”.’ Inasmuch as any collection of occasional columns can retrospectively acquire a thesis, this is it. If An Apartment on Uranus is an exercise in chronicling time, it’s also an exercise in style. As this glimpse at how he equates migration and gender transition suggests, in this book Preciado ‘put[s] on a terminological coat’ of a ‘rudimentary critical vocabulary… of somatopolitical dissidence’. This ‘proliferation of new critical terms is essential: it acts as a solvent on normative languages, as an antidote to dominant categories’. Allow me a spray of that solvent, and take a deep breath: ‘A process of gender change in a society dominated by the scientificmercantile axiom of the binary sex-gendersexuality regime – where social, labour, emotional, economic, gestational, etc. spaces are segmented in terms of masculinity of femininity, heterosexuality or homosexuality – implies crossing a border that may be, along with that of race, the most violent of political borders invented by humanity.’ Exhale. This style, this terminological coat, isn’t thrown on in service of analytical thinking or metaphorical illumination; it’s an outfit for proliferation pure and simple, and the proliferation of technical terms, heroically managed out of French by Charlotte Mandell, aims at dissolving the borders of language, and thus the borders of reality. This faith in proliferation over analysis is why the list emerges across the book as one of Preciado’s signature forms. One column is simply a list of all the new terms Preciado can coin by prefixing the term ‘necro’: necroeconomy, necrotruth, necroinformation, etc. Another lists all the things we need to do to get to Uranus: ‘Don’t produce anything. Change your sex. Become your professor’s teacher.’ But mostly proliferation seeps into the grain of the book’s prose, as theoretical terms spawn each other like the technologically gestated progeny of Judith Butler and Michel Foucault.
Lists can break apart categories of thought, they can mock technical vocabulary, but they can also produce false equivalences and erase differences. Everything on a list becomes part of the same category by virtue of being on that list. And if Uranus is a world beyond difference, this is not the world in which we live now. It is Preciado’s addiction to lists that produces the book’s persistent equation of trans people with migrants. As Preciado, who curated the public programme at Documenta 14, flies from a biennale in Norway to a cultural forum in Lebanon, he lists again and again the ways in which ‘[i]n politico-legal terms, the status of the trans person is comparable to that of the migrant, the exile or the refugee’. Notice the work of the list, effacing the differences between three legal categories that, however unjust they may be, can be the difference between life and death for the objects of Preciado’s imagination. Given the controversy that surrounded Documenta 14’s move to Athens so that the artworld could ‘learn’ from it (‘disaster tourism’ was one of the harsher judgements), it is hard not to be struck by the fact that no amount of speculative theorising or public programming, however well-intentioned, can proliferate away the real differences between artworld administrators and those they identify with. Documenta 14 was bailed out quicker than any Greek government; its curators flew on to the next biennale while camps of migrants remained. Preciado can do more than list; he can do more than proliferate the critical vocabulary of others. Part of what makes his style so frustrating is not just that it can’t realise its intentions; it’s also that it takes space away from the very good writer Preciado can be. There is more to be learned about transitioning when hormones are described as ‘sculpting my body like a microscopic chisel working from within’, than from an infinite list of necroportmonteaus – if I may add one of my own. The ‘binary sex-gender-sexuality regime’ really crumbles when Preciado tells us of being asked, as a seven-year-old child, to draw a family: ‘I drew myself married to my best friend Marta, with three children and many dogs and cats. I had already imagined a sexual utopia…’ Like all of us, it turns out, Preciado was born on Uranus and dragged down to earth against his will. The language of that fall from grace won’t get us home, but at least Preciado helps us imagine what might. Kevin Brazil
Franz Parts Schule by Franz Part Verlag für Moderne Kunst, €26 (softcover) The self-reflexive new hang of London’s Royal Academy, in which the plaster casts of classical statuary used for centuries as the basis of artistic instruction are displayed as objects of interest in their own right, reveals the gulf between art education then and now. The faithful reproduction of the three-dimensional object on the page, once the route by which any artist might develop the skills needed to go professional, is now a curio of the distant past. That said, appropriation as artistic practice is itself now traditional, even academic, making Franz Parts Schule, an appraisal of artist and teacher Franz Part’s pedagogical activities, timely and potentially fruitful. The book is an assemblage of texts by artists and curators reflecting on Part’s approach, from essays by Marina Gržinić and Ilse Lafer, to two suites of photographs by Simon Starling and Hannes Böck, along with fragmentary texts by filmmaker and artist Kerstin Cmelka. Part worked as head of the art department in the Bundesgymnasium and Bundesrealgymnasium (for ages ten to eighteen) in Waidhofen an der Thaya in northern Austria for almost 30 years, starting during the late 1980s. Starling’s photographs of the school’s interior evince a double take: every wall is hung with scale reproductions of canonical twentieth-century art. Man Ray’s cloud of coat hangers swings above a stairwell; there’s a Jackson Pollock in the corridor, a Keith Haring by the ping-pong tables.
Part began the project by making reproductions of works by Marcel Duchamp, whose indifference to the value of the original, reflected in his endorsement of replicas of his own work, is the evident guiding spirit. Hung in public areas of the building, Part’s objects, displayed alongside conventional museum labels, drew interest from the students. They quickly became involved, using found materials to work with Part to produce exact replicas of works by Duchamp and his heirs (Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers), high-modernist abstract painting (Kazimir Malevich, Sophie Taeuber-Arp) and postmodern conceptual art (General Idea, Art & Language). The result, filling the staircases and corridors of the school, became known as ‘The Museum of Replicas’, and was (and is) arranged by artist or genre. The status of these collaborative reproductions – as pedagogical tools, conceptual acts or what Cmelka calls, in her writings in the book, ‘cover versions’ – remains open, but their physical context within the public spaces of the school means they speak with unexpected clarity to the actual lived experience of education. Seldom have On Kawara’s deadpan paintings recounting a specific date, or Joseph Kosuth’s presentation of the dictionary definition of a chair alongside an actual one, felt so perfectly placed, capturing as they unwittingly do that feeling of time’s endless stretch in a boring lesson. At times the ‘Museum’ seems
to run alongside the life of the school as a critical commentary on the nature of learning itself. How the students themselves engage with these works, however, is a notable absence in this book. Despite being made collaboratively, the reproductions’ authorship is always given to Part himself, thereby reviving a culture of mastery you’d assume the project existed to question. A perhaps obvious comparison with Tim Rollins’s kos (Kids of Survival) project (founded 1982), in which Rollins and his students collaborated on works of art that grew directly from classroom discussions, sees Part’s approach, at least in the form presented in this book, fall short. Böck’s beautiful series of photographs, taken systematically on every floor of the school, show corridors zooming into the distance, each one dense with artworks – but they are empty of students, as ideally noiseless and unpeopled as an installation shot of a white cube gallery space. That aside, the implications of Part’s practice bear consideration in the current culture of anxiety around the status of the arts in education. A revival of that longderided culture of copying might reengage students with the values of creative labour – or at least provide a realistic skillset for a career in fabrication. And in doing so, works of art might themselves benefit by being reenergised through reproduction, and gather new energies through acts of attention and transcription. Ben Street
The Emperor of China’s Ice by Jun Yang, illustrated by Yuuki Nishimura Verlag für Moderne Kunst, €15 (hardcover) A catalogue in the form of a children’s book, or a children’s book in the form of a catalogue, The Emperor of China’s Ice explores the myth that inspired Jun Yang’s 2018 contribution to the Austrian Sculpture Park in Graz: a colossal block of ice that was buried in an embankment that winter and excavated in the spring of the following year, to be eaten as a shavedice dessert. Japanese picture-book illustrator Yuuki Nishimura shows us the child emperor (who, as in all such myths, reigned ‘a long, long time ago’) sweating under Beijing’s summer heat and, despite the servant fanning him, summoning the empire’s scientists, thinkers and advisers to work out how to get him something cooling to eat on a summer’s
day. The problem is solved that winter by filling a box with ice taken from a frozen lake and burying it. It is unearthed – the ice somewhat diminished, but more or less intact – the following summer, at which point shavedice desserts are ‘invented’. An annotated map shows us that these delicacies eventually ‘spread’ east to Japan and west to Ancient Rome, while later still Marco Polo brought gelato from China to Italy. The timelines are a bit sketchy – ‘a long, long time ago’ is replaced by ‘more than 2,000 years ago’, followed by fairly precise dates (Italy, 37–68 ce; Japan, eleventh century; China, thirteenth) – and some of the arrows connecting places point both ways, making the
sense of any originary shaved-ice moment rather vague. But perhaps that’s fitting for an Austrian artist of Chinese birth who spends his time between Vienna, Taipei and Yokohama (where his two daughters live and whence the interest in Japanese picture books derives). The book’s simple format certainly helps maintain the simplicity of the work’s conceptual origins, while allowing a touch of the fairytale in case anyone takes it too literally. Most deliciously, it makes an analytical text by the sculpture park’s director, Elisabeth Fiedler (‘Jun Yang – The Emperor of China’s Ice. Between Myth, history and cliché’) look redundant and out of place. Yum. Nirmala Devi
In print A roundup of new and recent publications on fandom, homages and fetishes Hey art fans! Who do you love most? If art is always presented as super-serious by those who run its machine, it’s always good to see that ordinary people – which ArtReview is on the side of – tend to ignore the silly polonecked curators and head straight off to ’gram a Kusama infinity room. That’s fandom – a bit embarrassing to the powerful, easily manipulated by commercial culture, but eventually an expression of what people value through their enthusiasm or, as one contributor to Fandom as Methodology (Goldsmiths Press, £28) puts it, love. According to its editors, treating fandom as a serious critical approach allows ‘for excessive attachements to cultural objects that would otherwise be derided or minimised’, affirming a ‘sense of self or community that may not be endorsed in mainstream culture’. The book’s essays lean towards feminist and queer perspectives, but the attention to artist-as-fan, fanfiction cultures and ‘fan-scholars’ bubbles with the engaging, if awkward energy of academics trying to incorporate the guileless enthusiasm of the genre into the look-overyour-shoulder solemnity of academic writing. As discussions of fan-fiction highlight, appropriating and remaking the object of one’s obsession can be a subversive act. So Esther Choi’s Le Corbuffet (Prestel, £29.99) works on several levels, starting out as a collection of recipes whose titles are excruciating puns on the names of famous artists, writers, designers, musicians and architects – Quiche Haring, Mies Van der Roe Dip, Rosalind Sauerkrauss, you get the idea. Accompanied by some brilliantly absurd food photography, some sound like they might actually taste good; but Le Corbuffet is more a celebration of how an arbitrary concept spawns unthought-of culinary possibilties; though ArtReview feels a bit full after a plate of Lawrence Weiners, followed by Vladimir Tarte Tatlin. Seriousness and authority, then, can be torpedoed by an artist’s deployment of supposedly ‘humble’ or ‘domestic’ genres and techniques – an issue that runs through Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years (Thames & Hudson, £19.95). Perry is today a fan-followed art celebrity, but the Turner Prize-winning, self-styled ‘transvestite potter’ found fame late. This definitely ‘fan-scholar’ book offers up thoughtful accounts of Perry’s earlier life in the gay, postpunk and New Romantic bohemianism of 1980s London, while charting Perry’s enthusiastic immersion in ‘naffness’, English suburbanism and pottery as the greatest affronts to sophisticated artworld tastes.
Excavating the early careers of celebrated artists is a familiar aspect of artworld preoccupations and there’s inevitably a market for what, in music-fan terms, would be ‘B-sides and rarities’. Sigmar Polke – Objects: Real and Imagined (Michael Werner Gallery, not for sale) catalogues a recent show of mostly 1960s works on paper by the German iconoclast, in which Polke first essays his impish, satirical form of ‘Capitalist Realism’ (the movement Polke formed alongside Gerhard Richter) – sketches for sculptures such as standing trellises connected by potatoes, ‘fountains’ made from beer mats and other wry comments on Modernist hubris and (West) German postwar consumerism. That the book itself is a limited edition makes it one for completists. Polke may have lampooned good taste with references to pop culture, but in millenial neoliberal culture, good taste has been reinvented as the sophisticated attention of contemporary art- and design-appreciation. Susan Finlay’s funny, bleak and sharply observed novel Objektophilia (Ma Bibliothèque, £12), about a London-based design critic and her architect historian partner, immerses us in the obsessive preoccupation with objects – artworks, buildings, fast food, luxury goods, ‘niche’ design – that besets those who make a living from the culture industry. As the protagonist moves from lecture hall to design award presentations and magazine assignment, and from Brutalist architecture via Memphis design classics to Vienna’s coffee houses and the toiletries in luxury hotels, the critic’s attention to the look of things sensitises us to the anxiety of not having something to say about stylish stuff – part-erotic fixation, part cultural disease. Obsessing over things, though, can also be resorative, particularly in the very strange vision of ordinary life assembled in experimental filmmaker and broadcaster William English’s Perfect Binding: Made in Leicester (William English Editions, £20). English’s deeply personal excavation
of life in humdrum 1960s Leicester is achieved through interviews with family and friends, anchored by a sense of care for the memory of the lost things and places of provincial 1960s – Beatniks, Mod fashion and music, off-prescription recreational drugs, middleclass alcoholism, shortlived basement clubs and draughty coffee bars. So ArtReview is keen on the giddy enthusiasm of the fan, but sometimes gets embarrassed when it has to join in. Thus The Obama Portraits (Princeton University Press, £20) which marks the commissioning of portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama, by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald respectively, does get swept up in the hype (it’s the Obamas, after all) with hyperbole to match; ArtReview isn’t totally sure that the unveiling of the former First Lady’s portrait ‘will be remembered as a turning point in the history of portraiture’. But while the essays illuminate the history of presidential portraits, and the layered references that Wiley and Sherald build into their portraits, for many Americans, the Obama portraits signalled how much Obama symbolised beyond the status of his office. Fandom is only partly about the object of adulation; it’s really about the unfulfilled hopes and desires of those doing the adulating. J.J. Charlesworth
Can be devoured in a single sitting
Roee Rosen, Maxim Komar-Myshkin’s Vladimir’s Night (detail), 2014, published by Sternberg Press. Courtesy the artist
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on the cover Roee Rosen, Hilarious Hani 3, 2009, gouache. Courtesy the artist
Words on the spine and on pages 31, 55 and 89 are from ‘A Madman’s Diary’, 1918, in Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1960
on page 117 Illustration by Olga Prader
These days most people seem to have forgotten how they had to respect Muslims, their muftis Back Page that I invented Egyptology. They remember and prophets, their customs and habits, the my military genius. My daring island escapes. role of women in their society, the Quran and Me sitting masterfully astride a rearing, terrified mosques. I took my men to see the tops of the white horse (unless it was a brown horse, but pyramids before our first battle (your historians the colour is not important: I had many horses say I couldn’t have because they weren’t visible in my time), defying the elements and fearlessly from where we were, but I was there, they crossing the Alps. And, I don’t doubt, the fact weren’t). I was a cultural tour guide. I even wrote that I invented the law in France. But they often to the Egyptians to calm their fears: ‘People of forget that La pierre de Rosette… c’est moi! Even Egypt,’ I said, ‘they have told you that I come to those who don’t forget say that I ‘attacked’ destroy your religion, but do not believe it; [tell and ‘annexed’ Egypt as a colony in order to them] in reply [that] I come to restore your rights, do it. That I was unwoke! Crétins! punish the usurpers and that I I was on a mission civilisatrice, respect God, his prophet and the bringing the genius of Liberty Quran more than the Mamluks.’ (I was a bit worried about the and Enlightenment to the Egyptians’ grasp of history so oppressed Mohammedans. I added in another bit reminding In any case I wasn’t attacking them that the Mamluks were Egypt when I invaded it; I was unwoke slaves from the Caucasus attacking India! I did it to save Tipu – foreigners – rather than people Sultan in Mysore. Even the most with rights that anyone should be mediocre of military strategists concerned about.) We’re all Muslim – even the ‘boot man’ – knows – that was the general drift. that. (You know that the lumpen Indeed, it was me who directed representative of the English the 1798 celebrations of the oligarchy appropriated his boot Prophet’s birthday. I even dressed from the Germans, don’t you? up in oriental clothes and a turban And then hid his act of cultural to make the Egyptians realise I was vandalism by switching the type one of them. Muhammad Ali (the of leather used, tightening the fit, Pasha, not the boxer) wrote me fan removing or adding a few tassels mail; I wrote to a local sheikh about – it’s not important, whichever, you my plans to ‘establish a uniform get the drift. And now you people regime based on the principles celebrate him as the inventor of of the Quran which alone are true some sort of foot condom. The man and which alone can lead men invented nothing! The man was to happiness’. They loved me. a thief, a dandy and a fop! His greatI set up l’Institut d’Égypte. You est follower was Beau Brummell; had to be French to be a member, everyone else thought he was a but critical distance is important bore. And what kind of country in these things. When some rebels celebrates a cobbler? One that asked me not to bomb the Grand Europe doesn’t need. Anyway, in Mosque when they holed up in case you won’t take my word for it, it after the so-called ‘Revolt’ of here’s an account, by one of your Cairo, I could explain to them in contemporary historians, of him their own language why they were in action in India (where he was Jean-Léon Gérôme, Bonaparte et son Etat-Major en Egypte (detail), 1863 delusional: ‘God is too late!’ (For oppressing the natives, btw, He changed it from Wesley because the disthose of you who don’t understand the language, stealing their land so he could exploit it for penser of this nepotism thought it sounded it’s a bit of a riff on God is great.) I even ordered his own profit) while I was liberating Egypt more ancient. (I know! Not even his own of idea! the compilation of a French–Arabic dictionary (the Ottomans had lost control and chaos was There’s a lot of that in his ‘career’, btw.) The tool for those people who weren’t such fans of the only true ruler) in order to save Mysore: didn’t even know who he was – that’s why I distance. Some of my soldiers said I acted more ‘The commander chosen for this operation never bother to mention him by name. At least like a Mussulman than a Catholic; some of the was Col. Wellesley, but advancing towards the I knew that I was French. Or Italian. In any case locals started calling me Ali Bonaparte. We even tope after dark on the 5 April 1799, he was set I ruled one nation and defeated the other, so talked about conversion, but I told them that, upon with rockets and musketfires, lost his it doesn’t really matter. I was a revolutionary; much as I would have loved to, my soldiers were way and, as Beatson politely puts it, had to he was a reactionary. French (some of them at least) and thus a bunch “postpone the attack” until a more favourable While the Muslim-bashing puppet of capiof alcoholics who couldn’t possibly give up the opportunity should offer.’ Sad.) talism was lost (he hurt his knee in the ‘battle’), sauce. That’s the reason why, btw, they eventuYou know he only got the job in India I was woke. When he was running away from ally lost Egypt – after I had left – and later, the because his brother was Governor-General? Muslim muskets, I was telling my soldiers about Empire: they were drunks; I was woke. And that Wellesley wasn’t even his real name?
The Eagle in Egypt
Featuring Roee Rosen, Wong Ping, Anna Witt, Pedro Neves Marques, Huma Bhabha, a guide to the best exhibitions this month, our regular column...
Published on Mar 29, 2020
Featuring Roee Rosen, Wong Ping, Anna Witt, Pedro Neves Marques, Huma Bhabha, a guide to the best exhibitions this month, our regular column...