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FEBRUARY
2007
Charles Ray:
Treks across
the desert of
the real
Film & Video:
Moving image
culture, from
black boxes to
white cubes
Christian
Marclay:
Caught in the
crossfire
Keith Tyson:
A portrait
of life, the
universe and
everything
Madrid &
Barcelona:
Our essential
guide to the
Spanish artworld
Issue 08
£4.90
US$9.99
Durant fuses an antique store’s kitschy aura with deconstructed historiography, showing the banality of colonial logic
SAM DURANT’S
Children
of the Corn
p 01 Cover AR Feb07.indd 1 8/1/07 12:26:48
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FEATURE :
KEITH TYSON
Keith Tyson’s new work, a grid of
300 sculptures currently on display
at the De Pont, in Holland, takes
something of its name and
inspiration from a radio astronomy
observatory in New Mexico; both aim
to reduce vast amounts of data into
something legible, informative and
worthwhile Mark Rappolt
FEATURE :
CHARLES RAY
Like an accident, Charles Ray’s
classic sculpture of a crashed car
seems to stop time. The rest of his
work takes time – lots of it. He’s
currently overseeing the carving of
an exact replica of a fallen tree,
and has no idea when it will be
‘exact’ enough Michael Ned Holte
FEATURE :
CHRISTIAN MARCLAY
Exploiting the contingencies of
sonic conveyance has long been
Christian Marclay’s speciality,
revealing sound’s roots in
manmade objects and the world
of human impulse Martin Herbert
MANIFESTO
Julie Doucet introduces
this month’s issue
DISPATCHES
Karen Kilimnick’s period paintings
at the Serpentine; Scott Teplin
says “it’s been impossible to not
let some current global events
sneak into the work”, at g-module,
Paris; Abstract Things at Laura
Bartlett; Kara Walker’s mid-career
retrospective at the Walker;
Derek Jarman; SEXWORK at the
Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin;
the foxiest feminist performance
artists gathered in Womanizer at
Deitch Projects; Jeppe Hein’s
roller coaster at the Barbican;
Aernout Mik at Camden Arts Centre;
Melanie Manchot at Goff +
Rosenthal, New York; Juneau/
Projects/ make the Woodcraft Folk
sing emo, at F A Projects, London;
view from New York; view from Miami
CONSUMED
Beach towels by Alex Katz, Marilyn
Minter and Rob Pruitt, Kehinde
Wiley’s bust of Louis XVI, Barnaby
Barford’s recycled ceramics, more
FEATURE:
SAM DURANT
Growing up next door to Plymouth
Rock, Sam Durant has always had a
taste for sites of national
interest, memorials and myths.
He recently salvaged battered old
mannequins and props from a defunct
provincial history museum in
Massachusetts as part of his
project to show the malleability
of naturalised social history
Malik Gaines
ARTREVIEW
Charles Ray, Family Romance, 1993,
mixed media, 135 x 244 x 61 cm.
Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
On the cover: SAM DURANT
photographed by ARI MARCOPOULOS
FEBRUARY 2007
p 10,12 Contents AR Feb07.indd 10 9/1/07 00:05:31
Sothebys Ad AR Feb07 3/1/07 00:35 Page 1
MlXED MEDlA: DlGlTAL 112
The beauty of non-interacting.
Plus: websites of the month
Régine Debatty
MlXED MEDlA: BOOK5 11ß
Face: The New Photographic
Portrait; John Currin; Making
Everything New: A Project
on Communism; Contemporary Gothic
REVlEW5 125
Magritte and Contemporary Art;
Alien Nation; CutUp; Cyprien
Gaillard; Kim Coleman & Jenny
Hogarth; Friedrich; Tami Demaree;
Robert Longo; Tim Eitel; Liam
Gillick; Guy de Cointet; Paul
Chan; Yasumasa Morimura; Oliver
Pietsch
OH THE TOWH 142
Photos from Art Basel Miami
Beach and the awarding of the
Turner Prize
OH THE RECORD 146
ARTREVIEW
5PEClAL FOCU5:
FlLM & VlDEO 75
Cory Arcangel curates YouTube;
Robert Beavers’s fi lms make form and
content of the fact that fi lms
should be watched in the cinema,
says Ian White; “sculpture is what
I bump into when I’m backing up to
look at a video”, paraphrases
Martin Herbert; Adam E. Mendelsohn
asks Cory Arcangel about the
commodity and hacking; who’s afraid
of structural fi lm? asks Jonathan T.
D. Neil; avant cinema before – and
beyond – Zidane, by Hannah McGill
ART PlLGRlMAGE: MADRlD &
BARCELOHA 96
No one could accuse the Spanish art
scene of being centralised, but
Barcelona and Madrid still rule the
roost Keith Patrick
LlGHTBOX 109
An explosion is an unbelievable
breach in chronology: it can hardly
be said to occur at all, except in
the radiating force fi eld of its
horrifi c consequences. What does it
mean to photograph such an event?
Brian Dillon
FEBRUARY 2007
Lola Moriarty and colleagues at
Moriarty art gallery, Madrid.
Photo TIM GUTT
p 10,12 Contents AR Feb07.indd 12 9/1/07 16:52:23
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EDITORIAL
EDITOR IN CHIEF
John Weich
EXECUTIVE EDITOR
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EDITOR
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MANAGING EDITOR
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SPECIAL PROJECTS EDITOR
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EDITORIAL ASSISTANT
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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS
Brian Dillon (Photography)
Daniel Kunitz (New York)
Axel Lapp (Berlin)
Christopher Mooney (Paris)
Jonathan T.D. Neil
(New York)
INTERNS
Danielle Dean
Emily Phillips
EMAIL
editorial@artreview.com
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Amanda Coulson
Régine Debatty
Morgan Falconer
Malik Gaines
Martin Herbert
Ana Finel Honigman
Sam Jacob
Sarah James
Adam Jasper
Hannah McGill
Adam E. Mendelsohn
Neil Mulholland
Holly Myers
Terry R. Myers
Michael Ned Holte
Shana Nys Dambrot
Laura Oldfi eld Ford
Sally O’Reilly
Keith Patrick
Ophélie Reynaud-Dewar
Chiaki Sakaguchi
Cherry Smyth
Tim Stott
Jennifer Thatcher
Ian White
Rob Young
CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS
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Ari Marcopoulos
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p 12,14 Masthead AR Feb07.indd 12 9/1/07 12:29:19
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p 12,14 Masthead AR Feb07.indd 14 9/1/07 12:47:30
Timothy Taylor Ad AR Feb07 19/12/06 03:00 Page 1
From left:
A man of many talents, Los Angeles-based MALIK GAINES is best known as a writer
and performer. In the former guise, he has contributed to many publications and
to exhibition catalogues for the Studio Museum Harlem, the UCLA Hammer Museum, the
fi rst Moscow Biennale and others, and has curated exhibitions including Fade (2004),
fi rst in the City of LA’s series African American Artists in Los Angeles. He is
also an adjunct curator at LA><ART. As if that wasn’t enough, Gaines and his
collaborators have presented work in numerous nightclubs, theatres and art spaces
as the My Barbarian musical performance group. My Barbarian was included in the
Performa 05 Biennial and the California Biennial 2006. Projects for 2007 include
the Montreal Biennale and a new performance at De Appel, Amsterdam. Sam Durant
is his subject for this issue of ArtReview.
HANNAH MCGILL is the artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film
Festival and has written widely on fi lm for publications that include Sight &
Sound, The Times, Uncut, Plan B, Time Out, The Herald and The Scotsman. In this
issue she writes about the complex and changing relationship between art fi lms
and mainstream cinema.
MICHAEL NED HOLTE is a frequent contributor to Artforum, and his writing has
appeared in Afterall, Frieze and Interview. He is currently an instructor
at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts in Los Angeles. For this issue he wrote
about the infl uential Los Angeles-based artist Charles Ray – a man Michael
introduces as ‘an anachronism’.
Widely published as an art critic since 1983, KEITH PATRICK has been a guest editor
of Studio International, editor of Artline during the 1990s and founder-editor
of Contemporary Visual Arts and Contemporary magazines. He has curated numerous
exhibitions, mostly in Europe and often in Spain. He now lives between London and
Barcelona, and is currently developing a series of exhibitions of work by younger
video artists, the latest of which was realised in Madrid last November. All of
which made him the perfect source for this issue’s insights into the Madrid and
Barcelona art scenes.
IAN WHITE is Adjunct Film Curator for the Whitechapel Art Gallery and works on
independent projects. He is curating the Special Programme for the 2007 Oberhausen
Short Film Festival. As an artist his last work was a collaboration with
Jimmy Robert for Art Now at Tate Britain in December 2004. For this issue he
examined the question of how fi lm should be viewed via the work of Robert Beavers.
ARTREVIEW
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p 18 Contributors AR Feb07.indd 18 9/1/07 15:44:46
Max Protetch Ad AR Feb07 2/1/07 23:28 Page 1
Like most, I spend a lot of time in transit non-places – train and tube stations,
but particularly airport terminals – violated by unfl attering neon lighting
and mediocre croissants. Hardly bound by utopian visions of seamless global
interconnectivity, my relationship with airports, through sheer numbness of
repetition and the confl uence of inane all-purpose commodity, exists without
meaningful expectation. Less can be said about the ever-growing presence of site-
specifi c art within them, which I would ignore if it were all a bit less intrusive.
Airport art – the ultimate art world pejorative. Safe, decorative, neutered,
ambivalent.
It seems that the British Airports Authority (BAA) wants to break the mould by
commissioning art for London Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 that instigates meaningful
expectation. For T5, a gargantuan Richard Rogers-built arena for the itinerant –
an ‘experience’, ‘a gateway to the UK’ and other superlatives – BAA has turned to
a small fl eet of art advisors and almost-art advisors, among them a few of London’s
largest museums. However, one wonders whether they were consulted before or after
Moving World, an installation by British artists Langlands & Bell of three-letter
airport codes in moving blue light, ‘…a constellation of the world’s major cities
functioning as a non-fi ction abstraction to map the persistent transience of modern
life. International destinations become a poetry of places, where landing points
offer departures into the imaginary.’ More neon. More acronyms. Hardly meaningful,
just more of the same.
Why do airport curators continually put art in direct competition with the visual
violence of advertisements and fast-food insignias already sandwiched between
check-in kiosks instead of relying on the more tried-and-tested approach of
ingenuity? As BAA is soliciting advice these days, here’s some more: call in Sir
Nicholas Serota and key staff at Tate Modern. At 39 metres, Terminal 5 is higher
(by about four metres) than the Tate’s Turbine Hall, and if the Unilever Series
has taught nothing else, it has taught the Tate how to curate skywards, a handy
attribute for creating shows in a hyper-retail environment where the only cheap
space is cloud space. BAA should also ditch the eclectic, fi ll-every-niche approach
to art for a more monumental, long-term exhibition plan to feature shows that
say something or at the very least strike awe. One idea could be to resurrect or
prolong successful large-scale exhibitions; surely the Unilever board would fi eld a
BAA pitch that brings its enticingly carnivalesque Series to a venue that attracts
90 million potential purchasers of Omo, Lipton and Knorr (compared to Tate
Modern’s own 3.9 million) per annum. ‘Tate Modern at Terminal 5’: the Tate can
be unapologetically blockbuster (and generate funds to fi nance daring exhibitions
at the museum), while BAA can reap the benefi ts of commuters re-routing their
layovers to bask in Olafur Eliasson’s teary-eyed radiating sphere or take a dive
down Carsten Höller’s fantastical chutes. ‘Tate Modern at Terminal 5’: the world’s
busiest contemporary art museum.
In the meantime, BAA could realistically embrace video art and be thoroughly
innovative in doing so. Airport art is notoriously simple and dumbed down, but
video art is perfectly suitable for the dazed and visually driven crowd highly
attuned to moving images (ads, duty-free DVDs, in-fl ight video). Why not project
Doug Aitken’s sleepwalkers within the monumental corridors of T5 instead of on
the outer walls of MoMA (see ArtReview’s January issue)? Or do the same with Cory
Arcangel’s hyperactive video demolitions, which arguably play fearlessly into
the transit mentality (and can be found in this month’s Special Focus on fi lm and
video)? As for BAA, we’ll have to wait another 13 months until T5 opens to truly
ascertain whether they are serious about art or just boldly accentuating the
airport art pejorative.
John Weich
Editor-in-Chief
ARTREVIEW
p 20 Eds Letter AR Feb07.indd 20 8/1/07 23:05:29
FEBRUARY– MARCH 2007
CONTEMPORARY FINE ARTS
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BY JULIE DOUCET
FEBRUARY MANIFESTO
p 22-23 Manifesto AR Feb07.indd 20 8/1/07 17:14:37
ARTREVIEW
p 22-23 Manifesto AR Feb07.indd 21 8/1/07 17:14:51
Kelly LH Ad AR Feb07 3/1/07 22:11 Page 1
Marie Antoinette out for a walk at her petite Hermitage,
France, 1750, 2005, water soluble oil colour on canvas,
51 x 41 cm. © 2006 the artist. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New
York, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich, Spruth Magers,
Munich
DISPATCHES
DARK STAR:
KAREN KILIMNIK
The painter Karen Kilimnik
knows that little girls
(and some grown-ups) like an
image they can buy into, a
fantasy unrelated to the bland
exigencies of quotidian life.
Like her literary forebears (F.
Scott Fitzgerald and Edgar Allan
Poe especially spring to mind),
Kilimnik locates her sumptuous
fantasies in a mythic past,
where debutantes might have
lived in pastel-hued mansions,
say, or practised witchcraft.
For her forthcoming show at the
Serpentine Gallery, Kilimnik
presents some 60 paintings that
fuse her trademark referencing
of Old World masters (George
Stubbs, Joshua Reynolds) with
contemporary culture’s celebrity
elite. Her works will be installed
among specially chosen antique
furniture, designed to give a
shopfront credence to the bygone
eras she alludes to. Yet in and
among the candy colours – like
those found in the saccharine
Marie Antoinette out for a walk
at her petite Hermitage, France,
1750 (2005) – lurk instances
of darkness. Her painting Mary
Shelly Writing Frankenstein
(2001), featuring a luminescent
Shelley set against a dark and
brewing sky, recalls the gothic
tales of Shelley but also Poe,
fascinated like Kilimnik with
the idea of Old Europe. As in
Poe’s The Oval Portrait, about
a girl trapped in a painting
and whose fate is detailed in a
dusty book, Kilimnik’s images are
intertextual, appropriations of
pictures that already have their
own stories. There is an element
too of wanting to bring these
Romantic figures back to life.
But Kilimnik’s nostalgia is
knowing: by casting an improbably
benign Paris Hilton as Marie
Antoinette, she strikes a jarring
note between the Old World and
contemporary reality. Laura Allsop
K A R E N K I L I M N I K ,
2 0 F E B R U A R Y – 9 A P R I L ,
S E R P E N T I N E G A L L E R Y , L O N D O N ,
W W W . S E R P E N T I N E G A L L E R Y . O R G
ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND
p 25-36 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd25 25 10/1/07 16:38:10
AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THING
ARTREVIEW
ABSTRACT THINGS
- Produce a set of my drawings
as temporary tattoos.
- Get an artist like Chris
Johanson to do free face-painting
on a street for a couple of hours.
- Suggest to the Whitney that I
curate the next biennial.
No, those weren’t my New Year’s
resolutions; rather, they’re just
some of the ideas percolating
around Portland-based artist
Harrell Fletcher’s website. And
when he’s not busy composing that
inventory of dreams, he’s co-
running (with Miranda July) www.
learningtoloveyoumore.com. Like
much of Fletcher’s work (one of
the more recent examples is Veda’s
Bible, 2006 - digital prints of a
Bible in which passages have been
highlighted by a homeless lady
called Veda), LTLYM is a social
project. But where in other works
Fletcher is a collaborator, here
he’s more of a dictator - issuing
assignments that are completed by
the general public and then posted
on the site. Since 2002, more than
2,000 people have participated in
the pair’s projects.
IS THAT A GUN IN YOUR
POCKET?: SCOTT TEPLIN
Even those familiar with Scott
Teplin’s drawings of roofless Polly
Pocket-like apartments chock-a-block
with vending machines, swimming
pools, tool sheds, public toilets,
subway exits, archery ranges, funeral
chapels and pretty much every
other architectural and furniture
subset and species known to man –
or at any rate to this thirty-four-
year-old incorrigible doodler from
Brooklyn – will be surprised to
see something new and loopily
abundant amid the already surfeited
mix: nuclear missiles.

Inspired by Hezbollah’s ‘human
shield’ strategies during last year’s
conflict in Lebanon, Teplin has
stuffed rockets and missiles into his
bathrooms, kitchens and ubiquitous
hot tubs. “My work doesn’t normally
involve politics,” says Teplin. “But
in the last few years, it’s been
impossible to not let some current
global events sneak into the work.”
Sneaking into Condoleezza (2006), for
example, a drawing of an offshore oil
rig-like facility that pays ironic
homage to Secretary Rice’s tenure at
Chevron, is the word ‘LICKSPITTLE’,
spelled out in letter-shaped rooms.
The missiles, however, are not
necessarily targeting a purely
political message. Teplin describes
them as “erect, always vertical,
dog-penis and lipstick-like” and
says they are an expression of
what he calls “Weapons Porn… Most
of my work seems to take on this
sexual feel. And not always erotic,
either, sometimes just plain gross.”
Christopher Mooney
S C O T T T E P L I N ,
J A N U A R Y – F E B R U A R Y , G - M O D U L E ,
P A R I S , W W W . G - M O D U L E . C O M
With that background, Fletcher is
ideally placed as a curator – hey,
he’s never short of artists to
include in his shows – and this
month he’s turned his directorial
talents to creating a show at
London’s Laura Bartlett Gallery.
Featuring ten young artists
(notable among them photographer
Anne Daems and mixed-media artist
Dana Dart-McLean), the show
promises to be an engaging snaphot
of emerging art. Mark Rappolt
A B S T R A C T T H I N G S ,
T O 3 M A R C H , L A U R A B A R T L E T T
G A L L E R Y , L O N D O N , W W W .
L A U R A B A R T L E T T G A L L E R Y . C O M
DISPATCHES
Dana Dart-McLean, Untitled, 2006,
watercolour and ink on paper, 75 x 55 cm.
Courtesy the artist
Array, 2006,
ink and watercolour
on paper, 132 x 132
cm. Courtesy
g-module, Paris
p 25-36 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd26 26 10/1/07 00:17:14
Halcyon Ad AR Feb07 21/12/06 02:37 Page 1
DISPATCHES
FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTU
ARTREVIEW
p 28-29 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd28 28 8/1/07 23:14:33
SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO
ON A ROLL:
JEPPE HEIN
Having made a splash during the
second half of last year with the
water sculpture Appearing Rooms,
at London’s South Bank Centre,
Danish artist Jeppe Hein returns
to the capital this month with a
new installation at the Barbican
Centre. Appearing Rooms, the fi rst
in an annual series of artist-
designed fountains, provoked a
playful relationship between artwork
and viewer as a series of water jets
rose and fell to create an ever-
morphing series of ‘rooms’ through
which his audience could travel. Hein
will continue to explore this kind of
ludic interactivity at the Barbican’s
Curve Gallery, where the thirty-two-
year-old will be showing a version
of Distance (2004), a set of roller-
coaster-like rails along which a
large white ball is shot every time
a viewer enters the room. The work’s
undulating twists and turns should be
the perfect match for one of London’s
more diffi cult exhibition spaces.
J E P P E H E I N ,
9 F E B R U A R Y – 2 9 A P R I L ,
T H E C U R V E , B A R B I C A N , L O N D O N
W W W . B A R B I C A N . O R G . U K
Distance, 2004,
iron, electrical motor, PVC balls,
sensors, technical apparatus, dimensions
variable. Photo: Holger Hübsch.
Courtesy Johann König, Berlin
p 28-29 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd29 29 8/1/07 23:14:49
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Walker has a rare genius for
conjuring the charisma of her
subjects from her simple outlines,
while all those shadows allow
her to be explicit about sex and
violence in a way ordinary means
of representation would find
difficult without being heavy-
handed or grossly offensive.
Walker’s status is perhaps secure,
but this year also marks a decade
since the artist Betye Saar
provoked a loud and sustained
row after she accused Walker of
only reproducing stereotypes of
African-Americans rather than
fighting them. One can be sure
that this retrospective will see
a return to that topic.
Morgan Falconer

K A R A W A L K E R : M Y C O M P L E M E N T ,
M Y E N E M Y , M Y O P P R E S S O R ,
M Y L O V E , 1 7 F E B R U A R Y –
1 3 M A Y , W A L K E R A R T C E N T E R ,
M I N N E A P O L I S ,
W W W . W A L K E R A R T . O R G
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM:
DEREK JARMAN
Released simultaneously this
month, The Angelic Conversation
(1985), Caravaggio (1986) and
Wittgenstein (1993) remind us of
a time when it was still possible
to make original and poetic cinema
in Britain. That is, if you
happened to be a filmmaking genius
like Derek Jarman. Produced by the
BFI’s now long-defunct production
arm, which provided some financial
sustenance to film-artists under
the withering shadow of
Thatcherism, they demonstrate
Jarman’s powers working across
a variety of budgets. They range
from the more lavishly realised
Caravaggio, where the costumes
of Baroque Italy blend with
English eccentricity and London’s
punk spirit of inventiveness, to
the low-fi Angelic Conversation,
where a beautiful man labours on
the seashore as Judy Dench reads
Shakespeare’s sonnets in voice-
over. Today, with a national
cinema generally staler than
a Carry On comedy, Jarman’s films
prove that great things can
be achieved even in, and perhaps
because of, the most adverse
conditions. Skye Sherwin
OUT ON DVD FROM 22 JANUARY
WWW.BFI.ORG
SCREEN TIME:
KARA WALKER
Given just how established and
respected Kara Walker is today,
it seems remarkable that it is
little over ten years since one
of her vivid, saucy, violent
historical panoramas brought her
to wider notice at an exhibition
at the Drawing Center in New
York. And now she is to have her
place in the pantheon confirmed
with her first large-scale
museum survey in the US, which
opens at the Walker Art Center
and tours to the Whitney Museum
in New York and the Hammer
Museum in Los Angeles.
Although Walker’s subject matter
has always seemed to be the
witches’ brew of social-sexual-
racial mixing that took place
on the pre-Civil War plantations
of the American South, she
obviously feels that there are
still parallels to draw with
today’s society. Similarly, while
the core of her practice has
always been the rather genteel
artform of the silhouette, which
enjoyed a vogue in the US in
the early nineteenth century,
she has thoroughly enlivened
it, sometimes combining it with
multicoloured wall projections.
Slavery! Slavery!, 1997,
cut paper and adhesive on wall, 370 x 2590 cm. Collection
Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton, Santa Monica.
Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Still from The Angelic Conversation, 1985. Courtesy BFI
p 25-36 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd30 30 8/1/07 22:58:30
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performance Diary of a Prostitute:
Porno Taken with the Punters, and
German filmmaker Karin Jurschick,
cofounder of the international
women’s film festival Feminale,
in Cologne, whose 2003 film The
Peacekeepers and the Women provided
a chilling investigation of the
booming sex-trafficking industry
in Bosnia. With the equally sexual
exhibition Into Me / Out of Me,
formerly on at P.S.1 in New York,
running at the capital’s Kunst
/ Werk at the same time, Berlin
welcomes in the new year as the city
of polymorphous perversions it is
reputed to be. Sarah James
S E X W O R K : A R T M Y T H O S R E A L I T Y ,
U N T I L 2 5 F E B R U A R Y ,
K U N S T R A U M K R E U Z B E R G , B E R L I N ,
W W W . K U N S T R A U M K R E U Z B E R G . D E
TOMORROW PEOPLE:
FUTURE OF SOUND

The Future of Sound tour, running
this winter, offers a whistle-stop
run through a palette of current
sonic possibilities. Future of Sound
is curated by Martyn Ware, founder
member of Sheffield’s early
electronic pop groups the Human
League and Heaven 17. He’s now based
in South London running Illustrious
Company, set up in 2000 to explore
cutting-edge sound production.
“We were disillusioned with the way
popular music was going in Britain,”
says Ware. “I’m a big believer in
convergent art and collaboration.”
Each Future of Sound show will
feature seven 15-minute
presentations by artists including
Scanner, Modified Toy Orchestra,
Anna Hill, Luciana Haill and Sancho
Plan. But for Ware the most
significant element is the research
by Brian Barritt and Flinton Chalk
into ‘archaeo-acoustics’. At burial
grounds and stone mounds in Ireland,
unorthodox archaeologist Paul
Devereux found that the complex
intersection of the stone and their
spatial placement always results in
a 111Hz vibration, and Barritt and
Chalk have made a piece based on
this frequency. As Ware puts it,
the subliminal drone “switches off
the frontal cortex and puts you into
a trance… imagine sound being used
as medicine – how that would freak
out drug companies. This is the
future – we have to acknowledge the
effect the world around us has on
our bodies.” Rob Young

F U T U R E O F S O U N D O N T O U R U N T I L
1 2 A P R I L , W W W . F U T U R E O F S O U N D . O R G
BODYSHOP: SEXWORK
SEXWORK is the latest exhibition
to fill the galleries of the
castle-like nineteenth-century
Kunstraum Kreuzberg, in Berlin. This
transgressive show brings together
35 international artists whose work
focuses on issues surrounding sex
tourism. Ann-Sofi Siden’s video-
based exploration of prostitution
after the Velvet Revolution,
documenting the post-Communist sex
industry in a Czech town, which was
shown at the Hayward Gallery in
1999, made it clear that the issue
of trafficking in women had to be
accepted as a universal, not just
a feminist concern. Similarly, the
agenda here is not simply feminist,
but to present work that foregrounds
and interrogates representation
methods which avoid voyeurism,
fetishisation and exploitation,
exploring themes of sex tourism,
homosexuality, transsexual
prostitution and AIDS. Artists
featuring in the show include Bubu
de Madeleine, the Japanese AIDS
activist and sex worker, who last
year worked on the Tokyo-based
Natalie Kriwy, Beruf: Prostitution, 2004–6, c-print, 80 x 80cm
Courtesy the artist
Brian Duffy, Speak & Spell on Stands
(Modifi ed Toy Orchestra), 2006. Courtesy Future of Sound
p 25-36 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd32 32 10/1/07 17:02:13
Naham Ad AR Feb07 21/12/06 02:48 Page 1
01
In Glasgow, music and art
are often wrapped up in
each other. Perhaps it’s
the art school’s central
location and hippety-
happening social life that
means the artists are as
likely to end up on the
stage as on the wall – as
evidenced by the likes of
Ross Sinclair and Franz
Ferdinand. Now another
arty Glaswegian, David
Shrigley, has made 12
images for San Francisco
band Deerhoof’s new album
Friend Opportunity on Kill
Rock Stars.
WWW.KILLROCKSTARS.COM
02
Contrasts is a gallery with
locations in Beijing and
Shanghai. Their mission has
been to ‘take Western and
Eastern influences on art
and design and create a new
aesthetic’. That sometimes
means hooking up Western
designers with Chinese
craftsmanship. The result
is a strange crashing
together of conceptual
design and traditional
craft, such as Jurgen Bey’s
carved stone tea sets,
which look semi-hewn: part
natural rock and part
refined artefact. It’s the
kind of work that couldn’t
happen outside of China –
or perhaps outside of this
moment in global culture.

WWW.CONTRASTSGALLERY.COM
03
Valentine’s Day: a special
time to consider a loved
one, or just another
opportunity to spend money
on tat? For those of you
who’d like to embrace both
interpretations, Tim Noble
and Sue Webster’s Toxic
Schizophrenia (1997), at
Sotheby’s contemporary art
auction in London this
month, could be just the
thing. This giant super-
kitsch red heart made from
flashing lightbulbs, with
a dagger through the
centre, tattoo-style,
wouldn’t look out of place
in Blackpool. It verily
screams ‘dirty weekend in
a seaside bedsit’, only
more expensive. 7 February.

WWW.SOTHEBYS.COM
£ 5 , 0 0 0
04
Barnaby Barford makes
one-off ceramic pieces
by recycling mass-
manufactured ceramics.
Firstly he slices up
figurines, then re-
assembles them into strange
agglomerations, like a
Dr. Frankenstein of kitsch.
His ceramics, reworked into
unsettling and surreal
monsters, will get you
examining your aged aunt’s
mantelpiece in an
altogether more circumspect
manner. These exquisite
corpses made out of
charity-shop rejects turn
saccharine figurines into
puzzling malfunctions
of commercial giftware.
WWW.DAVIDGILLGALLERIES.COM
03
01
04
ARTREVIEW
£ 1 5 . 9 9
CONSUMED
The pick of this month’s offerings
from shops, galleries and museums
words SAM JACOB
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There is something
inherently comedic about
sitting in a bath that
looks like a boat that’s
filled with water and just
about to sink. Does it
make it funnier that it’s
been finely crafted out
of beautiful, simple
materials – oak and red
cedar? It’s certainly odd
to see slapstick delivered
in tones more often
associated with minimalism.
Designed by Wieki Somers,
‘bathboat’ is a limited
edition of 30 plus one
prototype - numbered and
signed pieces that come
with an engraved plate.
WWW.GALERIEKREO.COM
06
The latest edition from
Cerealart is a bust by
Kehinde Wiley. Cast in
marble dust and resin,
the figure’s flowing robes
might suggest French
rococo, but then you notice
the hood. Wiley says that
he “quotes historical
sources and positions young
black men within that field
of ‘power’”. Perhaps that
means noting parallels
between the excesses of
Versailles and contemporary
R&B’s bling, or upsetting
expectations of subject and
medium. Either way, the
mixture of art-historical
reference and urban
aesthetic tingles with
freshness. Edition of 250.
WWW.CEREALART.COM
07
Collect, Europe’s only
annual art fair dedicated
to contemporary applied
and decorative arts,
including works by design
legends like Ettore
Sottsass (shown), takes
place in that palace of
applied arts, the V&A. The
setting means interesting
comparisons between
contemporary and historical
practice can be drawn. The
Victorian fascination with
applied art came out of
the Industrial Revolution
– just the point where mass
production threatened craft
production. Perhaps Collect
will allow new perspectives
on craft’s role today.
8–12 February, V&A, London.
WWW.VAM.AC.UK
08
The Art Production Fund
run a programme called WOW
- an acronym for Works on
Whatever. For 2007 the
‘whatever’ is oversize
beach towels and the
‘works’ are by Alex Katz
(shown), Marilyn Minter,
Richard Phillips and Rob
Pruitt. Super-graphicky
and bold, they will turn
your poolside into an
instant art space. Sales
will benefit the not-for-
profit organisation’s
mission to create unusual
installations in public
places, which includes
an upcoming project by
Tim Noble and Sue Webster.
WWW.ARTPRODUCTIONFUND.ORG
05
06
08
ARTREVIEW
$ 1 , 0 0 0
€ 2 3 , 0 0 0
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07
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WOMAN’S HOUR: WOMANIZER
Neo-burlesque icons Julie
Atlas Muz and Kembra Pfahler
have rallied a roster of eight
of today’s foxiest feminist
performance artists for Womanizer,
an exhibition at New York’s
Deitch Projects gallery.
Muz, who was included in the 2004
Whitney Biennial and in the 2005
Valencia Biennale before being
awarded her current title of Miss
Exotic World 2006, will welcome
viewers to the show in the guise
of her signature character,
Mr. Pussy. Muz teams up with
Pfahler, founder and lead singer
of the infamous theatrical New
York downtown punk/art band the
Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.
The show’s title reverses women’s
passive role as mere prey for male
players by using the term in the
sense of to ’ize’, or saturate,
with femaleness. To that end, the
show promises ’horror, hedonism,
pandrogyny and pussies’.
Alongside Pfahler and Muz, the
artists on view include E.V. Day,
Breyer, P-Orridge, Vaginal Creme
Davis, Bambi and Liz Renay.
All were prominent participants in
the 1990s New York performance-art
scene and as such their collective
mission is to bend and blend
gender. Their work exemplifies
key concerns in art and academia
of that era, such as postmodern
wordplay, transgression,
theatricality, a grotesque,
gothic sensibility and straining
normative definitions of gender
and sexuality. Sadly, such
self-consciously postmodern work
runs the risk of seeming dated
today: when even assimilated gay
culture is fighting for
its right to exist in America,
these politics are too peripheral
to be truly powerful. Nonetheless,
the show still promises to be
festive, thought-provoking and
over-the-top hot.
Ana Finel Honigman
W O M A N I Z E R , U N T I L 2 7 J A N U A R Y ,
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The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, FEMORABILIA, 2005,
installation view. Courtesy Deitch Projects, New York
ARTREVIEW
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WAR: AERNOUT MIK
Raw Footage and Scapegoats
(both 2006), two of the
four new films Dutch
artist Aernout Mik will be
presenting at the Camden Arts
Centre this month, tackle
one of today’s omnipresent
anxieties: war. Via news
bulletins, troop-rallying
commercials, movies, pop
songs and videophone over the
Internet, we’re subjected
to a constant barrage of
battling humanity. Our
current information age,
however, has produced
something of a catch-22 for
artists: what can they add
to a world already saturated
with images of bloodshed?
Accordingly, while Mik’s
new work draws from news
material, albeit in a much
more literal way than his
artistic predecessors Picasso
and Goya, he does more than
reproduce another mediated
account of violent acts:
mediation itself becomes
his subject.
In Scapegoats, the camera
loops around a giant sports
hall claimed by soldiers as
a holding area for a ragtag
bunch who may be POWs or
refugees. Men with guns and
camouflage gear herd people
wearing dirty shell suits
and hollow expressions. It’s
the kind of setting familiar
from TV footage of natural
disasters like Hurricane
Katrina, terrorist tragedies
such as the Beslan school
siege in Russia or
any of the conflicts in
seemingly distant Eastern
European countries beamed
into our living rooms on the
evening news.
There is no soundtrack to
Scapegoats, and a series of
actions and consequences
– soldiers shouting at men
who line up, sit down,
put hands on heads – are
observed in silence. As the
camera continues to pan
indiscriminately around this
setting, never allowing the
viewer the chance to identify
with people through close-
up, roles seem to change: now
a teenager is on the ground,
now he is holding a gun. As
you try to decipher what is
happening, you realise that
understanding is being held
in perpetual abeyance. The
scene just goes on and on,
and in spite of the implied
life-or-death stakes, it
quickly becomes repetitious
and boring.
Raw Footage uses unseen
footage from ITN’s news
archives: the camera simply
rolls as still, grey
countryside is interrupted
by the sound of missile
launchers and men laughing
together as they load up on
artillery. There are animals
– stray livestock, and even
kangaroos watched laconically
by soldiers at the zoo. Here
we see a bear gone mad in
its cage, endlessly hurling
itself from wall to bars;
a spectacle of prosaic
horror that Mik would find
hard to top in his other,
fictional scenarios.
Mik’s videowork has variously
presented human behavioural
patterns as banal and
unprogressive: circling
disaster (like the bus wreck
of Refraction, 2005), trapped
on an endless escalator
loop (Organic Escalator,
2000, where bricks tumble on
apathetic figures) or limited
by herd mentality (people
milling in a park in Flock,
2002). The political and
social implications of these
poetic statements on doomed
goldfish-bowl behaviour are
obvious, and it seems moot
that Mik should now turn his
looping camera explicitly
on the experience of war.
His mind-numbing depiction
of seemingly extreme events
asks what this means for
bystanders, those watching
TV or consuming art in a
pristine gallery.
Skye Sherwin
A E R N O U T M I K :
S H I F T I N G S H I F T I N G ,
1 6 F E B R U A R Y – 1 5 A P R I L ,
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L O N D O N
W W W . C A M D E N A R T S C E N T R E . O R G
Scapegoats, 2006, video installation.
Set photo: Florian Braun. Courtesy Carlier
Gebauer, Berlin
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MYSTERIOUS SKIN:
MELANIE MANCHOT
Contemporary takes on the
concept of subjectivity see
it as the amalgamation of
so many different effects
– of biology, of society, of
language, etc. We are not
subjects so much as we come
to occupy the places where
subjectivity is registered,
where it becomes legible,
which has less to do, it
seems, with our own identity
than with some perceived
difference not only from
other people and places but
also from ourselves. In
other words, we are not who
we think we are; we cannot
see ourselves, or listen to
ourselves, as others do. We
are not, in short, subject
to ourselves.
It is one thing to comprehend
this curious situation; it
is quite another to run
up against it, to feel it
in all of its immediacy,
as something other than a
simple fact of discourse.
Melanie Manchot’s newest
video installation, Security
(2006), which goes on view
at Goff + Rosenthal in New
York this month, offers us
something of that immediacy
by picturing a series of
seven bouncers, culled from
the ‘superclubs’ of Ibiza,
getting naked for the artist
and her video camera. In
one sustained take after
another, each physically
imposing figure stands
outside his respective club,
in the place, one presumes,
where his physicality is an
asset of necessity rather
than vanity, removes his
shoes and clothing, and then
stands, fully bare, in many
cases fully depilated, for
a number of seconds, before
redressing.
Erotic it is not. Nor is it
voyeuristic, for that would
imply that Manchot’s bouncers
were unaware that they were
being filmed, which is
patently not the case. What
they do, they do for Manchot,
her camera and by extension
us, the piece’s potential
audience. In this it is an act
of supreme generosity, and
in some cases bravery, for
each of Manchot’s ‘sitters’
– in their expressions, their
hesitancies, their failures to
follow through – demonstrates
the great distance travelled
between being nude and being
naked: the former meaning
‘without clothing’; the
latter, ‘without protection’.
It is the bouncer’s job,
after all, to form a barrier
of protection, to limit
access, to select, or perhaps
to compose, the contents of
his club from the materials
standing on line. This is the
scenario of subjectivity, the
place of interpolation, one
which drastically changes
during the publicity of
the day.
Here place remains as
important to Manchot as it
had in previous works, such
as Groups + Locations (2004)
and Neighbors (2006), in
which, respectively, Moscow’s
public spaces and Berlin’s
neighbourhoods played an
integral role in picturing
subjectivity. With Security,
however, the argument has
become at once more general
– we’re dealing with a kind of
labour rather than nationality
– and more specific – these
are individuals, each with a
different body, to which they
are subject in different ways.
Jonathan T.D. Neil
M E L A N I E M A N C H O T ,
3 F E B R U A R Y – 1 0 M A R C H ,
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Security, 2006, multiscreen video installation.
Courtesy Goff + Rosenthal, New York, and Fred
London Ltd, London
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These days I seem to think a lot about how all
these changes came about..., 2006, digital
photograph. Courtesy F A Projects, London
ROCKING THE BLOCK:
WOODCRAFT FOLK
In 1925, nineteen-year-
old Leslie Paul established
the youth organisation
the Woodcraft Folk as
an alternative to the
militaristic overtones of
the Scouting movement. Based
on fantasies of life in
prehistoric, pagan Britain,
the group romanticised a sort
of simple pastoral communism
that is still reflected in
its activities. Ironically
enough, the group was
founded in South London. The
latest solo show by Juneau/
Projects/ – the moniker
adopted by Philip Duckworth
and Ben Sadler for their
collaborative work – is set
to bring it all back home at
F A Projects this month, in
an unlikely combination of
the homespun aesthetic of
the Woodcraft Folk with the
unbridled emotional content
of emo punk rock (as in
emotional hardcore). Marked
as they are by nostalgia
and political impotence,
it is hard to imagine two
more oft derided groups in
contemporary youth culture:
the Woodcraft Folk for their
tree hugging, emo for being
a maudlin subgenre of punk
based not on political revolt
but on histrionics about the
girl that got away.
Yet by combining them, Juneau/
Projects/ propose an eloquent
commentary on an anxious
time in which indulging in
fantasy seems a fitting
alternative to cynicism.
In Woodcraft Folk the pair
will showcase a new body of
work, Emotional Modernism, a
series of computer-generated
woodcarvings depicting teenage
emo bands. Woodcraft Folk will
also include carved wooden
samplers featuring text from
the recent Juneau/Projects/
computer game, meditative
images on nature’s harshness
and savagery made from pressed
flowers, intricate perches for
birds of prey and a number of
handcrafted instruments that
will be used in a performance
by the artists.
In previous collaborations
the duo have toyed with
the brittle conjunction of
high technology and the
pastoral Utopia. In their
2004 show, motherf**king
nature, they showed the
images that resulted from
dragging a scanner across
the forest floor at night
(Good Morning Captain), and
an earlier piece, Walkman/
Lake (2001), featured a
Walkman continuously playing a
recording of Richard Strauss’s
Metamorphosen being lowered
into the waters of a lake from
a rubber dinghy. This is more
than torturing gadgets; their
work is a witty comment on the
enormous gulf that separates
the world we inhabit from the
nature we imagine. Adam Jasper
J U N E A U / P R O J E C T S / :
W O O D C R A F T F O L K ,
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p 40-43 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd43 43 8/1/07 23:56:39
DI SPATCHES
In the aftermath of the Miami art
fairs, one word, spoken with near
reverence, could be heard parting the
lips of all those who make a business
or leisure pursuit of contemporary
art: the ‘market’. The fairs – Art
Basel, Frieze, Art Basel Miami Beach
and this February in New York, the
Armory, not to mention all of the
associated satellites, would seem
to be the new embodiment of the art
market, and depending upon whom you
talk to, or what you read, this is
either a lamentable, sometimes utterly
contemptible development, or it is a
boon, the logical extension of all the
hedge fund and international money that
is rolling in to give contemporary art
sales seemingly superhuman life.
What is lacking from all this talk
about the market, believe it or not,
is actual talk about the market. There
is no shortage of puffery in the big
New York dailies and weeklies about
which collectors and celebrities
could be seen where, who threw the
hottest party, what that piece by that
hot artist went for and similarly
entertaining inanities. This kind
of coverage should be left to the
professionals, and in New York, that’s
‘Page Six’ in the Post. Simply because
The New York Times or The Wall Street
Journal dresses up its coverage in a
rhetorical style that screams ‘news!’,
it should be taken for what it is: at
best, an errant migration from the
papers’ style sections; at worst, a sad
aping of the gossip columns it is too
proud to run in its own pages.
What we need to remember about the
art market is that it is not some
abstract concept, some generic gauge
that either reads ‘healthy’ or ‘sick’,
‘bottomed out’ or ‘bubbled up’; it is,
in fact, a concrete, physical thing,
which requires concrete, physical
places, spaces and times in which to
operate. The art fairs are certainly
one of its most recent and most visible
manifestations, and they offer an
excellent case study through which to
map the shifting topography of the
artworld’s economic landscape. But
what is that topography? How has it
been historically determined? Is it
correlated to other markets?
‘Hedge fund money’ is neither answer
nor explanation; it’s a dodge, an
admission that its speaker is looking
no further than last week’s news
coverage. What we need from the press –
indeed, what we need from the artworld
itself – is a better combination of
specifics and analysis. Some 36,000
people were said to have travelled to
Miami for the fairs, but not all of
them could cram into the Visionaire
party with their Elizabeth Peytons in
tow, or drop $1.3 million on a Warhol
as if it were the tip on a tab at
Enriqueta’s. Who else was buying? And
who wasn’t? Who else was there? And who
wasn’t? (As with all such spectacles,
what can’t be seen is often, if not
always, integral to its operational
logic.) When the big show comes to New
York at the end of this month, these
will be the questions to ask, along
with: why now?
For this is another facet to the art
market that goes hand in hand with
the brute facts of where, when and
how it happens – like the art itself,
the market has a history. And the two
should not be confused. The material
circumstances that affect a dealer’s
or a fair’s or an auction house’s
operations and capacities are vastly
different from those that affect an
artist’s, and the transformations and
evolution of those operations and
capacities demand independent lines
of inquiry.
Art’s autonomy, the thing that
orchestrated not only its aesthetic
but also its financial success, is
a relatively recent development. As
Clement Greenberg could write in 1939,
the avant-garde is connected to the
bourgeoisie by an ‘umbilical cord of
gold’. In the intervening years, the
first two terms received their critical
attention, to the point that they
have nearly disappeared. As the end
of February approaches, it seems only
appropriate to ask: what of that
golden cord?
What is lacking from
all this talk about
the market, believe it
or not, is actual talk
about the market
TALES FROM THE CITY: New York
MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHIT
ARTREVIEW
words JONATHAN T.D. NEIL
p 44,46 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd44 44 9/1/07 23:35:38
Aperture Ad AR Feb07 6/1/07 05:32 Page 1
DI SPATCHES
Tolerance levels. Ultimately that’s
what December’s Art Basel Miami Beach
seemed to be a test of. By now you’ll
probably have waded through enough
reports on the seemingly endless
parties and celebrity attendees, so
you’ll know that one of the tolerance
levels Miami was all about involved
alcohol and partying. And if you view
that in a positive light, that’s
because, by the organisers’ own
admission, the event is no longer
just an art fair; rather, it’s ‘a new
type of cultural event, combining an
international art show with an exciting
programme of special exhibitions,
parties and crossover events, including
music, film, architecture and design’.
Or as Art Basel director Sam Keller put
it, ‘There are “wow!” type cultural
highlights’. Wow! Sounds fun, huh?
While there are those who think that
fun is absolutely not what art should
be about, most sane people will be
happy for the feeling that art doesn’t
happen in a vacuum, that it has some
relevance and relation to other things
in the world (even if ‘the world’ in
Miami seems to consist solely of the
rich and the beautiful). But equally,
if you go to Miami’s winter jamboree
as an art critic, you find your body
complying with an unwritten imperative
to feel morally outraged, in a stomach-
churning way, about the power of ‘the
market’, the lure of lucre and the
insane but ultimately superficial
socialising; you’ve got to moan about
the lack of any ‘real’ values in art
- about what happened to aesthetics,
skill, meaning and all the other stuff
that gives it its special ‘aura’. You
know you’re supposed to whine about the
wining, feel bilious about the dining
and be utterly nauseated by the sheer
commercialisation of everything. You’re
supposed to bemoan the fact that art
is part of a social scene, with its
A-listers, B-listers and no-listers.
And that there are VIP, VVIP and VVVIP
guest lists for parties and dinners
that are supposed to map this hierarchy
out. Partly you’re outraged about this,
because, as a critic, there seems to
be little space in which to operate.
Value judgements about art rise and
fall despite anything you might say
about any of those special ‘values’.
But as you crawl back to your spartan
hotel room (as a critic you have to
enjoy some discomfort to demonstrate
that it’s the art and nothing else that
interests you) to choke out an article
about choking on your own righteous
vomit, you can miss the fact that Miami
is a lot of fun.
OK, partly that’s because socialising
and partying is always quite nice.
But also it’s because there’s so
much art sloshing around that it’s
almost impossible not to find one
amazing thing you might not have seen
otherwise. Perhaps that’s why you
encounter scores of sweaty critics
comparing notes about the ‘highlights
of the show’ (if you want to know, Red
Eye, a show at the Rubell Collection
mapping out the current LA scene, was
my favourite), just in case they missed
something everyone else saw and have
to scuttle off to some remote part of
town in order to check it out. To the
editor of an art magazine this raises
the intriguing issue of whether art,
and the current explosion of interest
in it, can become too big. Of whether
we, as lovers of art, are being herded
into an endless quest for the new and
unexplored at the expense of any real
interaction with the art itself. There
were works by over 2,000 artists on
show at Art Basel Miami Beach and its
many satellite fairs. Honestly, I’ve
got opinions, both good and bad, about
a few hundred of them, but I think
nothing whatsoever about the rest.
Mainly because I don’t know the work at
all, or because I haven’t spent enough
time with it to form any worthwhile
opinions. But if you’re involved in
the artworld today, events like Miami
can make you feel that this is somehow
wrong or inadequate, particularly when
there appears to be an endless stream
of collectors and gallerists asking you
what you think about this, that and the
other. At its worst, opinions about
good or bad art are the end product of
a herd mentality, second-hand reports
and a blind faith that it’s the cream
and not the shit that floats to the
top. At its best, it makes you more
determined to explore what you like and
why you like it - to establish your own
values and ideals; what you feel up
for, and what you don’t.
TALES FROM THE CITY: Miami
HITECTURE, FILM, SHOPPING, NEWS AND THINGS TO MAKE AND DO… ART, MUSIC, ARCHITECTURE, FI
opinions are the end product
of a herd mentality, second-
hand reports and blind faith
ARTREVIEW
words MARK RAPPOLT
p 44,46 Dispatches AR Feb07.indd46 46 9/1/07 00:02:06
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ARTREVIEW
words MALIK GAINES
photography ARI MARCOPOULOS
SHAPING
HISTORY
SAM
DURANT
Often working at the intersection of popular culture, history and memorialisation,
Sam Durant’s work interrogates the political and social aspects of art and American
life with a rare insight and humour. ArtReview caught up with him in his LA studio
while he was composing works using his latest palette – a series of waxwork models
acquired from a defunct Massachusetts history museum.
ARTREVIEW
FEATURE SAM DURANT
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd50 50 9/1/07 00:09:58
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd51 51 9/1/07 00:10:33
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd52 52 9/1/07 00:11:01
Sam Durant’s recent works have explored the memorialisations
of otherness that mark quirky American spaces with their histories.
Durant, who grew up in the vicinity of the mythic Plymouth Rock, site
of the Pilgrims’ landing in the New World, assembled the figures and
props he bought from the museum into sculptural installations for his
recent exhibition at Massachusetts College of Art. Defunct bodies
made of a reddish-brown rubbery material come together in eerie
and silly combinations. Mobilising the uncanny look of a haunted wax
museum, Durant’s project combines an antique-store’s kitschy aura
with deconstructed historiography, showing us the tattered banality
of colonial logic. The fraying costumes, the dead eyes, the wear and
tear of the decades that have passed since these objects were made:
all of these contribute to a material mash-up of the 1600s, the 1960s
and now. Durant successfully disperses
the mystical ambience of these memorial
objects, and consequently the superstitions
they memorialise. Rather than materialising
as a sturdy foundation for a national
historical project, these broken-down myths
in wax-figure form appear particularly
flimsy. Durant’s manipulation of these
figures shows how malleable such asserted
natural histories are, whether in the hands
of hegemonic power or a clever Southern
California artist.
Emerging as a sculptor interested in
the aesthetics of social policy during the early
1990s, Durant has manoeuvred through an
array of material and political intersections with his impressive body of
work. Durant and his longtime partner, artist Andrea Bowers, share an
interest in relating art production to activism and locating art historical
precedents within their political contexts. These interests stand in
contrast to the new-beauty discourse that dominated much of the neo-
liberal 1990s. While Bowers’s recent, notable projects have included
work around abortion rights, passive resistance strategies and the AIDS
quilt, Durant, who has made work dealing with protest movements in
recent years, is now exploring America’s troubled relationship with the
indigenous population it displaced. These projects reflect a broader
cultural sense that history may matter, and this is an approach that
Durant and Bowers both bring to their work as art instructors as well as
A rustic wooden bench shows crude and practical workmanship.
Nearby, on the ground, a rubbery ear of corn peaks from its husk.
Upon the bench, a couple of circular tape reels rest on a pile of the
mid-twentieth-century square boxes they presumably came out of.
Opposite this, on the other side of the bench, sits a foot. It’s brown
and rubbery, the sole exposed, and appears no more or less real than
the corn, the bench or the media technology. This Log Bench Still Life
(2006) is among the works Sam Durant has recently made out of the
remnants of a defunct Massachusetts history museum that cashed
in on its real-estate potential. This still life in three dimensions makes
an old European art tradition into the site of wacky American-style
conflation. Recalling California assemblage traditions as well as artist
Fred Wilson’s institutional critiques made from museum collections,
Durant playfully redirects his source
material, liberating it from the dustbins of
history (literally saving it from the garbage
heap). Yet this simple group of nothing-
important is the USA itself – from risky
colonial project to site of too many things
that aren’t themselves – its technological
and ideological span all wrapped up in an
arrangement of representations, including
the severed extremity of an Indian’s
appendage.
With barbarians constantly collecting
at the gates of the state, representing the
other has long been a preoccupation of
Western image culture. In the US, the history
paintings that form the beginnings of a national style portray Native
Americans with European formal mastery. From Benjamin West’s
Revolutionary Era idealisations of peaceful, beautifully decorated
Indians in cross-cultural contact with colonists, to John Vanderlyn’s The
Death of Jane McCrea (1804), in which hunky, beastly savages violate
the soft white flesh of the new nation, allegorising the other through
pictures sets the framework for the American self. This tendency has
mobilised the thrust of American history, through everything from
minstrel theatre to the disjoined images of radical Islam we now see on
our cable news. The protean conception of the American self, based on
some loose organising principles rather than any authentic autochthony,
would lose its shape entirely without the limits of otherness.
above:
We Are the People, 2003, installation view, Project Row House, Houston, TX.
Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
>
FEATURE SAM DURANT
ARTREVIEW
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd53 53 9/1/07 00:11:19
FEATURE SAM DURANT
facing page:
Male Colonist (water carrier), 2006,
c-print, 152 x 127 cm, ed. of 5. Courtesy the artist
RATHER THAN MATERIALISING AS A STURDY
FOUNDATION FOR A NATIONAL HISTORICAL
PROJECT, THESE BROKENDOWN MYTHS IN WAX
FIGURE FORM APPEAR PARTICULARLY FLIMSY
ARTREVIEW
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd54 54 9/1/07 00:11:56
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd55 55 9/1/07 00:12:53
IT’S NOT UNCOMMON IN DURANT’S
CLASSES AT CAL ARTS FOR STUDENTS TO
SPEND AS MUCH TIME CONSIDERING
VOTING RIGHTS AS FORMAL PROBLEMS
OF CONSTRUCTION
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd56 56 9/1/07 00:13:27
FEATURE SAM DURANT
artists. It’s not uncommon in Durant’s classes at Cal Arts for students
to spend as much time considering voting rights as formal problems
of construction.
In The Society of the Spectacle (1967) Guy Debord describes
what’s happened to the notion of time as it flows through economic
and ideological shifts in European history. Debord traces the move
from the cyclical season-changes that guide agriculture, towards the
historical time of nation-state projects and finally the pseudo-cyclical
time of post-industrial spectacular culture. Since seasons mean next
to nothing to the flow of history today, especially in sunny Southern
California, we have been given false seasons as a way to mark our non-
progress. Our American holiday season, oriented around commodity
exchange, alternate labour schedules and specific colour schemes, is an
annual return to the look and feel of Christian capitalism. This season is
officially launched with Thanksgiving, landing unceremoniously on the
third or fourth Thursday of November, which commemorates a fictional
dinner the Puritan Pilgrims and the noble Indians cooked together in the
murky early seventeenth century, presumably to authorise the genocide
that followed. Though the Thanksgiving department-store parade still
marches annually through Manhattan with giant Pikachu and Snoopy
floats, Thanksgiving is losing its place in the American imaginary, being
squeezed out from between the product-laden poles of Halloween
and Christmas. Thanksgiving’s orange-and-brown colour scheme is
a bit 1970s for today’s sensibility. Slow-cooking, the extended family
and the naive idealisation of Native Americans are all anachronisms in
twenty-first-century America. Mega-Christianity has even displaced
the austerity and terseness of Puritanism. The holiday is a bit too
stark for today’s spectacular culture: there are no Thanksgiving carols,
costumes, candies or gifts. Jesus and other celebrities play hardly any
role at all. One is simply meant to give thanks for the American family
and eat in honour of those first colonists who ought to have starved to
death, were it not for the benevolent savages. It’s a narrative that’s lost
its realism.
For his 2005 exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York,
called Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions,
Washington, D.C., Durant remade a number of memorials that take the
form of vertical shafts. These memorials are found in far-flung locations
around the country and are dedicated to various colonial massacres,
most frequently those in which whites were killed. Durant made 30
scaled-down monuments as well as pencil drawings, all arranged
around a maquette of the National Mall in DC, where numerous
memorials already tower over American consciousness. These
memorials in the capital are selective, of course. There is no memorial
to slavery, no memorial to decimated cultures who were in the way of
manifest destiny. Durant’s proposal confronts both American history
and the memorial forms it employs, that much is obvious. But perhaps
even more important in this context is the interrogation of sculptures
themselves, as they sit in clusters on the floors of commercial galleries
everywhere, and the ideologies they support. Contemplative art objects,
whether made in the academic style of the turn of the nineteenth
century or the art-school style that dominates the early twenty-
first, serve aesthetic value systems and economic structures that are
worth some consideration. Here, Durant seems to be working both
sides of Benjamin’s pesky dichotomy; he aestheticises politics while
politicising art.
While Durant’s works of recent years have shown considerable
polish and finish, there is a quirkiness to the Mass Art project, titled
Scenes from the Pilgrim Story: Myths, Massacres, and Monuments, that
foregrounds the artist’s playful instincts. While the titular M-words
carry a heavy load, the f’d-up quality of these dilapidated figures is at
least a little bit funny. Their costume-shop outfits, awkward poses and
signs of age all speak to the impossibility of any of this being real. The
gap between what we now recognise about our colonial origins and
what we acknowledged a generation ago is astounding. One of the
pieces Durant restages is a scene of subjugation that was removed
from the museum’s diorama displays in the 1970s because its violence
had somehow become all too obvious in the years since it was installed.
As time passes, so do dubious superstitions. Durant’s project helps
demonstrate that while history is perennially malleable, working with its
material can do something to demystify the present.
Sam Durant is on show at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, from 3 to 24 March
facing page, above:
Landscape Response (pig heads), 2002, c-print, 127 x 168 cm.
Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
facing page, below:
Still Life (speaker, shoe, head), 2006, c-print, 127 x 152 cm, ed. of 5.
Courtesy the artist
ARTREVIEW
p 50-57 Sam Durant AR Feb07.indd57 57 9/1/07 23:33:06
FEATURE KEITH TYSON
ARTREVIEW
p 58-61 Keith Tyson AR Feb07.in58 58 9/1/07 00:17:51
ON THE PLAINS OF NEW MEXICO, about 50 miles west of Socorro on
US Highway 60, there’s a thing called the Very Large Array. The VLA
(that’s what people who know what it is call it) consists of 27 satellite
dishes, each weighing 230 tonnes, pointed towards the heavens in
order to map out the universe and explain such remote and mysterious
phenomena as black holes and planetary nebulae. But while its primary
role may be that of a passive mirror to the stars, the VLA is something
of an attraction in itself. It appears in movies (Contact, 1997), pop
videos (Bon Jovi’s Everyday, 2002) and novels (Arthur C. Clarke’s
2010: Odyssey Two, 1982). And, in most of these, it serves as a cipher
for man’s connection to the extraterrestrial; in other words, the VLA
also functions as a launch pad for imaginative leaps, rather than a
receptacle for cold, hard scientific radiowaves. So, for the VLA-curious
(or those people commonly known as geeks), the site’s administrators
offer tours (8.30 am till dusk), explanatory video presentations of the
equipment, (not so) sneak previews of the site’s latest technologies
and several picnic tables. And, in the gift shop, alongside VLA T-shirts
and fridge magnets, you’ll find a Solar System Magic Cube ($7). Like
the data garnered by the VLA ($78.5 million), it can be unfolded to
reveal portraits of the solar system, but in a way that’s far more tangible
than most of the other things that go on 50 miles west of Socorro.
As its title suggests, British artist Keith Tyson’s Large Field Array
(2006), currently on display at the De Pont Museum of Contemporary
Art in Holland, takes its jumping-off point from some of the scientific
instruments to be found in New Mexico. Perhaps you might even
describe it as occupying a kind of cultural halfway point between the
VLA and the Solar System Magic Cube. For one thing, LFA is – as
you might reasonably expect – big, and the VLA–Magic Cube
analogy is a lot easier and quicker than any attempt at describing what
the 300 individual sculptural cubes that make up the work actually look
like. I say that not simply as an admission of laziness, but also because
trying to describe or even come to terms with big, complicated stuff in
a concise, albeit sometimes indirect, way is one of the things that LFA
is about. The ostensible subject matter of the sculptures ranges from
confectionary to cosmology, from particle physics to celebrity
weddings, from natural science to Siamese sportsmen and from
Fabergé eggs to the artwork of Yves Klein, Martin Kippenberger and
Marc Quinn. And that doesn’t even give you a fraction of the total
picture. But leaving aside its individual components, Tyson’s work
coheres through a fusion of more or less mysterious ‘science’ and
straightforward representational aesthetics. The majority of the
beautifully crafted sculptures have an easily legible pop aesthetic; but
how they are linked to their immediate neighbours and the work as a
whole is the result of more subtle, and at times complex, operations.
The result is a portrait of something that appears to involve life, the
universe and everything.
The VLA is what’s known, in the astrological trade, as an
interferometer. Look that up in a dictionary and you’ll find (assuming
you’ve got one of the larger types of dictionary) that it’s a radio
telescope consisting of more than two antennae that relies on the
phenomenon of interference to increase the effective resolution of the
final picture. By combining all the static and rough edges of 27
individual images, and letting them overlap into something sharper
(layering individual radio waves until they flatten out), the VLA
presents a much clearer global picture.
Tyson’s sculpture works in much the same way. (And if you
know anything about Tyson, that’s probably no surprise. A Turner Prize
winner back in 2002, his zany, more-or-less cod science aesthetic
results in him being frequently described as the artworld’s mad
scientist.) Each of the cube sculptures is subject to the influence and
distortion effected by the works around it. So, wandering through, you
can pick up a trail of thought that begins, to take one example, with a
glowing yellow sun, travels through portraits of various planets and
astrological symbols, and ends up with a leering, goat-like head that
seems to have something to do with pagan devil worship. Alternative
routes involve commentaries on urban planning, natural phenomena
such as volcanoes, tornadoes and deep-sea lobsters, and popular
culture in the form of magazines, music, film and literature. LFA at
times seems to function as a Borgesian labyrinth or a crossword puzzle
that is as much cryptic as it is concise.
But as much as it is sublime, LFA is not without a distinct
element of the ridiculous. If anything and everything can be plugged
into it or implicated in it, then the work (as much as it is a portrait of
everything) is just as much a statement of nothingness (in the sense
that it is not specifically or exclusively about anything) as it is a
statement of somethingness – a bit like the captain’s map in Lewis
LIFE, THE
UNIVERSE AND
EVERYTHING
KEITH TYSON
words MARK RAPPOLT
A Portrait in 300 Parts
p 58-61 Keith Tyson AR Feb07.in59 59 9/1/07 23:40:11
p 58-61 Keith Tyson AR Feb07.in60 60 9/1/07 00:19:58
above: Large Field Array, 2006, six-part studio wall drawing
facing page: Large Field Array (detail), 2006, installation view, Louisiana Museum
for Modern Art, Denmark. Photos: P. Buchard.
previous page: Large Field Array (detail), 2006, mixed media, variable dimensions.
Photos: S. Roberton and A. Makinson, Prudence Cuming Associates.
All images © Keith Tyson, courtesy Haunch of Venison, London
FEATURE KEITH TYSON
Carroll’s poem ‘Hunting of the Snark’ (‘He had bought a large map
representing the sea,/Without the least vestige of land:/And the crew
were so pleased when they found it to be/A map they could all
understand’). And perhaps that fragility is ultimately what makes this a
work of art rather than science. It leaves space (literally as you walk
through it) for the viewer to make their own connections, to make
imaginative leaps. As if to acknowledge that, Tyson includes
photographs of himself (on holiday, with members of his family, etc) in
one of the cubes. Which, of course, leads the viewer to wander back
round the sculpture trying to fit it together as a very subjective portrait
of something we might call Tyson’s world (and indeed, the work is, in
some ways, a summary of Tyson’s past artworks).
Ultimately, that’s what distinguishes LFA from the VLA. If you
want objective science, skip Holland and go straight to New Mexico.
But if you want to think subjectively, about how you fit into the
universe, go to Holland. It’ll be one of the most rewarding experiences
you’ll have in a while.
Keith Tyson: Large Field Array will be on show at the De Pont
(www.depont.nl), Tilberg, Holland, from 10 February to 17 June
TYSON’S ZANY, COD
SCIENCE AESTHETIC
RESULTS IN HIM
BEING DESCRIBED
AS THE ARTWORLD’S
MAD SCIENTIST
ARTREVIEW
p 58-61 Keith Tyson AR Feb07.in61 61 9/1/07 00:20:14
With assistance and over a period of
days, Ray moved the tree, piece by piece, to his
studio, where he produced a fibreglass cast of
each massive section. The cast sections were
taken to Japan, where Ray located a team of
traditional master carvers, who have since been
meticulously replicating the tree, inside and out,
from huge laminated cylinders of cypress wood,
for several years. The sections will eventually be
brought together and Hinoki will remain in Japan
as a ghostly trace of the dead California tree. At
the time of my writing, the pressing issue Ray
faces is deciding exactly when the work – which
has been carved toward an idea of ‘exactitude’
– is finally finished. The idea for the work was
never finite and has in fact evolved over time,
resulting in part from decisions more pragmatic
than conceptual.
While Ray is often discussed in relation
to minimalism, or the high modernist sculpture
of Anthony Caro – both serve as significant, if
paradoxical, influences on his thinking about
sculpture – it is also important to remember
that the artist’s formative years coincided with
the rapid proliferation and institutionalisation
of conceptual art tendencies. In his influential
‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’ (Artforum, 1967)
Sol LeWitt wrote, ‘the idea becomes a machine
that makes the art’. One can see residual traces of this paradigm in
certain works by Ray, in which the work could be effectively described
in its title. All My Clothes (1973), for example, consists of 16 nearly
identical photographs of Ray wearing each item of clothing he owned.
But it would become clear in the intervening years that the artist was
increasingly interested in something antithetical to LeWitt’s suggestion
(also in ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’) that ‘all the planning and
decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair’.
While Ray’s work usually begins with an idea, that idea is open-ended:
the decision-making process is slow and perpetual, and ultimately
determines what the idea of the work is – after, rather than before, the
fact. This is exemplified by Hinoki. In interviews with the artist (and even
in a few texts written by him), Ray has indicated many of his works have
CHARLES RAY IS AN ANACHRONISM. In 1978
the artist presented a wall-mounted sculpture
entitled Clock Man, featuring a large generic
clock face painted on an oversize wooden
box. Ray was situated in the box, and his legs
dangled like ridiculous pendulums from holes
in the bottom of it. The piece followed from a
number of works in which Ray’s body was used
to activate or complete a sculpture. Several of
these were preserved as photographs: Untitled
(1973) is a black-and-white photograph of
Ray tied to a cantilevered tree branch; Plank
Piece I–II (1973) is a photographic diptych that
documents the artist pinned to the wall, in two
different ways, by a large wooden plank. Clock
Man was also photographed for posterity, but
unlike these other examples, the piece was
intended as a performance; it was impossible
to represent the work as a single photographic
instant: it happened in time. Over the course
of a day, Ray kept time from inside Clock Man,
manually moving the hands on the clock face
according to his unassisted perception of the
minutes passing. By the end of the performance,
the clock read six o’clock, and Ray was three
hours ahead of time.
Over the years since Clock Man, Ray has
increasingly left the clock behind, so to speak,
with projects that consume not hours but years of time and, seemingly,
generations of studio assistants. (In one slightly dubious anecdote told
by a former assistant, Ray literally removed the batteries from his studio
clock and, remarkably, nobody stopped working to take lunch.) He is
currently trying to finish an enormous work tentatively entitled Hinoki,
which is the Japanese word for cypress wood. While driving through
California’s Central Coast, Ray became obsessed with a very old fallen
tree near a vineyard. The 30-foot-long tree, seemingly melted into the
ground where it fell, had been devoured from the inside by insects;
it was a complex index of natural processes and time. Ray considered
the sculptural possibilities of the tree for a long time, and at one point
even considered producing a pneumatic replica of it – an idea that
proved impractical.
SLOW DISSOLVE CHARLES RAY
words MICHAEL NED HOLTE
From Clock Man to Grand Am: one man’s labours of love
above:
Clock Man, 1978, mixed media
facing page:
Plank Piece I, 1973, one of two black-and-white photographs
mounted on rag board, each 100 x 69 cm
ARTREVIEW
>
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind62 62 9/1/07 09:48:17
ARTREVIEW
FEATURE CHARLES RAY
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind63 63 3/1/07 02:48:48
ARTREVIEW
FEATURE CHARLES RAY
above:
Unpainted Sculpture, 1997
fibreglass, paint,
152 x 198 x 434 cm
left:
Handheld Bird, 2006,
painted stainless steel,
5 x 10 x 8 cm
facing page, above:
Untitled (Tractor), 2003–5, aluminium, 159 x 47 x 29 cm,
Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo
Photo: Anders Valde
Installation view:
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo
16.09 – 17.12.2006
facing page, below:
Oh Charley, Charley, Charley, mixed media, 183 x 457 x 457 cm
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind64 64 8/1/07 15:55:26
DOES THE FACT THAT
EACH INDIVIDUAL
SCULPTURE
CONSUMES YEARS OF
TIME BECOME PART
OF THE PERCEPTUAL
EXPERIENCE?
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind65 65 3/1/07 02:48:57
started with an idea about space. While this seems a likely starting point,
the gradual transformation of these works throughout the intervening
process – and the way the viewer is expected to perceive that process
– suggests that Ray’s works are ultimately about time.
In many ways Hinoki seems to spin out of Ray’s 1997 Unpainted
Sculpture. The initial idea for Unpainted Sculpture, which looks like
the pale, if opaque, apparition of a wrecked car, emerged when Ray
suggested that a former student replace his crumpled fender with a
cast fibreglass version of it. Quickly Ray claimed the idea as worthy
of sculptural investigation and decided to take the idea to its logical,
if perverse, extreme: ‘I spent a couple of months looking for a wrecked
car that was really sculptural. I went to all these insurance yards, and
I was looking at ones in which fatalities had occurred. I don’t believe
in ghosts, but I wondered that if there were ghosts, would the ghost
inhabit the actual physical molecules of the structure, or would it be
more interested in inhabiting the topology or the geometry of the
structure? You know, if you were to duplicate the geometry, would the
ghost follow?’ (Index, 1998).
Ray eventually settled upon a wrecked
1991 Pontiac Grand Am, and with a group of
assistants began methodically to disassemble
the vehicle into its constituent parts, making
a mould of each in order to cast each part
in fibreglass, finally assembling the various
replicas to create Unpainted Sculpture. The
title Ray chose for the piece is actually a lie:
the sculpture is painted with a uniform coat of
matt primer grey, which unifies the sculpture
not unlike the way yellow paint unifies the
parts of Caro’s Prairie (1967).
It had been some eight years since
I had seen Unpainted Sculpture, when the
work served as the stunning climax of Ray’s
travelling retrospective. It now resides at
the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and,
when I recently saw it again in person, had
lost none of its initial, even hallucinatory
impact – pun intended – as a disturbing
emblem of the acceleration, recklessness and
disposability of late capitalist culture at the
end of the twentieth century. In this sense it
responds, however ambiguously, to Warhol’s ‘death and disaster’ series
of paintings (1962–3) and J.G. Ballard’s Crash. (David Cronenberg’s
filming of Ballard’s 1973 novel coincided with the production of Ray’s
car.) In fact, one can practically imagine it holding a potent charge a
hundred – if not a thousand – years from now, even if one can’t possibly
envision the society around it.
Despite such cultural cachet, the real gravitational pull of
Unpainted Sculpture is due to its form, which is at once elegant and
fucked up. Like an accident, it stops time. The sculpture unifies – one
might say collides – a number of ongoing concerns for the artist,
bringing together the complex, folding forms of Baroque sculpture, the
perceptual elasticity of Caro (as one circles the work) and the inside/
outside spatial dynamic of Donald Judd’s monochromatic boxes. Along
the way, the work also plays out Ray’s interest in the generic versus
the specific, and the hallucinatory versus the imagistic. Seen in person,
what seems solid can quickly evaporate as one moves around the car
or directs one’s attention from the inside to the outside of the vehicle.
Or as Ray has suggested, ‘I think the piece has my very best and my
very worst in it. It has a bit of my showoffiness, and my sensationalism
and grandstanding… but it also has my best, I think, in its uncanny-ness.
I hope it draws people in’ (Index, 1998). In part, Unpainted Sculpture
is uncanny because the material is unified and continuous. The work
is actually heavier than the car it was cast from, because the fibreglass
is, on average, heavier than the material that comprises a 1991
Grand Am, an effect that seems to follow from Ray’s deceptively
heavy 7
1/2 Ton Cube (1990), a solid three-foot cube painted with white
automobile paint.
Adding to the perceptual conundrum is the actual act of
translation of a variety of materials into fibreglass, which led Ray to a
number of unexpected judgement calls. For example, the broken taillight
on the Grand Am looked wrong to Ray once it was cast in fibreglass,
though technically speaking the part was perfectly well made. Using
clay, he adjusted the mould to create an easier perceptual transition
from the inside to the outside of the taillight, which Ray compares to
a cinematic dissolve artificially moving the viewer from one space to
another. Like the title, the taillight is a fiction.
How important is it for the viewer
to see the labour in a work of art? Does the
fact that each individual sculpture consumes
years of time and thousands upon thousands
of man-hours become part of the perceptual
experience? Untitled (Tractor) (2003–5)
follows closely from Unpainted Sculpture
– one might even say it follows from the
broken taillight of the Grand Am – yet
the construction of the piece was far more
elaborate than was its predecessor. The
tractor immediately signifies labour – and,
allegorically, the ghost of a long-departed
American economy – but one might not
immediately comprehend the amount or kind
of work that went into its making. For Untitled
(Tractor) Ray decided to replicate a broken-
down 1938 Cletrac tractor in cast aluminium,
but rather than making a direct mould of each
piece he directed his assistants to carve a
replica of each individual piece of the tractor.
Like an early industrial capitalist, Ray carefully
divided his labour, assigning different parts
based on the individual carving skills of his assistants, resulting in a wide
variety of exactitude and degrees of ‘finish’. Under scrutiny, the whole
slowly gives way to a mind-boggling assemblage of individuated parts.
Many of the parts are actually hidden from view within the tractor’s
body, and one could interpret this as evidence of Ray’s madness, or
merely his faith in the process. Both are probably true. Ask him, and he
will say a person viewing the tractor can actually sense the existence of
the unseen parts.
But Ray’s faith in the viewer is always seemingly at risk.
The further he takes a work down the slippery slope towards ‘completion’,
the more he relies on the viewer to find the glitch, the fuck-up, the seam
between reality and hallucination, that serves as a point of entry into
the work. As contemporary culture (and the art market) accelerates
to a mind-numbing blur, Ray feathers the breaks, almost imperceptibly,
towards a standstill, and invites the viewer along for the ride.
New work by Charles Ray will be on show at Matthew Marks Gallery,
New York in November
THE FURTHER
HE TAKES A
WORK TOWARDS
‘COMPLETION’,
THE MORE HE
RELIES UPON THE
VIEWER TO FIND
THE FUCKUP
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind66 66 3/1/07 02:49:02
ARTREVIEW
FEATURE CHARLES RAY
7 1/2 Ton Cube, 1990, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino
Photo: Anders Valde. Installation view:
Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, 16.09 – 17.12.2006
All images courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
p 62-67 Charles Ray AR Feb07.ind67 67 8/1/07 15:50:44
AS I WRITE THIS, MY WORKSPACE IS WREATHED IN CLOUDY SOUND.
On my desk, set to one of nine preprogrammed and infinitely
repeating ambient loops, is a Buddha Machine: an inexpensive device
designed to induce a contemplative state. The rub, or the beauty of it,
is this: the speaker rattles audibly throughout playback, and it is di cult,
when listening or attempting to achieve that state of tranquillity, to
ignore the sound carrier behind those ethereal drones. Nevertheless
the vibration becomes part of the loop, frosting it with sepulchral
glitches. Christian Marclay didn’t blueprint the Buddha Machine, but
it’s not too outlandish to imagine he might have done: exploiting the
contingencies of sonic conveyance has long been his speciality.
In 1985 the Swiss-born, US-bred (and now London-based)
artist released Record without a Cover, a vinyl album to be stored
sleeveless, so that it might pick up scratches, and with that play an
ever-evolving series of novel pops and hums. “It’s the perfect record,
because its imperfections will never oend the music,” Marclay said,
with rare immodesty, in 1991. “I’m revealing the musical properties that
the record has built into itself.” Here, condensed into an economical
artefact, was John Cage’s symbolic erasure of boundaries between
music and noise hitched to a belief in an inherent capacity of mass-
produced objects to attain singularity via the incidents and accidents
of possession. During a quarter-century of wide-ranging production,
this has been Marclay’s primary focus: to reveal sound’s roots in
manmade objects and the world of human impulse; and to explore the
potential of sound-carrying materials to be reshaped, reconsidered,
thrust forth – for purposes poetic and even understatedly political.
Here, then, is a purely personal mixtape of his greatest hits so far:
1 Phonoguitar (1982) Marclay, a non-musician enraptured by
experimental music while studying art on exchange in New York, straps
a customised turntable around his neck and poses onstage like a guitar
god (sometimes playing and processing Jimi Hendrix vinyl as if
possessed by the spirit of the late guitarist). In doing so, he forces the
consideration of a transmitter of recorded music as a musical
instrument of nuance and flexibility, and anticipates, by several years,
the notion of DJs-as-rock-stars.
2 The Sound of Silence (1988) A framed life-size black-and-
white photograph of the vinyl version of Simon & Garfunkel’s mournful
1965 hit: one of many Marclay works in which sound is inferred but
absent, from curatorial projects featuring paintings of musical
performances to sculptures made from bastardised instruments or
magnetic tape. Silent yet not, it triggers the mind to cue the song and
locate what Georey O’Brien, in Sonata for Jukebox: Pop Music,
Memory, and the Imagined Life (2004), describes as ‘bits of the lost live
moments that might adhere to it’ – the historical residue that clings on;
the proof of cheap music’s potency.
3 Body Mix (1991–2). Sewn-together, exquisite-corpse-like
collages of record covers: a layer cake of concerns. When, in
Footstompin’ (1991), Michael Jackson’s upper half (from Thriller, 1983)
meets another sleeve’s tanned female midri and legs, and a third’s
bare calf and silver-heeled foot, we’re laughing – and thinking about
Jackson’s gender confusion, the variable fetishising of sexuality in pop
packaging, Warhol’s stitched Polaroids and the mechanical
SHOOT
’EM UP
words MARTIN HERBERT
The Sound of Violence
CHRISTIAN
MARCLAY
p 68-71 Marclay AR Feb07.indd 68 9/1/07 00:23:30
ARTREVIEW
this page:
Video Quartet, 2002, four-channel DVD projection with sound, 244 x 1219 cm
facing page:
Crossfire, 2007, video installation, synchronised four-channel video projection
with sound, colour
FEATURE CHRISTIAN MARCLAY
p 68-71 Marclay AR Feb07.indd 69 9/1/07 02:04:10
interchangeability of body parts and centrality of physical images in
selling music. Then Jim Morrison bowls up in a G-string and we’re
laughing again.
4) Berlin Mix (1993) Music as social lubricant, social adhesive:
180 musicians playing divergent styles are ‘conducted’ via Marclay’s
hand signals into an ongoing tapestry of sound, a temporary oasis.
5) Guitar Drag (2000) On shaky video, an amplified Fender
Stratocaster tied to the back of a truck is pulled violently along a gravel
road, resulting in great Sonic Youth-style skronk. “Some people walk
out exhilarated, rushing”, says Marclay; “some are totally disturbed,
because they read into it the imagery of lynching.” For the noisy rite
also refers to the race murder of James Byrd, Jr, who was chained and
dragged to death in Texas on 7 June 1998. “Definitely it has this
ambiguity; you might feel kind of guilty enjoying the pleasure of it;
there’s a tension there between fun and
violence.” The guitar, symbol of teenage
rebellion, formalises violence: its metallic
clangour resonates a disturbingly long way.
And then there are Marclay’s dazzling
video installations: Telephones (1995), Video
Quartet (2002) and now Crossfire (2007),
the centrepiece of his current show at White
Cube’s Hoxton Square branch. In each of
these Marclay adopts an archivist’s approach
to Hollywood cinema, creating painstaking
compositions (“like doing crossword
puzzles”, he says) out of tiny snippets of
celluloid. A four-screen masterwork, which
Marclay spent a year constructing, Video
Quartet was built from some 700 clips and
works up from an opening ‘tune up’ (clips of
people unpacking and testing their
instruments) to process through various
overlaid instrumental passages – a form of
densely articulated, endlessly rewatchable
audiovisual musique concrète.
In the four-screen surrounding
enclosure of Crossfire, “the images are all of
people shooting guns at you”, says Marclay.
“The imagery, thousands of very short clips,
is mostly from recent Hollywood films –
because they’re more graphic and violent
nowadays, the guns are more in-your-
face, and there’s more detail, more fetishistic
handling. But you don’t see the
consequences: the classical edit is that you
show the victim going down; here there’s no
blood. Only twice do you sense there’s this bullet coming towards you.
It’s a bit of technical trickery; I think it’s from a John Woo film… Still, it’s
quite a threatening environment.” Like Video Quartet (and Telephones,
which began with a multiplicity of actors dialling numbers), the work
has an overture-like beginning: we see the participants loading their
guns, pulling them out of holsters and cases. Then the shooting starts;
and so does the music.
“It’s loud, and often very percussive. Some sections are
extremely rhythmical – I turn the sounds into a beat – and then there’s
stop-and-start, reloading; then it circles back to the beginning. It’s
going to be an endless loop,” says Marclay. One thinks, naturally, of
noise-into-music antecedents, including Luigi Russolo and his noise-
making ‘Intonarumori’. “You can’t escape the Futurists; it is embracing
noise, pre-Cage,” Marclay agrees. “They, though, were seeing beauty
in war. I don’t think that’s necessarily what I’m doing. Still, it is there in
the [source] films: that’s why people love watching them. Sex and
violence sell. But there’s something beyond the violence: it’s imagined,
you can pretend, put yourself in harm’s way. Crossfire creates a strange
tension: we’re so used to seeing the reaction shot, and not seeing it
changes the way the violence is perceived… and by turning these
gunshots into dance rhythms, it definitely creates a double edge to
this piece.”
And that’s without even getting to Crossfire’s levels-within-
levels. (In conversation, for example, Marclay alludes to the last
century’s parallel technological advances in film and weaponry by
comparing the filmic apparatus to a machine gun, firing out serial
bursts of imagery; the shortest of his clips is
a mere seven frames.) If the hitching of
gunplay to kinetic musical excitement will
read dierently to each audience, that’s fine;
Marclay isn’t selling a gun-control agenda,
although this is clearly an artwork made in a
time of war and spectacle. He’s out to
create a signal complexity – visual and
auditory, narrative and musical aspects
playing with and against each other,
encouraging the free play of chance,
subjectivity, thought.
Marclay is also showing a series of
ink-jet prints based on collages he’d made
of onomatopoeic sounds from comic strips
(zap!, pow!, ker-blam!, etc), strung together.
“I wanted to blow them up and look at the
texture” – again, the tactile material of
sound – “and so, yes, you see the Benday
dots and they’re obviously relating to Pop
art, Lichtenstein. But mostly they’re little
sound events, sound haikus.” As ever,
Marclay here is taking reproducible media,
individualising it, and enacting some
symbolic form of control over it, showing its
potential to speak in unlikely ways. For him,
aside from historical fascination (“comic
books were attacked as dangerously
influential in their time”, he notes), all of this
might be a way of dealing with the weight
of media.
“I have this tendency to be an
archivist”, he says, “which maybe does show
in pieces like these. Something in me wanted to reject that, so I try and
do something with it. I’ve had this with records: part of me wants to
collect them and part of me wants to destroy them. If I use something
in my work, it doesn’t become precious anymore.” I tell him that a
friend of mine visited him recently and found him living in an utterly
Spartan environment. How, if he owns nothing, does he do his all-
important research? “I’ve just moved apartments, so all my stu is in
storage,” Marclay laughs. “Right now, it’s a nightmare.”
Christian Marclay: Crossfire will be on show at White Cube, Hoxton
Square, London, from 2 February to 10 March
FEATURE CHRISTIAN MARCLAY
“SOME PEOPLE
WALK OUT
EXHILARATED,
RUSHING… SOME
ARE TOTALLY
DISTURBED”
ARTREVIEW
p 68-71 Marclay AR Feb07.indd 70 9/1/07 16:47:22
above: Conk, 2006, pigment print on Arches paper
facing page: Skiilp, 2006, pigment print on Arches paper
All images © the artist. Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube, London
p 68-71 Marclay AR Feb07.indd 71 9/1/07 00:24:15
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a project by CORY ARCANGEL ARTREVIEW
p 75 Video Opener AR Feb07.indd 75 3/1/07 01:52:31
IN A FRONT-PAGE ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN (20 November 2006)
James Silver berated a tabloid newspaper’s ‘celebrity film critic’
(Johnny Vaughan) for never actually attending any preview screenings
of the films he supposedly writes about. Silver’s consternation reminds
us of some useful points. Films have duration and are projected in
particular places. Film is impossible to reference in the way that a still
image can represent a painting or a sculpture: even if a distributor sent
a DVD to Vaughan, he would still need to watch it.
The films of Robert Beavers might be said to make form and
content through the exploitation of these things – that a film must be
seen in a cinema, with all that this entails. They also challenge the
systems of exhibition we currently have in place. None of his works are
rentable from a distributor. None exist in any preview format – there
are no tapes or DVDs. To see the work you have to attend a screening,
which currently will only happen with Beavers’s personal supervision.
So Tate Modern organised a preview showing (in the presence of the
artist) in March 2006, to publicise their retrospective scheduled for
February 2007 (following the Whitney Museum’s acclaimed series of
2005). It featured three exquisite films: Early Monthly Segments (1968–
70/2002), Work Done (1972/1999), The Ground (1993–2001). The
notes I wrote at the time, in the dark, scrawl and swerve across the
page. They are relatively sparse, but nonetheless flicker around a
recurring response to just how sexy these films are, how much to me
they seem to be about (sexual, homosexual) desire, with their recurring
glimpses of naked men, Mediterranean sunshine, idylls and insistence
on perfect bodies in nature, or dressed in sharp suits within single
rooms in European cities. Impeccably crafted, they are tender,
transcendental works that absorb and represent European modernism
and the classicism of ancient Greece; stunning optical manipulations
allow them to be visionary, other-worldly, seemingly out-of-time.
There is a standard text on these non-narrative ‘poetic’ films
that generally discusses them in formal terms: the use of mattes
(plates that cover part of the image) and colour filters in Early Monthly
Segments, for example, or Beavers’s peculiar editing process, which is
not dependent on the projected image but rather informed by his own
memory of the image and the literal and metaphorical weight of the
actual film in the filmmaker’s hand. In part these discussions are
prompted by Beavers’s control – how the work is described is as
important as how it is presented – but they elide a significant set of
social and political resonances.
Robert Beavers was born in 1949 in Brookline, Massachusetts.
At the age of sixteen he moved to New York, where he met the
dazzlingly brilliant filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos. The two became
partners and in 1967 left New York for Europe, driven by their
dovetailing practices, the bearers of an a liation with such visionary
artists as Jean Cocteau, Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren and Stan
Brakhage. On leaving America Markopoulos also entirely withdrew
from its cultural context and removed all of his films from distribution
– acts that Kristin M. Jones in Artforum (Summer 1996) describes as
precipitating his own ‘critical obscurity’ and as being provoked by ‘a
horror of the Vietnam War’. Beavers similarly withdrew from exhibiting
his work. At his own insistence, no film of his was shown in the US
between 1974 and the New York Film Festival in 1999.
Beavers’s work in part documents and in part constructs the
cities in which the two artists lived across Switzerland, Greece, Italy,
Austria, Belgium and Germany, to the extent that his films seem
inseparable from their locations. He provides his own commentary on
a process that – as with Brakhage – veers towards mythologising: ‘The
film does not follow in the footsteps of a thought; it is released from
the thought without abandoning it’ (The Searching Measure, 2004).
Yet in this conjuring of time, space and thought the films are
nonetheless thoroughly informed by the physical and geographical
situations in which they were made.
The pace of Beavers’s practice is extraordinary and without
concession to market or cultural forces – he has spent decades re-
editing material. This and its cautious exhibition ought to be a clarion
call to the culture industry about the virtues of taking time for the sake
of looking. Many of the films in the magnificent two ‘cycles’ showing at
Tate Modern this month were begun (or finished once) in the late
1960s or 70s only to be finally finished (finished again) in the late 90s
or even more recently. As such they become idealising attempts at
capturing those people and places from which they are indivisible.
According to a notice in The New York Times (20 November 1992),
Markopoulos died ‘after a long illness’ at the age of sixty-four. Beavers’s
lexicon, however cryptic, stands spectacularly against the ravages of
time and long illnesses. Somehow these films manage to make bodies
whole by reconfiguring and reconstructing acts of looking, rather than
documenting their falling apart or our witnessing of that.
Before Markopoulos’s death, he and Beavers set out to find
what Markopoulos would describe as the ideal screening location for
his work, a project they called the Temenos (literally, ‘a piece of land set
apart’ or a ‘sacred place’). In Lyssaraia on the Peloponnese, in Greece,
an olive grove became this site. Like a natural Bayreuth, it was a place
indivisible from the work Markopoulos made to be shown there, and
annual screenings occured between 1980 and 1986 – a period during
which America and England experienced Reagan and Thatcher, and
communities, artistic and otherwise, were decimated by AIDS.
Perhaps it is this olive grove that Beavers would have flat-
packed and sent to reviewers who don’t attend preview screenings, or
perhaps it would simply be the auditorium itself, designed to flip open
in the writer’s study. Maybe, rather, we should stop, slow down
ourselves and acknowledge the incredibly rare opportunity that these
programmes at the Tate provide us with. Perhaps in this way this
amazing work might also become understood as social and political.
ARTREVIEW
IS FILM A SITE-SPECIFIC
ARTFORM?
ROBERT BEAVERS
words IAN WHITE
ARTREVIEW
FILM AND VIDEO
p 76-77 Special Focus AR Feb07.i76 76 4/1/07 23:53:37
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p 78-83 Video 2 AR Feb07.indd 78 8/1/07 17:27:09
LATELY I’VE FOUND THAT, to paraphrase the notorious quip attributed
to Barnett Newman, sculpture is what I bump into when I’m backing
up to look at a video. Case in point: the murky electric sprawl of
Nathaniel Mellors’s Hateball (2005). Typically for him, the British artist
laid out manifold screens and projections, simultaneously beaming
forth abject soliloquies characterised by discordant, broken language:
a supposed giantess declaimed a mixture of fascist demagoguery and
gobbledegook; a Japanese musician inaccurately recited lyrics by The
Fall; and a seemingly Irish actor in a blood-soaked skintight tunic acted
out a Sylvester Stallone monologue from First Blood (1982). Also
typically, however, these were surrounded in the darkened space by
treacherous sculptural detritus: abject mannequins, random swirling
lights, spindly compound objects – the whole delivering a sense of
intractable mêlée. Fragmentation, distraction and confusion are,
indeed, the aims of Mellors’s art, in the interests of questioning the
socio-political function of language. (Hateball was chiefly inspired by
the paranoid 1960s TV show The Prisoner.) But he’s only one of a
number of contemporary artists subjecting video to radical expansion.
In some ways, admittedly, it’s not radical at all. Surely the
most conflicted and least self-contained of artistic mediums, video
has long had its hands in the pockets of other artistic approaches. It
hustled forth under a double shadow of dependency – as either a
pragmatic bolt-on for performance art or a format fighting an evil
twin, since much early video art sought to interrogate and redeem
what it most closely resembled: television, whether commercially
broadcast or closed-circuit. Perhaps it’s also apt that the first artform
to emerge in the wake of shattered modernist theories of purity and
medium-specificity (the date generally given for its nascence is 1965,
the year Sony debuted its Portapak) should have proved so
enduringly promiscuous.
When the mobile video camera’s legendary first purchaser,
Nam June Paik, collaborated with American cellist Charlotte
Moorman in productions ranging from cello-shaped stacks of
televisions to 1969’s attention-getting wearable media, TV Bra for
Living Sculpture, he wasn’t just aiming, as he averred, to ‘humanise
technology and the electronic medium’. The Korean artist/composer
was simultaneously pursuing the chimera of visualised music, and
trespassing upon sculptural and performative realms. When Bruce
Nauman invited unwary viewers into Live-Taped Video Corridor
(1970), his Foucault-flavoured exploration of that lodestar of the
nascent society of control, CCTV, he hitched video to architectural
intervention: audiences trundled down a narrow ten-metre-long
passage towards a live image of themselves on a faraway monitor;
since the filming camera was behind them, their rear views
miniaturised inexorably as they approached.
Not everyone has deigned to think outside the box. Consider
Rebecca Horn’s self-starring Berlin Exercises (1974–5), insular
narratives acted out while wearing prostheses or adapted costumes:
spidery finger extensions; an outfit made of mirrors. Or, less well
known, US artist Kim Jones’s taped performances as ‘Mudman’, a
genderless, shu ing insectoid figure, tights over its face, mud caking
its skin and a dense structure of dried branches pinned to its back,
who, since the mid-1970s, has embodied the Vietnam-vet artist’s
bleakly poetic conception of the internal warring and primal fear
underwriting the human condition. (Jones’s wooden props have
wound up as standalone sculptures in galleries, à la Matthew Barney.)
Erase the human figure from these equations and you have video that
encloses sculpture: an approach traceable back to Marcel Duchamp’s
early films (and Maya Deren’s Witch’s Cradle Outtakes (1943), starring
Duchamp’s string sculpture) – and perfected, of course, by Fischli and
Weiss in The Way Things Go (1987), their brilliant stream of
cheapskate physics experiments doubling as a philosophical inquiry
into causality. Even after sit-down-viewer video triumphed, cross-
breeding persisted and persists – with sculpture in particular;
unsurprisingly since videos and monitors exist in space.
Blow up video so that it is, once again, part of a sculptural
matrix, and you arrive at the practices of several leading US artists
who, from the late 1970s onwards, have treated all media with a punky
practicality, including Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy (whose videos
documented what was essentially performance art, and were then
embedded within sculptural installations), and, more programmatically,
Tony Oursler. He or a performer would monologue twitchily to
camera, often rehearsing those mental fragmentations the artist saw
as a consequence of technology’s capacity to rewire subjectivity; their
anxious faces would then be video-projected onto the balloon-like
heads of cloth dummies, dumped on the gallery floor or, occasionally,
suspended in water-filled tanks. Collected in the gallery, the result –
while formally indebted, like sculptural video installation in general, to
Paik’s pioneering cross-media works such as TV Garden (1974), a
tropical-electrical bower of potted palms and glowing monitors –
foreshadowed the kinds of flickering digital grottoes, mixing high- and
low-tech elements, increasingly prevalent today. It also anticipated
another contemporary facet of expanded video: that the very
psychological discomfort and uncertainty activated by the
mongrelising of media, playing on a latent animus to the vertigo of
medium non-specificity, might underscore the art’s concepts.
Back to the present: artists, Tony Oursler once lamented to me,
thought video would allow them to create their own TV channels, but
instead part of video art’s burden has been that of the potentially
redemptive, or lacerating, critical doppelganger of the idiot box – and
certainly this seems true of New York-based Israeli artist Tamy Ben-
Tor. While she ostensibly hews closer to a conception of video as a
functional mode of distribution for performances, on tape at least (she
also performs live) her work – equal parts Cindy Sherman and
FILM AND VIDEO
ARTREVIEW
WHY IS SO MUCH OF TODAY’S
VIDEO ART ACCOMPANIED
BY THINGS THAT GO BUMP
IN THE DARK?
BEYOND VIDEO
words MARTIN HERBERT
FILM AND VIDEO
p 78-83 Video 2 AR Feb07.indd 79 3/1/07 02:22:51
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character-based stand-up – skewers the rampant stupidity and
vengeful banality of public-access TV in particular. Tumbling through
Ben-Tor’s supercharged videos is a scabrous parade of lampooned
character types – a wealthy white woman revelling in her supposed
charitable acts while touring the world; a rabid German political
extremist testifying splenetically against the American way; a self-
regarding conceptual artist; a succession of dim-witted women
pontificating about Hitler. (At this point, some artworld mavens are
predicting that television is where someone as evidently furious,
fearless and needful of audience as Ben-Tor will end up; she may yet
become an Ali G/Borat-style provocateur who’s less slyly selective in
her targeting.)
Situated midway between Ben-Tor and Nathaniel Mellors,
one might say, is another New York-based Israeli, Guy Ben-Ner.
Synthesising Nauman’s studio-bound perambulations (eg 1968’s
Stamping in the Studio) with situation-driven aspects of silent comedy,
most of his videos have been shot in his poky New York apartment
and privilege human ingenuity in dealing with confinement-cum-
displacement. But Ben-Ner nevertheless relies upon, and exemplifies,
permeability between solid and pixelated media. In Treehouse Kit
(2005), Ben-Ner filmed himself as an ersatz Robinson Crusoe, in fake
beard and shorts, making furniture out of parts of a tree ingeniously
constructed from flat-packed segments of construct-it-yourself
furniture. The tree itself, now repurposed as a sculptural symbol of
growth and potentiality, was exhibited alongside the video. The tree in
the gallery is a challenge. Was this a video featuring an artwork, or are
you now looking at a prop?
Here is the entryway to the corridor of uncertainty to which
much ‘video plus’ tends to lead. My twitchiness in front of Christoph
Draeger and Gary Breslin’s video installation Le Radeau de la
Macumba (2004) wasn’t occasioned by its plot (a bright burlesque of
a horror movie, featuring a ruined modernist building, some gauche
teens and a crew of zombies) but because right in my sightline was a
large-scale tableau featuring various ritualistic accoutrements
featured in the film. They shouldn’t be there, said a small interior voice
– cavilling at static caused by the rogue presence of something
halfway real breaking onto the channel to which the moving images
had auto-tuned my mind. This is a video, that’s a stage set: there’s a
category error. Comparably decentring are Runa Islam’s video-
sculptural amalgams, such as Director’s Cut (Fool for Love) (2001),
with its mixture of tricky, perspective-shifting deconstructive footage
of a theatrical rehearsal and prop-like aspects scattered around the
show; and her First Day of Spring (2005), which is sometimes
projected larger than the viewing screen so that parts of the image
bounce around the room. In superficially similar recent installations by
Angela Bulloch, such as Group of Seven (One Absent Friend) (2005),
viewers perambulate between multiple videos of figures performing
ideas of imposed constriction, all projected onto and past sculptural
cubes. It’s an approach that can, furthermore, be adopted
retrospectively: when Anne Bean recently restaged and taped 30 of
her performances from 1969 to 1974, she installed them in a jungle of
solid props.
Diversity aside, each of these environments privileges
subjectivity and one’s sense of being a moving body in space: they
jangle, prod and spike the habitual slow trance and denial of
corporality that is the handmaiden of single-channel conveyance. The
long-term objective of such polysemic production may be to make
formal means utterly transparent, purely functional: that’s the sense
you get from, say, Ward Shelley’s 2004 installation We Have Mice,
which spliced performance, video and sculpture because each was a
necessary element in the Brooklyn-based artist’s endurance-test
Gesamtkunstwerk (Shelley lived on-site for five weeks in a three-foot-
wide crawl space, fashioning abject sculptures which subsequently
filtered into the exhibition space, relaying his actions via a suspended
tangle of CCTV monitors). Presently our telly-weaned mindsets
foster certain hierarchies: that’s why we’re bumping into sculpture as
we veer towards the screens. But if it is a collision that reawakens
agitated consciousness, this may be no bad thing.
FILM AND VIDEO
ARTREVIEW
IS THIS A VIDEO
FEATURING AN ARTWORK,
OR ARE YOU NOW
LOOKING AT A PROP?
p 78-83 Video 2 AR Feb07.indd 82 3/1/07 02:23:15
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p 84-85 Video 3 AR Feb07.indd 84 8/1/07 17:23:27
IN 2002 A NEW VOICE FILTERED ITS WAY INTO THE ARTWORLD, not
through established gallery channels but through that unregulated
global free-for-all, the World Wide Web. Created as part of the
collaborative team Beige, Cory Arcangel’s Internet activities and
works he dubbed The Hacks – video projections of reprogrammed
video games – soon moved out of virtual space and into the rarefied
environment of the white cube. In an astute engagement with
medium and form, Arcangel modified old-school Nintendo game
cartridges by removing their electronic chips and replacing them with
ones he made himself, creating pieces such as Totally Fucked (2002),
Super Mario Clouds (2002) and I Shot Andy Warhol (2002), a piece
where Arcangel reprogrammed the original ‘shoot ’em up’ game
Hogan’s Alley to include mass-culture icons such as Andy Warhol,
the Pope, Flavor Flav and Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried
Chicken fame) as targets.
For his most recent solo show, at Team Gallery in New York,
Arcangel expanded on his previous project of using early digital
technology as a found object by remixing and transforming bits of
pop culture into social commentary, from Bruce Springsteen’s classic
Born to Run album (1975), to Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age movie
Dazed and Confused (1993), to Guns N’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’
(from Appetite for Destruction, 1987), among others. All but one piece
in the show was a video projection and all of them made use of easily
accessible digital technology. Arcangel creates new work by using
software in the same way that artists have traditionally used paint –
something that even today academics are reluctant to accept. Visually
engaging, technically accomplished and never without a sense of
humour, Arcangel’s deceptively simple ideas spread out from the
work by word of mouth, like a computer virus; something the artist
describes as ‘meme’.
ADAM E. MENDELSOHN: What’s the commodity, as vulgar as that
sounds, in your work? Is it information, your expertise as a programmer,
the actual hardware or the idea?
CORY ARCANGEL: It’s the relationship between the idea/information,
my knowledge of the back-end systems (programming, sound
editing, music composition, glockenspiel playing, etc, etc) and the
end visual or aural product.
AEM: In your most recent show you created algorithms, which is
basically the same thing as a recipe, right? I suppose then it’s a
question of motivation and the visual implications.
CA: Yes, recipes are the same as algorithms. Set some rules, and let
it go. Whatever happens, happens. I am not a trial-and-error artist;
the trial and error goes on in my head. Once I settle on the idea, I
just have to make it. I know pretty much exactly what a piece will
look and sound like before I lift a finger. I’m too stressed and
neurotic a person to ever deal with anything more laid-back.
AEM: Do you consider yourself to be a conceptual artist and do you
see a connection with structuralism?
CA: The parallel to conceptual art is obvious, but I am only
interested in idea-driven work because of the idea’s ability to spread
itself. I’m an Internet nerd, and if I’m gonna make something, the
idea itself better have legs. At first this was a survival method for
making work where my only outlet was the Net (if people don’t
have a reason to email it to their friends, there is no audience), but
now it is just built on. As for structuralist art, yeah, half of the things
I make are about the medium they exist on. But these concerns I
got from trying to deal with the constant BS of upgrading
computers. I just got sick of it, and needed to deal with issues of
medium in order to be able to create something worthwhile using a
computer.

AEM: In Untitled (After Lucier) [2006] you deal with the erosion of
cultural memory. You programmed a Mac mini to endlessly loop and
compress footage of the Beatles’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan
Show, when something like 70 million people tuned in to watch. Is the
eventual owner of the work able to start it from the beginning, or since
it started, will it run indefinitely down until the hardware gives up? Do
you anticipate it just being a grey screen at the end?

CA: Yeah, they can start it again if they want. Ha ha ha. I built in a
restart button, though that’s kinda on the back end. It is against the
idea of computers not to be able to restart. I think eventually it
would just be grey, or black, or white. I actually haven’t run it that
far. I only tested it a week or so ahead. But also, if someone wanted,
they could just run it into the ground till the computer gives up.
That’s also fine with me. That’s what I would do.
ARTREVIEW
CORY ARCANGEL
words ADAM E. MENDELSOHN
FILM AND VIDEO
WILL THE INTERNET
AND THE HOME COMPUTER
ULTIMATELY REPLACE
THE ART MUSEUM?
p 84-85 Video 3 AR Feb07.indd 85 8/1/07 17:23:32
IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION as to the importance of so-called
structural films for new generations of filmmakers and artists, a film
scholar friend of mine explained to me, with no little note of finality,
that “structural film is far more popular with modernist art historians
than with practising artists or academics in other fields… The lyrical
film, the trance film and certain modes of film performance have had
much more of an impact in the experimental film world today.” I let the
dig of “modernist art historians” slide, even though I knew it was meant
to write o the concerns of a small group of us who still find the fate
of and debates surrounding modernism crucial to understanding the
current state of the arts, but the dismissal that it entailed, the notion
that we ‘modernist’ critics and historians are the only ones interested
in this kind and moment of filmmaking, largely a product of the US in
the late 1960s and early 70s, seemed misguided. For, over the past
couple of years or so, I had come into contact with a number of works
in film and video that, whether acknowledged by their makers or not,
were, to my mind, undeniably structural in character, but structural in a
way that at once extends and exceeds the historical and aesthetic
label that this term has come to serve.
That label, ‘structural film’, was first put into critical play by
P. Adams Sitney in two articles of the same name published in Film
Culture in 1969 and 1970, which then became the penultimate chapter
of his indispensable book, Visionary Film (1974) – an expansive history
of American avant-garde film from the final years of the Second
World War to the present. By describing avant-garde film forms in
terms such as the lyric, the mythopoeic and the picaresque, Sitney’s
narrative armed itself with interpretive models from the history of
literature, but the history of art, and the arsenal of modern art in
particular, was never far from reach. The achievements of a Stan
Brakhage found their logical counterpart in Jackson Pollock’s, and
almost by fiat, the work of the next generation of filmmakers – figures
such as Michael Snow, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs and Hollis Frampton –
came to be seen in the light of modernist painting’s logical end: the
blank canvas and its vicissitudes, namely the colour-field painting and
minimalist sculpture of artists such as Frank Stella, Robert Morris and
Donald Judd.
The correlation remains to this day. The renowned scholar of
avant-garde film Annette Michelson wrote as recently as 1998 that
the work of these filmmakers indicated ‘a growing trend toward
systematicity, in an era when a notion of structure is seen to
predominate over the projection of subjectivity. This followed upon
the advent of minimalism in painting and sculpture, and shares with
them the deployment of monochrome, of patterns of repetition, and
the concern with coherence of the compositional gestalt.’ Yet Sitney’s
original criteria – of which there were four: loop printing, a fixed frame,
the flicker eect and rephotography o the screen – remain fixed in
the minds of artists who identify with the moment when it appeared
that the concerns of painting, sculpture, photography and film aligned
under the general banner of ‘structure’. Stan Douglas routinely
mentions how the loop, in works such as his newest, Klatsassin (2006),
is central to his practice of renovating cinematic temporality; and
Sharon Lockhart has equated her use of fixed frame, single takes in
works such as Teatro Amazonas (1999) and, more recently, Pine Flat
(2005), with the influence of structural film and its focus on, in
Lockhart’s words, ‘the basic elements of filmmaking’.
It is this last equation, the perception that these earlier
filmmakers’ animation of ‘structure’ in their work was bound up with a
search for the essence of film itself, its ontology or, to use a more
practised terminology, its ‘medium specificity’, that has hitched
structural film to the star of modernism. Paradoxically, these
investigations into the fundamental nature of the filmic medium, their
attempt, it seemed, to pin down exactly what film was, ran headfirst
into the fact that film’s aggregate character, its condition of being an
amalgam of dierent devices and disciplines, a product of diverse and
divergent material histories, meant that any such attempt to find
something specific to film, something inherent to its enterprise, was
doomed from the beginning. If it could be said to have one, ‘structural
film’ would have to carry out its modernist project in vain, ‘specific’
being exactly what the medium of film was not.
Douglas and Lockhart do not engage this paradox, however.
For them, ‘structural film’ serves up a set of techniques whose historical
appearance alone oers justification for their use as contemporary
aesthetic strategies. For example, the fixed-frame loops of Lockhart’s
cinematic portraits from Pine Flat — eg Reader, Sleeper, Searcher —
are less purely formal reductions or strategies of simplification than
means to amplify our attentiveness to the details and subtle
movements of her chosen subjects. From this perspective, her decision
to shoot 16mm film and, for the works’ exhibition, to install projectors
out in the open for the audience to see and hear, appears wholly
arbitrary, if not opportunistic: ‘baring the device’ in this way may be
meant to reveal the mediated nature of all photographic
representation, and thus to call into question Lockhart’s own
documentary aesthetic, but that seems like an old lesson to teach in
2006, and one that was of little concern to the filmmakers associated
with that moment when, as Michelson noted, ‘structure is seen to
predominate’.
Yet there are other filmmakers and artists whose work does
respond to the concerns evident in so-called structural films without
simply taking their formal techniques as signals of historical
precedence. Their work begins the structural filmmakers’ researches
anew, takes it in directions that few have thought to explore and
consequently allows us to rethink filmic form, structure and material in
new and productive ways.
Bill Morrison’s Outerborough (2005) is one such film, and its
ARTREVIEW
AND IS IT ABOUT TO
BECOME THE BIG CONCERN
FOR A NEW GENERATION
OF FILMMAKERS?
WHO’S AFRAID OF
STRUCTURAL FILM?
words JONATHAN T.D. NEIL
FILM AND VIDEO
p 86-89 Special Focus AR Feb07.i86 86 8/1/07 17:17:21
ARTREVIEW
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p 86-89 Special Focus AR Feb07.i87 87 8/1/07 17:17:26
ARTREVIEW
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p 86-89 Special Focus AR Feb07.i88 88 4/1/07 23:59:03
dedication to Ken Jacobs makes the historical connection at once
explicit and specific. Jacobs’s Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son (1969), a
touchstone in Sitney’s history of the period for its analytical reshooting
of Billy Bitzer’s 1905 film of the same name, oered Morrison a glimpse
of how found footage could oer not only a raw material but also an
operational logic for filmmaking itself. Like Tom, Tom, Outerborough is
composed entirely of an earlier film, in this case an 1899 American
Mutoscope and Biograph production of Across Brooklyn Bridge, which
shows the path taken over the East River to Brooklyn by New York
City’s old elevated IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit). Morrison
subjects the footage to a series of superpositions and accelerations,
and then doubles its projection, so that the film runs not only as a
diptych but as a palindrome as well, with the centre (and thus reversal)
of the film apparently occurring at the moment when the train reaches
the midpoint of the bridge span.
Morrison’s other films, such as Decasia (2002) and Light Is
Calling (2004), also owe much to Jacobs’s mining of cinema’s earliest
artefacts, but whereas these works make films’ decay due to age and
the elements the primary content of their art, Outerborough takes the
train’s formal movement in both time and space as the organisational
basis of the work, which, upon reflection, we can recognise as mirroring
the function or character of the bridge itself: a manifold with two
primary dimensions, or ‘degrees of freedom’ – the number of variables
associated with an entity’s operation – in this case, speed and
bidirectional movement, which is much like film itself.
This notion of ‘degrees of freedom’ proved fundamental to the
work of another seminal filmmaker gathered under Sitney’s label.
Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) and ←→ (Back and Forth) (1969)
each explored, to one extent or another, the restricted movements of
the film camera’s zoom and pan – the latter becoming completely
unrestricted in Snow’s La Région Centrale (1971). But Snow’s reduction
of the film form down to the function of such singular mechanisms, a
modernist strategy par excellence, has limited less orthodox readings
of his work.
Oliver Michaels has made a video recently that, when taken in
concert with Snow’s works, asks us to reconsider how the latter’s
functionalist reductions are dependent upon specific partnerships with
their profilmic spaces – that is, the space captured in front of the
camera, which, in the case of Wavelength, is a Soho loft that is
traversed over the course of 45 minutes by the film camera’s
attenuated zoom.
Michaels’s Train (2004), exhibited at P.S.1’s Greater New York
2005 show, constructs a distinctly filmic space by piecing together
footage of its ‘actor’, a toy train, passing through rooms, corridors, halls,
across roofs, through auditoriums, etc, each time using the threshold of
a tunnel as a splicing point. What results is the experience of an
impossible yet virtual architecture, one built upon the foundation of
invisible cuts that happen within, or rather across, each threshold.
(Michaels has even gone so far as to map the architecture described
by the toy trains’ continuous forward trajectory, using an axonometric
drawing, which shows just how impossible it is to reconcile this virtual
space with any standard, three-dimensional graphic convention.)
Now Wavelength’s attenuated zoom across the expanse of its
loft is integral to creating what other critics have identified as the film’s
sense of suspense, a psychological creep created as the camera slowly
closes in upon the loft’s far wall and a photograph of the sea located
there. This final image, however, marks an antithesis to the architectural
enclosure of the loft, which serves as the very precondition for the slow
zoom to even register in the audience’s experience of the film. With
Michaels’s Train in mind, we can see that the picture of the sea upon
which Wavelength comes to rest is itself a kind of threshold, an invisible
cut, whereby we are taken from inside to outside, from a restricted
enclosure to a limitless expanse. Snow’s Wavelength, it seems, exhibits
a virtual architecture all its own (and a similar claim could be made,
I think, for Ernie Gehr’s Serene Velocity, 1970).
There are still other filmmakers and video artists whose work
opens up new dialogues with structural strategies first evident in the
1960s, such as David Dempewolf, whose Time Travel Project – Glenn
Gould (2005) marshals both the palindrome – put to eective use not
only by Morrison but by Hollis Frampton in early films such as
Information (1966), States (1967) and, of course, Palindrome (1969) –
and the flicker, which Tony Conrad introduced to audiences in a 1966
film of the same name; and Redmond Entwistle, whose Paterson –
Lodz (2006) constructs an analogy between place, memory and filmic
material which takes Morrison’s and Michaels’s virtual architectures
into the realm of history, topography and psychology.
These are only a handful of examples to be sure, and it would
be premature to suggest that we are seeing a wholesale shift in the
arts towards greater applications of structural approaches. But as
Michelson pointed out, the moment of structural film followed upon
the heels of a period when subjectivity – internal, intrepid, triumphant
– reigned supreme. Today we have seen such subjectivity replaced by
notions of celebrity and, perhaps more acutely, the artist’s persona. As
our tolerance for the former wanes, and the latter can no longer oer
reasonable justifications for aesthetic moves, ‘structure’, in one
complex form or another, may indeed be finding new life.
THESE WORKS MAKE FILM’S
DECAY DUE TO AGE AND THE
ELEMENTS THE PRIMARY
CONTENT OF THEIR ART
FILM AND VIDEO
ARTREVIEW
p 86-89 Special Focus AR Feb07.i89 89 4/1/07 23:59:04
ARTREVIEW
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p 90-92 Special Focus AR Feb07.i90 90 5/1/07 00:10:04
THE LONG FILM-FESTIVAL LIFE AND WIDESPREAD CRITICAL ACCLAIM
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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN
ARTHOUSE GOES
MAINSTREAM?
AVANT CINEMA
words HANNAH MCGILL
FILM AND VIDEO
ARTREVIEW
p 90-92 Special Focus AR Feb07.i91 91 5/1/07 00:05:42
of distribution and exhibition. “Celluloid cinema is essentially dead, no
self-respecting filmmaker really films on celluloid anymore,” he told a
BBC interviewer in 2003, as the first installment of his multilayered
multimedia digital project The Tulse Luper Suitcases made its debut.
Forty years on from Six Figures Getting Sick, Lynch recently
came to the same conclusion. Launching his new digital feature Inland
Empire (2006) in Venice, Lynch echoed Greenaway (who once cited
Lynch’s Blue Velvet as the only worthwhile film of the past 40 years):
“For me, film is completely dead.” Lynch’s declaration may depress
celluloid purists, but format probably isn’t the point. The extent to
which cinema challenges itself, creates space for an alternative
discourse of its own – the issue of what, finally, gains access to those
darkened rooms and benefits from being screened in them – is
perhaps the more pressing concern. The explosion in independently
financed and distributed cinema – exemplified by the rise of the
Sundance Film Festival as a commercial marketplace, the
aforementioned expansion of major studios into specialist distribution
and the presence of films such as Brokeback Mountain, Crash and
Capote on the 2006 Oscar shortlist – has been viewed by many as an
exciting development in terms of the breadth and quality of product
on oer. Yet those ‘independent’ films now occupying precious time
slots in arthouse cinemas are unlikely to be much comfort to
Greenaway. Conventional narrative dominates, while the primacy of
the box o ce and the might of the star system have ensured that film
festivals are regarded from the outside as locations for deal-brokering
and celebrity appearances. Much alternative moving-image work –
from music video to obscure cult film and artists’ work – has been
relocated to museum and gallery spaces. Film theory and film criticism
fixate upon narrative and theme; films are primarily reviewed like
novels, not like pieces of visual art. In a comment-driven culture, boldly
experimental filmwork suers; ‘pretentiousness’ is viewed with arch
suspicion. A flawed, wayward, idiosyncratic film is liable to get booed
at Cannes (ask Gaspar Noé, whose flamboyantly violent Irréversible
was the Croisette scandal of 2002; or Vincent Gallo, whose drifty,
indulgent The Brown Bunny was rated as the worst-ever Cannes
competition entry in 2003). The limited engagement of current ‘art’
film with the secret world of the imagination might be exemplified by
Steven Shainberg’s film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
(2006). Arbus is played by Nicole Kidman; the demons that drove her
to photograph society’s rejects are personified as cuddly fairytale
freaks, who draw her out of her rarefied middle-class world and into a
cosy acceptance of the peculiar. Arbus’s psyche becomes mere fodder
for a straightforward beauty-and-the-beast fable, and her photographs
are neat manifestations of her oh-so-human need to belong.
Psychological reading is easy here; the mystery of personality is solved,
not illuminated. The inexplicability that Godard cited, when he
characterised cinema as ‘a saturation of magnificent signs bathed in
the light of their absence of explanation’, is resisted.
Where, then, are the magnificent signs in the darkened rooms?
Film festivals – including the Edinburgh Film Festival, which I
programme – tend to bracket o ‘experimental’ work into separate
sections which mingle filmwork and video art, gallery-commissioned
and cinema-specific pieces. Edinburgh’s experimental section is called
Black Box, which is a play upon spaces – black box as opposed to
white cube, darkened cinema in opposition to white-walled gallery –
but which also calls up the use of the term black box in physics, to
indicate that which cannot or need not be explained: if part of an
equation is too complex, and full clarification of it not required, it’s
‘black boxed’. Suppliers of cinema to the masses, meanwhile, have
broad definitions of what constitutes ‘experimental’. Click on Arthouse
in Amazon.com’s DVD section, and you’ll be oered such titles as
Superman II (1980), Love Actually (2003), Ali G Indahouse (2002) and
The Muppet Movie (1979).
As film education broadens, via DVD and the Internet, the
public hunger for the margins of the art is arguably more avid than
ever before. Yet the drive for profits and the fear of elitism or obscurity
is also pushing film artists either out of the cinema market altogether,
or into forcibly conventional modes of expression. To deploy only
examples from the UK, Greenaway is at odds with the whole form;
Terence Davies has sunk into silence; John Maybury has shifted
decisively towards mainstream projects; Lynne Ramsay, once feted as
an inheritor of the finest in British art cinema, has been quiet a long
time. Meanwhile, in strong and highly praised recent British features
like Red Road, London to Brighton and This Is England (all 2006), one
senses a nervous need to quench any ambiguity in the service of
mainstream palatability. A pat on the back from an informed ‘arty’ elite
is a booby prize; a wide, mainstream audience is the Holy Grail.
Perhaps the most positive analogy is with artistic patronage: the
film industry provides artists with a space to express themselves; the
artists, accordingly, disguise their artworks as safe mainstream fodder,
in which more radical meanings can be concealed. But it may just be
that the capacity of that mainstream audience to accept more
forthright challenges to their comfort is being underestimated, and
that we’re ‘black boxing’ art cinema more than we should.
FILMS ARE PRIMARILY
REVIEWED LIKE NOVELS,
NOT LIKE PIECES OF
VISUAL ART
FILM AND VIDEO
ARTREVIEW
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ART PILGRIMAGE MADRID & BARCELONA
ARTREVIEW
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 96 9/1/07 00:43:23
MADRID
BARCELONA
No one could accuse the
Spanish art scene of being
centralised. From the
Canaries to the Balearics,and
from Seville to Bilbao
museums and art centres
abound, supported by the
country’s autonomous regions
The savings banks, or Caixas
also plough profits back into
social projects, funding
exhibition venues across
the country
THE CITIES ACCORDING TO ART

,
.
,
.
words KEITH PATRICK
photography TIM GUTT
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 97 9/1/07 00:43:42
ARTREVIEW
But without question, Madrid and
Barcelona rule the roost, even though Spain’s
two principal cities couldn’t be more different.
The landlocked Castilian capital fries in summer
and freezes in winter. No wonder then that the
Mediterranean port of Barcelona is proving
an equally popular destination for both hen
parties and art junkies, with its benevolent
climate, medieval and modernista buildings,
and cosmopolitan outlook.
But all isn’t quite what it seems.
Property prices have soared in recent years.
Consequently, for young artists and designers
the basic overheads of flat and studio are
prohibitive in relation to wages, and undermine
the generally low cost of living in Spain.
Although the number of collectors and
galleries has since grown, Spain’s once small
domestic market encouraged the more
entrepreneurial dealers to look abroad, trading
on the country’s tourist appeal to bring the
market to them. In the 26 years since ARCO
was launched in Madrid, it has grown from
a modest and largely local art fair into a major
international showcase, with more than
200 participating galleries and countless
project spaces.
The past decade has seen a proliferation
of fairs and festivals come and go. One that
looks like staying the course is Barcelona’s
LOOP, the innovative and highly successful
video art fair.
There’s a traditional rivalry between the
two cities that reaches beyond the football
terraces. Catalonia isn’t Spain, reads the graffiti,
but Madrid and Barcelona are linked closely
enough to function as both competitors and
confederates within a single market, such that
artists are often forced to choose sides when it
comes to representation. An analysis of the
galleries shows the two cities to be in a bipolar
relationship, with Madrid mostly covering
the blue-chip, conservative end of the market,
while Barcelona plays its ‘East End’,
with a greater number of younger and more
experimental galleries.
When it comes to museums, Spain has a
passion for architects. Madrid’s Reina Sofía has
just been given a facelift by Jean Nouvel, while
Barcelona’s MACBA is a monument to Richard
Meier’s ego. But often the architecture
outshines the art, the postwar decades in Spain
having been lean ones for the building of
collections. Furthermore, some key museum
appointments are still political, leading to a
climate of professional insecurity. Seemingly in
compensation, museums and art centres often
mark out their patch in a didactic display of
territorial identity, with the result that
programming can become dull and predictable.
Increasingly the more innovative initiatives
are to be found elsewhere, in the commercial
sector, in independent project spaces or as
the result of cooperative actions such as
the series of events by international artists
initiated in November by the Association
of Visual Artists of Madrid under the generic
title MADRID PROCESOS.
ART PILGRIMAGE MADRID & BARCELONA
Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona
Anella Olímpica, Barcelona
Montjuïc, Barcelona
Anella Olímpica with Santiago Calatrava’s
telecommunications tower, Barcelona
preceding pages: Anella Olímpica, Barcelona
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 98 9/1/07 00:45:22
CaixaForum, Barcelona
Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona
Plaza dels Angels, Barcelona
Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona
Restaurant, El Corte Inglés, Barcelona
Street in Madrid
Old Atocha Railway Station, Madrid
Anella Olímpica, Barcelona
Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Montjuïc, Barcelona Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Montjuïc, Barcelona Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Montjuïc, Barcelona
Anella Olímpica, Barcelona
Sky in Barcelona
Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona
University Buildings, Barcelona
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 99 9/1/07 16:10:23
Installation view, Lo Material No Cuenta, Espacio
& Galería Distrito Cu4tro, Madrid
Installation view, Alicia Framis, Secret Action
No. 1 (2006), Helga de Alvear, Madrid
José Castañal in Elba Benítez Galería, Madrid
Alicia Framis, Secret Strike Inditex (2006),
Helga de Alvear, Madrid
Courtyard of Elba Benítez Galería, Madrid
Alicia Framis, Secret Strike Inditex (2006),
Helga de Alvear, Madrid
Espacio & Galería Distrito Cu4tro, Madrid Artist Mariana Ferrari, at work on Sin Título
(2006), for the exhibition Lo Material No Cuenta,
Espacio & Galería Distrito Cu4tro, Madrid
Installation view, Vicente Blanco, Otra Vez Algo
Nuevo (2006), Elba Benítez Galería, Madrid
Directors Borja Casani (left) and Lola Moriarty
(centre) with colleagues at Moriarty, Madrid
Jean Nouvel extension, Reina Sofía, Madrid Jean Nouvel extension, Reina Sofía, Madrid
Reina Sofía, Madrid Jean Nouvel extension, Reina Sofía, Madrid Palacio de Cristal, Madrid
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 100 9/1/07 16:17:30
Helga de Alvear
Doctor Fourquet, 12 +34 91 468 05 06
www.helgadealvear.net
Chic designer space with an impossibly heavy
front door, situated close to the Reina Sofía.
Features a safe programme of established
mid-career artists, including Imi Knoebel,
Thomas Ruff, Alicia Framis and Santiago Sierra.
An internal stairway connects with an
attic space, often used to showcase more
experimental work.
Elba Benítez Galería
San Lorenzo, 11 +34 91 308 04 68
www.elbabenitez.com
Beautifully situated in an interior courtyard in
the Chueca district, it also happens to have
one of the more lively programmes in Madrid.
Many mid-career artists showing here are either
Spanish or Latin American, including Cristina
Iglesias, Vik Muniz and Ernesto Neto, but the
stable also includes Alexander Sokurov and
Miriam Bäckström.
Espacio & Galería Distrito Cu4tro
Plaza de las Salesas, 9 + Bárbara de Braganza, 2
+34 91 319 85 83 www.distrito4.com
The espacio shares the same first floor as the
offices, while the gallery proper is just up the
street. Both are worth visiting, for while the
‘main’ show tends to be in the gallery, the
espacio is perfect for more intimate work, often
by younger artists. One of the newer spaces
to be also regarded as ‘arrived’, artists include
Miquel Mont, Maider López and Jorge Macchi,
as well as British artists James Reilly and
Richard Deacon.
Pepe Cobo
Fortuny, 39 +34 91 319 06 83
www.pepecobo.com
A new space, but building on the work director
Pepe Cobo did with the innovative gallery
La Máquina Española during the 1980s.
The international stable of largely familiar
names includes Willie Doherty, John Baldessari,
Pepe Espaliú and Julião Sarmento, but also
look out for the work of the sevillano artists
MP & MP Rosado.
Oliva Arauna
Barquillo, 29 +34 91 435 18 08
www.olivarauna.com
A new venue for a gallery with a respected
history, Oliva Arauna relocated to this
central, street-level space in Chueca in 2004.
Exhibitions of young and more established
artists, predominantly but not exclusively
Spanish, including Antoni Abad, Chema
Alvargonzález and Alfredo Jaar. Look out for
the work of Concha Prada.
Carmen de la Guerra
San Pedro, 6 +34 91 420 03 55
www.carmendelaguerra.com
Rough and ready, this is more of a project
space located in the heart of the old town.
Shows young artists, but run on the proverbial
shoestring. Carmen herself has been known to
cook paella during openings, so be prepared
for anything. The programme is erratic, but one
interesting artist to watch for is London-based
Carmen Blancoluna.
Javier López
Jose Marañón, 4 +34 91 593 21 84
www.galeriajavierlopez.com
For a short time during the mid-1990s,
López had a gallery in London above Karsten
Schubert. The Madrid venue continues his
interest in young and established international
artists, and keeps faith with his London
period, mixing big hitters with lesser-known
names, including Liam Gillick, Peter Halley
and Jane Simpson.
Salvador Díaz
Sánchez Bustillo, 7 +34 91 527 40 00
www.salvadordiaz.com
Across the plaza from the Reina Sofía,
this impressive gallery opened in 1999 and
eschews big stars in favour of younger
Spanish and international artists, with a bias
towards installation and videowork.
Other artist-recommended galleries and
project spaces include:
Raquel Ponce (www.galeriaraquelponce.es),
Espacio Mínimo (www.espaciominimo.com),
Blanca Soto (www.galeriablancasoto.com),
CREAE (www.creae.es) and La Reina 39.
Juana de Aizpuru
Barquillo, 44 +34 91 310 55 61
www.galeriajuanadeaizpuru.com
The unmistakably sevillana Juana de Aizpuru
not only helped launch a generation of artists
during the 1980s but was also a prime mover
behind ARCO. Today her first-floor gallery in
the trendy Chueca area represents a mix of
Spanish and international blue-chip art, but
with time still for younger artists, such as de
Aizpuru’s alter-ego, Ana Laura Aláez.
Soledad Lorenzo
Orfila, 5 +34 91 308 28 87
www.soledadlorenzo.com
There’s no mistaking the aura of money in
Soledad Lorenzo’s interior-designed gallery.
Even its situation – next to Marlborough in the
Recoletos district – signifies establishment.
Yet the programme is still largely committed
to Spanish art, both of an older generation
(Tàpies, Palazuelo) and recent fifty-somethings
like Juan Uslé and Miquel Barceló.
Moriarty
Libertad 22 +34 91 531 43 65
www.galeriamoriarty.com
A survivor of Madrid’s movida, Lola Moriarty
has been following the latest trends ever
since. After 20 years, in November the
gallery relocated from its original premises
to this modern street-level space in Chueca.
Artists tend to be in mid-career, Spanish and
international, and include the always-interesting
Manuel Saiz.
ART PILGRIMAGE MADRID
MADRID
SELECTED GALLERIES:
ARTREVIEW
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 101 9/1/07 00:49:05
ART PILGRIMAGE BARCELONA
ADN Galería
Enric Granados, 49 +34 93 451 00 64
www.adngaleria.com
Any gallery with the self-proclaimed objective
of representing the moment is bound to have
its fair share of failures. But ADN has survived
for four years, so it must be doing something
right. Unashamedly local, it is possibly the best
place to see younger talent, although there is a
sense of déjà vu to most of the work.
Alter Ego
Doctor Dou, 11 +34 93 302 36 98
Hard-working space largely dedicated to a
programme of younger Spanish artists, but
without thrills or spills.
Joan Prats
Rambla de Cataluña, 54 +34 93 216 02 90
www.galeriajoanprats.com
Established more than 30 years ago, the
gallery tries hard to strike a balance between
its original stable and a younger generation.
Bridging the gap is Hannah Collins, but among
the newcomers look out for Javier Peñafiel and
Alejandro Vidal.
Nogueras Blanchard
Xuclà, 7 +34 93 342 57 21
www.noguerasblanchard.com
Since 2004, the gallery has specialised in
new media, with shows largely focusing on
video and installation. Despite a commitment
to thirtysomethings, the emphasis is on
international rather than Spanish artists,
who already have a foothold on the global
circuit. Artists include Marine Hugonnier,
Ester Partegàs and Ivan Grubanov.
Espai Ubú
Plaça Prim, 2 +34 93 221 94 42
www.espaiubu.com
Not so much a white cube as a glass cube, this
ultra-modern project space was launched two
years ago in the upcoming Poblenou district,
and is one of the few spaces open to outside
proposals from artists and curators. Best suited
to video and installation; previous exhibitions
include the first edition of Video London and
Belgian artist Erich Weiss’s Driving fast through
a slow motion landscape.
Galería Carles Taché
Consell de Cent, 290 +34 93 487 88 36
www.carlestache.com
One of the more established galleries, with
a stake in many of the leading Spanish
and Catalan artists, as well as international
contemporaries such as Sean Scully, Tony
Cragg, Cornelia Parker and Günther Förg.
Taché’s son, Pau, is primed to take the gallery
forward into the next generation. The stable
includes Frederic Amat, Eduardo Arroyo,
José Manuel Broto, Jordi Colomer and
Carlos Pazos.
Toni Tàpies
Consell de Cent, 282 +34 93 487 64 02
www.tonitapies.com
Son of one of Barcelona’s most esteemed
artists, Toni Tàpies has developed a good
balance between international chic and the
best of Spanish art. Since completing a $15
million project in Chicago, Jaume Plensa is
currently Spain’s most successful artist, but here
you will find him in good company, including
Martí Anson, Susy Gómez, João Onofre, Jana
Sterbak and, of course, Antoni Tàpies himself.
Galería dels Angels
C/dels Angels, 16 +34 93 412 5454
www.galeriadelsangels.com
Besides being an initiator of LOOP, Emilio
Alvarez runs one of the most interesting
galleries in Barcelona. Despite the occasional
aberration (Peter Halley, for one), Galeria dels
Angels has an adventurous programme and a
commitment to showing young international
artists that seems to have little to do with
commercial profit. Take the rough with the
smooth, but keep a close eye on Catalan artist
Jaume Pitarch.
KBB (Kültur Büro Barcelona)
Joaquín Costa, 24 +34 93 442 06 95
www.kbb.org.es
Swiss artist-curator Sigismond de Vajay has
been on a roller-coaster ride for four years after
turning his studio into a gallery. The programme
is as likely to include cook-ins and DJs as it is art
on the walls, not to mention an impressive foray
into self-publishing. Cash problems may mean
that closure is imminent, unless S de V can
escape in the final reel.
Galería Estrany - de la Mota
Passatge Mercader, 18 +34 93 215 70 51
www.estranydelamota.com
The marriage of these two dealers in the mid-
1990s produced a gallery that deserves to be
taken seriously. The expansive subterranean
space features a mix of one-off shows featuring
established names (Douglas Gordon, Stan
Douglas, Thomas Ruff ) with a commitment to
younger Spanish and Catalan artists, including
local heroes Ignasi Aballí and Francesc Ruiz,
and London-based Ana Prada.
ProjecteSD
Passatge Mercader, 8 +34 93 488 13 60
www.projectesd.com
Silvia Dauder has run this space single-handed
since 2003, showing work by young Spanish
and international artists. Most exhibits are
ephemeral (drawings, printouts, photographs,
often pinned directly to the walls), but the
exhibitions occasionally feature videoworks and
sound pieces. Exhibited artists have included
Matt Mullican, Xavier Ribas and Peter Piller.
BARCELONA
SELECTED GALLERIES:
ARTREVIEW
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 102 9/1/07 00:49:08
Galería dels Angels facade, Barcelona Refl ection in Lepoldo Pomés, Imagen Blanca (1959),
Galería dels Angels, Barcelona
Jaime Pitarch, Pinocchio (2004) (foreground) and
Miquel Mont, S/T (2005), Galería dels Angels,
Barcelona
Installation view, Peter Piller: Pfeile/Arrows,
ProjecteSD, Barcelona
Galería Carles Taché, Barcelona, with Frederic
Amat, Escena 5 (2005–6) (background)
Carles Taché, Galería Carles Taché, Barcelona
Artist Francesc Ruiz, Galería Estrany - de la
Mota, Barcelona
Work by Francesc Ruiz prior to installation,
Galería Estrany - de la Mota, Barcelona
Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona Alex Nogueras, Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona
Installation view, Acciones en el Cuerpo, Galería
Estrany de la Mota, Barcelona
Toni Estrany (right), Galería Estrany - de la Mota
Artists Marc Vives (left) and David Bestué, with
their exhibition Acciones en el Cuerpo, Galería
Estrany - de la Mota, Barcelona
Pau (left) and Carles Taché, Galería Carles Taché,
Barcelona
Gallerist Silvia Dauder, ProjecteSD, Barcelona
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 103 9/1/07 00:49:29
MACBA, Barcelona
Plaza Joan Coromines, Barcelona
CCCB, Barcelona
CaixaForum, Barcelona
MACBA, Barcelona
CaixaForum, Barcelona
Plaza Real, Barcelona
Sketch of CaixaForum, Madrid CaixaForum, Madrid
Outside Club 13, Barcelona Bar Kentucky, Barcelona Bar Kentucky, Barcelona
La Raval, Barcelona Sky in Madrid
Shop mannequin, Madrid
p 96-105 Pilgrimage AR Feb07 104 9/1/07 15:32:45
ARTREVIEW
ART PILGRIMAGE MADRID & BARCELONA
BARCELONA
INSTITUTIONS AND MUSEUMS
MACBA houses the city’s modern and
contemporary collection. The Meier building is
said to be unworkable, but architecture isn’t its
only problem. A tendency towards reappraisals
of recent decades has left it isolated. Notable
exceptions include Roger M. Buergel’s 2004
dry run for this year’s Documenta XII (a worthy
failure) and Catalan artist Ignasi Aballí ’s
intelligent retrospective (www.macba.es).
The Centre d’Art Santa Mònica
specialises in installations by international artists,
even if the programming is formulaic (www.
cultura.gencat.net/casm). The CaixaForum,
at the foot of Montjuïc, shows a lively mix
of classical and contemporary exhibitions. It
includes an ‘art now’ space and an excellent
bookshop. Further along is the Sert-designed
Fundació Joan Miró, including a dedicated
gallery for younger artists, Espai 13 (www.
bcn.fjmiro.es). The Fundació Antoni Tàpies
celebrates the artist’s work as well as initiating
contemporary exhibitions. Shows tend to be
cerebral, archival and polemic: the antithesis of
Tàpies’s own work (www.fundaciotapies.org).
More informal programmes of young
artist exhibitions are organised by the gallery
spaces at local centres such as Can Felipa in
Poblenou (www.bcn.es/canfelipa) and Centre
Cívic Sant Andreu (www.bcn.es/ccsantandreu).
ART FAIRS AND EVENTS
Now in its fifth year, the LOOP video art fair
(31 May – 2 June) brings together some 40
international galleries under one hotel roof. The
bedrooms make excellent showing spaces, and
LOOP has become a key event in the video-
art world. Running concurrently is the LOOP
festival, which coordinates spaces around the
city for an ad hoc showing of younger video
art (www.loop-barcelona.com). The SONAR
music festival (14–16 June) was originally a
rave for aficionados of the alternative scene,
held jointly in MACBA, CCCB (Centre de
Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) and
their communal plaza. Now too mainstream for
the Barcelona in-crowd, alternative gigs spring
up around the city (www.sonar.es).
SWAB (10–13 May) is an absolute
newcomer, opening its doors for the first time
this year. Not the first attempt to launch an
international contemporary art fair in Barcelona,
it promises 45 ‘selected’ galleries.
NIGHTLIFE
Barcelona’s artists don’t have a pack mentality,
but one place to round off the evening
in good company is the Kentucky bar (Arc
del Teatre, 11).
Come the Saturday night of LOOP,
everyone heads for La Paloma (Paloma, 24),
a nineteenth-century music hall with a resident
band so cheesy, they’re almost good.
Openings at MACBA or Santa Mònica
always draw a crowd, which later drifts off
towards the chic bars of the fashionably grungy
Raval area, including La Penúltima (Riera
Alta, 40). El Born has now been abandoned
to the tourists, but the Gracia area is a lively
alternative for bars and restaurants, as are the
streets around Plaza Real. Thursday nights
artist Silvia Prada holds court at Club 13
(Plaza Real, 13).
Try L’Antic Teatre (Verdaguer i Callís, 12)
near the Palau de la Música, where for a small
membership fee the drinks are cheap and you
can enjoy their superb private patio. Carmelitas
(Doctor Dou, 1) draws an art crowd, largely
by virtue of belonging to the entrepreneurial
Emilio Alvarez. Immediately behind, Roissy
(Àngels, 6) is a nondescript restaurant-bar,
distinguished only by the S&M dungeon in
the basement.
MADRID
INSTITUTIONS AND MUSEUMS
The converted nineteenth-century hospital that
is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina
Sofía (www.museoreinasofia.es) is the national
treasure house for modern and contemporary
art, including Picasso’s Guernica, and a showing
space for major contemporary exhibitions.
Unfortunately its performance of late has
lacked sparkle, although that hasn’t deterred the
crowds. Of special note is the space near the
entrance set aside for younger Spanish artists.
Also runs two venues in the Retiro (Palacio de
Cristal and Palacio Velázquez), where excellent
shows have been realised in recent years.
Another converted building of
intimidating size, the Casa Encendida (www.
lacasaencendida.com), offers a programme
of temporary exhibitions with a focus on
young Spanish artists. The Casa de América
(www.casaamerica.es) specialises in largely
monographic shows by contemporary Spanish
and Latin American artists. Other notable
venues showing contemporary art include the
Círculo de Bellas Artes (www.circulobellasartes.
com), Fundació La Caixa (www.fundacio.
lacaixa.es), Sala Alcalá 31 and Sala Canal de
Isabel II (www.fundacioncanal.com).
ART FAIRS AND EVENTS
ARCO (15–19 February) is Madrid’s major
art fair. Now in its 26th year, it draws a huge
audience, and is best avoided during the
weekend crush (www.arco.ifema.es). Other art
fairs include the Feria de Arte Independiente
de Madrid (September–October), which
has thrived for seven years on promoting
international artists without galleries (www.
artefaim.net), and the opportunistic Art Madrid,
which opened for the first time last year and
coincides with ARCO. Both are situated on
the Casa de Campo. A newcomer this year
is DEARTE, yet another contemporary art
fair, this time based in the designer-chic Hotel
Silken Puerta América (25–30 January, www.
dearte.info). PHotoEspaña (30 May – 22 July)
is a key event in the international photography
year (www.phedigital.com). Now celebrating
its tenth edition, and attracting a half-million
people, it is actually a series of exhibitions and
installations incorporating the latest tendencies
in photography and the visual arts.
At the other end of the scale, among
the most endearing events of the year are the
installations mounted by Domésticos, a local
collective who take over vacant property for the
purpose of showing the work of invited artists.
NIGHTLIFE
During ARCO, there is no question where the
artworld wiles away the night hours. Big during
the 1980s, El Cock is the bar of choice, even
though it is now one of the least interesting in
Madrid. The more adventurous go five minutes
away to El Chicote or the more relaxed Círculo
de Bellas Artes.
For other bars and restaurants, try
Chueca, the trendy gay barrio beyond
El Cock. However, the kids in the know head
the other way, towards Plaza Santa Ana
and the surrounding streets, where on a
Saturday queues form after midnight outside
all the bars. The fashionable watering holes
change monthly, but one of the newest is the
Penthouse, on the seventh floor of the Hotel
ME (expect to pay dearly).
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Dacs Ad AR Feb07 21/12/06 02:44 Page 1
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Aye Ad AR Feb07 9/1/07 12:36 Page 1
WHAT CAN PHOTOGRAPHS OF EXPLOSIONS TELL US
ABOUT THE NATURE OF PHOTOGRAPHY?
words BRIAN DILLON
LIGHTBOX EXPLOSIONS
B A N G
ARTREVIEW
p109-111 Lightbox AR Feb07.indd 109 9/1/07 00:58:32
LIGHTBOX EXPLOSIONS
‘INSTANTANEOUS!’ IN HIS 1907 NOVEL THE SECRET AGENT, Joseph Conrad
describes a botched attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory and
thereby, metaphorically, to arrest the very flow of time. Ultimately, a hapless
anarchist succeeds only in blowing himself to pieces. In the wake of a grisly clean-
up operation, the aptly named Chief Inspector Heat cannot quite believe that the
explosion, and with it the man’s suering, was over in the blink of an eye: ‘it
seemed impossible to believe that a human body could have reached that state
of disintegration without passing through the pangs of inconceivable agony. No
physiologist, and still less of a metaphysician, Chief Inspector Heat rose by the
force of sympathy, which is a form of fear, above the vulgar conception of time.’
The explosion is an unbelievable breach in chronology: it can hardly be said to
occur at all, except in the radiating force field of its horrific consequences.
What does it mean to photograph such an event? The problem was a
technical and ideological one for the US military in August 1945, when Sergeant
George Caron, seated in the tail of the Enola Gay, produced a photograph of a
burgeoning dome of heat and light above Hiroshima. Indeed, the first photograph actually released to the press showed
instead the mushroom cloud from a test carried out in New Mexico a month earlier. The instantaneity of an atomic explosion
was in a sense unrepresentable, and had to be substituted, from a propagandist point of view, with the death’s-head wraith
(an ‘anatomical bomb’, wrote Life magazine) that quickly became familiar as the image of nuclear catastrophe. At the same
time, Harold Edgerton was attempting to get closer to the event itself: in 1953 his Rapatronic camera allowed an exposure
0.0001 seconds after detonation, resulting in an image that looks subatomic, self-contained and weirdly vegetal.
Every photograph of an explosion (‘of’ is relative here: where or when does the thing really happen?) exists
somewhere on the continuum between actuality and symbolism, the instant and its meaningful aftermath. It may be that we
can only make sense of the wreckage, not the rupture. Among the most potent photographs of the destruction of Nagasaki
is Shomei Tomatsu’s image of a watch stopped at 11.02, the precise moment of the explosion. In the Atlas Group’s
photographic archive of the wreckage wrought by car bombs during the 1975–91 Lebanese wars, we see one of the Middle
East’s most familiar metonyms for destruction rigorously anatomised. And in Gianni Motti’s Collateral Damage (2001) – a
series of photographs, bought from a press agency that considered them ‘too aesthetic’, showing Balkan countryside under
preceding page:
Sarah Pickering, Fuel Air
Explosion, 2005. © the artist.
Courtesy the Photographers’
Gallery, London
above: Tess Hurrell, Chaology
nos. 1–4, 2006. Digital c-type
print, dimensions variable.
Courtesy the artist
FOR HOLLYWOOD,
A BOMB BLAST IS
MERELY A FIREBALL,
WITHOUT SMOKE
OR DEBRIS. ITS ONLY
FORCE IS THAT
WHICH PROPELS THE
HERO FORWARD
TO SAFETY
p109-111 Lightbox AR Feb07.indd 2 9/1/07 14:41:00
ARTREVIEW
machines that are trained both on the battlefield, where every split second
counts, and on a public for whom an explosion is just a pu of grey on the
horizon behind an embedded reporter.
Tess Hurrell’s Chaology (2006) frames the same subject in a
completely dierent aesthetic. It is a series of photographs that purport to
show atomic explosions, the eruptions of landmines and the disastrous
flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Plumes of white smoke snake out
before a black background; debris is flung across the desert floor beneath
a rising mushroom cloud. In fact, the images are all fairly transparent
shams: the ‘explosions’ sculpted out of cotton wool, pipe cleaners and
talcum powder, and crudely suspended with string. Some, like Challenger,
with its fractured trajectory, look chillingly familiar: “what was interesting
when constructing them was that the shapes and forms were easy to
imitate; they were not alien to me”, notes Hurrell. The series demonstrates
how intimate we are with the lineaments of the most appalling destruction,
and how far away those forms leave us from the events themselves.
“I wanted to isolate the explosions”, says Hurrell, “to decontextualise
them, in order for them, perhaps, to be admired without guilt, and to think
about this fascination.” For all their static fakery, they still look more realistic
and unsettling than the typical cinematic rendering of an explosion, which
consists, bizarrely, in the construction of an impossible duration (just as
photography is conventionally denoted via a flash improbably elongated
by slow motion). For Hollywood, a bomb blast is merely a fireball, without
smoke or debris. Its only force is that which propels the hero forward to
safety, as though an explosion were really just a sluggish natural
phenomenon that you could somehow outrun: like a flood, a tornado or a
crowd of zombies. As Pickering and Hurrell remind us, the truth (which is
also a truth about photography) is both more sudden and more protracted
than that.
Work by Sarah Pickering will be on show in the Print Sales Gallery of the
Photographers’ Gallery, London (www.photonet.org.uk), 20 April to 23 June
plumes of white smoke – we’re reminded of the distance between the
reality of the explosive event and its restaging by the media.
Sarah Pickering’s series of photographs Explosion (2004–)
addresses itself ambiguously to this set of historical, aesthetic and ethical
problems. The series so far consists of ten medium-format photographs
of controlled explosions carried out to demonstrate ‘simulation
pyrotechnics’: the explosive devices used by the British Army and police
to enhance the realism of training exercises. The various explosions
occurred at manufacturers’ testing grounds, a disused airfield, a former
nuclear bunker and a military base in Kent. They are, says Pickering,
“documents of actual tests: so they’re grounded in the real, but at the same
time I’m photographing a non-event”.
The images reveal an array of disparate flashes and conflagrations
that are considerably less powerful than the real thing: “the pyrotechnic
eects are really inadequate in terms of scale and impact”. Still, they
succeed in informing us as to the morphology and force of a variety of
devices and substances. Electric Thunderflash produces a dense white
cloud, echoed by the blossoming trees in the background. Fuel Air
Explosion is a tower of flame above a placid expanse of grass. Napalm is a
malevolent hulk of black smoke, hanging over concrete and weeds. But
each image is also a study in the nature of the photographic instant and its
long historical link to the increasingly visual technologies of warfare: optical
p109-111 Lightbox AR Feb07.indd 3 10/1/07 09:52:49
WRITING ABOUT ARTISTS WHO ARE ENGAGING NEW MEDIA in
their work leaves me with a certain margin for error when
commenting and interpreting innovative pieces. This recent
field of creative endeavour is still waiting for more critics and
theoreticians to define its rules and merits. Which doesn’t
mean that I never meet people with enough wisdom, taste
and good sense to challenge my half-baked views on new
media art. That’s what happened exactly one week before
writing these lines. I had just finished giving a kind of crash
course in interactive art at a London art venue. The
audience, fuelled by vodka tonic and cranberry juice, looked
pleased. I felt victorious and smart. Until this guy came up to
me and said, “You know, these interactive coconuts and
musical gumboots you’ve just shown us? They are fun and
they might be wonderful. But when you watch, not even that
closely, they are not pretty to look at.”
I’m not going to discuss aesthetics, what’s beautiful,
what’s not and whether a urinal has the right to grace the
exhibition room of museum. However, his critical comment
reminded me of my frustrations when I go to new media art
events. The venues are packed with pieces that beg to be
interacted with. Unfortunately there are even more visitors
who want to play around and test the machines. Hence
there are queues and that feeling of boredom mixed with
irritation you had not experienced since you were sixteen.
The cutest boy in the neighbourhood was on the dance
floor, another girl prancing in front of him while you were
standing there waiting for your turn to grab his arm, not
enjoying the spectacle, not sharing any bit of the girl’s
obvious (but ephemeral, my dear!) delight. That’s the
trouble with many interactive artworks: when you are not the
one monopolising the space, you are provided with a limited
amount of gaiety… Unless you’re in front of the work of an
artist who understands that the interaction with a piece
starts at the very moment gallerygoers lay their eyes on it.
I remember seeing Bondage (2004), an installation
by Atau Tanaka, two summers ago at an art festival. Having
read its description in the catalogue, I was determined to
snub the piece. I was there to see bubbles pop out of the
fancy truck when I clapped my hands and hear frog songs
when I walked on that sonic carpet. Bondage creates music
using portraits of Japanese women made by photographer
Nobuyoshi Araki. The images are projected onto a shoji –
the traditional Japanese sliding paper screen. With their
movements in front of the installation, visitors scan the erotic
images and reveal hidden layers, which in turn result in
transformations of the installation’s sound environment.
Bondage was the most extraordinary piece I saw at the
festival. I didn’t care whether I could modify the image or the
sound myself. I was perfectly happy to stand back in the little
dark room and witness how other people’s movements were
composing and re-composing the audiovisual tableau.
If the man who’s not to be impressed by the sonic
properties of boots ever reads these lines, I’d like him to
know that I’m awfully sorry I couldn’t tell him there and then
what I’ve just written down now. My only excuse is that I had
drunk too many vodka tonics myself. I should have told him
to take the London tube and go to the Victoria & Albert
Museum to discover what might be the most enchanting art
work I’ve seen for a long time. Right on top of the pond of
the V&A’s John Madejski Garden, United Visual Artists and
onepointsix have installed Volume, an immersive sculpture
of light and sound, an array of 46 columns that respond to
your every move.
Each column is associated with a dierent piece of
music. Visitors orchestrate the composition and the visual
show by the way they move around the sculpture. Getting
to slowly understand the power you have on the light waves
and on the soundscape is very gratifying. What’s even more
exciting is knowing that you also have the power to do
absolutely nothing, to sit on the side and revel in other
people’s unconscious eorts to delight your eyes.
words REGINE DEBATTY
The beauty of
non-interacting
United Visual Artists and onepointsix, Volume, 2006, created
as part of the PlayStation Season at the V&A. Photos: John
Adrian. Courtesy United Visual Artists
p112-113 Digital Feb AR Feb07.in2 2 10/1/07 17:51:42
ARTREVIEW
MIXED MEDIA DIGITAL
p112-113 Digital Feb AR Feb07.in3 3 10/1/07 17:53:08
ARTREVIEW
FUTURE PERFECT
From Campeche to Chengdu,
Oulu or just ‘somewhere in
Mongolia’, Jan Chipchase is
touring the globe. He makes
amazing images that are
better than the words of any
anthropologist for telling what
happens when people and society
collide with technology.
www.janchipchase.com
RELUCT
reluct.com started out as a
designer’s small portfolio site
with some bits of design news on
the side, but then net passersby
became addicted to the news.
So the portfolio was moved, and
reluct.com became an online
design magazine focusing on the
Dutch design scene. Because if
most Dutch speak perfect English,
who among us has mastered
Marcel Wanders’s language?
www.reluct.com
THE MUSEUM OF
KITSCHY STITCHES
Knitted ski masks, a crocheted
swimsuit for Monsieur and other
acrylic embarrassments await
you at the Museum of Kitschy
Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious
Knits.
www.stitchymcyarnpants.com
BALLDROPPINGS
In this noisy game, balls drop from
the top of the screen and bounce
off the lines you are drawing with
the mouse. Their pitch depends
on how fast the ball is moving
when it hits the line. It won’t
make you smarter, but saying so
probably isn’t enough to stop you
wasting your time with this toy.
www.balldroppings.com
MUSICOVERY
A completely visual streaming
web radio that allows you to listen
to songs according to their year
of release, style and even mood
(yours too, for that matter): dark
vs. energetic, positive vs. calm.
Easy. Gorgeously designed.
www.musicovery.com
A MONTHLY LOOK AT
THE BEST OF THE NET
words REGINE DEBATTY
dot
com:
MIXED MEDIA WEBSITES
p114 Websites V2 AR Feb07.indd 114 3/1/07 21:39:59
ARTREVIEW
FUTURE PERFECT
From Campeche to Chengdu,
Oulu or just ‘somewhere in
Mongolia’, Jan Chipchase is
touring the globe. He makes
amazing images that are
better than the words of any
anthropologist for telling what
happens when people and society
collide with technology.
www.janchipchase.com
RELUCT
reluct.com started out as a
designer’s small portfolio site
with some bits of design news on
the side, but then net passersby
became addicted to the news.
So the portfolio was moved, and
reluct.com became an online
design magazine focusing on the
Dutch design scene. Because if
most Dutch speak perfect English,
who among us has mastered
Marcel Wanders’s language?
www.reluct.com
THE MUSEUM OF
KITSCHY STITCHES
Knitted ski masks, a crocheted
swimsuit for Monsieur and other
acrylic embarrassments await
you at the Museum of Kitschy
Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious
Knits.
www.stitchymcyarnpants.com
BALLDROPPINGS
In this noisy game, balls drop from
the top of the screen and bounce
off the lines you are drawing with
the mouse. Their pitch depends
on how fast the ball is moving
when it hits the line. It won’t
make you smarter, but saying so
probably isn’t enough to stop you
wasting your time with this toy.
www.balldroppings.com
MUSICOVERY
A completely visual streaming
web radio that allows you to listen
to songs according to their year
of release, style and even mood
(yours too, for that matter): dark
vs. energetic, positive vs. calm.
Easy. Gorgeously designed.
www.musicovery.com
A MONTHLY LOOK AT
THE BEST OF THE NET
words REGINE DEBATTY
dot
com:
MIXED MEDIA WEBSITES
p114 Websites V2 AR Feb07.indd 114 3/1/07 21:39:59
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Art Cologne Ad AR Feb07 2/1/07 23:26 Page 1
By William A. Ewing
Thames & Hudson, £29.95 / $50.00
Before photography’s arrival in the mid-nineteenth
century, few people knew what they really looked
like; mirrors were a luxury reserved for the upper
classes. The democratisation of vanity that leads
to the recent surge in plastic surgery begins, then,
with the invention of the photographic portrait.
William Ewing’s Face: The New Photographic
Portrait is a manifesto against our current image
culture and its unrealistic ideals of beauty, youth
and celebrity. How, he asks, can we establish our
own identity in the face of global homogenisation
– the ‘grouplook’ (a term the author coins after
Orwell’s ‘groupthink’)?
Face is neatly arranged into chapters
with evocative titles like ‘Mergers’, ‘Masks’ and
‘Making Faces’. Impassioned commentary and an
anthology of quotes about photography over the
ages accompany an impressively well researched
selection of contemporary fine-art photography –
some obvious (Gillian Wearing, Cindy Sherman),
most not – with some gruesome examples from
medical photography and an astonishing NASA
satellite picture, a surrealist trompe l’oeil image of
a ‘human face’ on the surface of Mars, thrown into
the eccentric mix.
Militantly at odds with the twenty-first-
century cult of self-awareness, Ewing is mistrustful
of psychoanalytic analysis, and particularly cynical
about photography’s ability to reveal hidden truths
about the human soul. He supports Thomas
Ruff’s view that portraiture has ‘all the authenticity
of a pre-arranged reality’. Indeed, as Ewing points
out, photography’s first principle of truth was
already undermined by the rise of the professional
retoucher in the nineteenth century, a time when
most could only afford one or two portraits in their
lifetimes, and expected them to be as flattering
as possible.
And yet Face is a deeply romantic book, as
much an exercise in restoring portraiture’s former
mystery as a political rant. The first two chapters
sing with nostalgia for the early photographic
studios and the mesmerised reactions of their
first subjects. We learn that the first portrait was
probably taken by a microscopist and that the
resulting photographs were not only tiny but also
full or three-quarter-length poses, to better show
off the harmonious proportions of the body. Only
when portraiture became more accessible, with
barbers starting to throw in a photo with a shave,
did photographic studios offer their bourgeois
clients more expensive, larger format prints,
focusing solely on the face. As Ewing slyly notes,
the results were not always welcome: the enlarged
formats not only magnified natural deformities,
but, worse, the primitive plates of the camera
turned freckles into black spots and made blond
hair look dirty.
For Ewing, the best new portrait
photographers revel in that old magic of ‘making
faces’, creating original looks or challenging
boundaries such as gender or age through
make-up and masks, photomontage, advanced
retouching techniques or even simulations of
genetic modification. With such a range of creative
tools at hand, the adventurous photographer, then,
must resist blandness and support the individual’s
right to invent their own identity. And if they’re
lucky in the future, Ewing excitedly predicts,
photographers might just find their subjects
provided ‘by an obliging spacecraft that happened
to pass by the planet Mars’. Jennifer Thatcher
Books:
ARTREVIEW
Face: The New
Photographic Portrait
p118-121 Books AR Feb07.indd 118 4/1/07 23:48:40
This celebration of 20 years of John Currin’s
work reveals his 1980s abstract expressionist
roots, from which grew a powerful, distinct
figuration. Early portraits of teenage girls convey
the tension between ugliness and beauty that
dominates Currin’s work. The imposed passivity
of femininity results in dead eyes and politely
winded bodies. At a time when figurative painting
was in a shame cycle, Currin embraced it with
the gusto of unleashed repression in his 1991–3
series of middle-aged women, posed formidably,
one hand on hip, against what he calls ‘a classic
Brice Marden’ ground. Their imperious faces
and shrunken, overworked bodies split the critics.
Were they portraits of pathetic, menopausal hags,
or women free of the hassle of fecundity, bristling
with invulnerability? To me, they were the skinny,
highly articulate docents who give fast-paced
tours of New York museums – brainy eunuchs
for art.
In the Happy Lovers series (1993–5) the
heterosexual man is a kind of impostor. With an
aversion to painting male flesh, Currin created
female faces with beards. This gnomic character
features in most of his bachelor paintings, which
show the envy of and distaste for the goofy
expectations of couples around him. Disguise
and pretence are significant to Currin. His female
subjects often pretend to be coy, or pretend
they’re not, or pretend to pretend they’re not.
Their frequently disproportionate bodies speak of
Currin’s hourglass-figure fetish gone awry, bringing
Lucas Cranach’s creepiness to Russ Meyer’s camp.
The Wizard (1994) is a deeply queer celebration of
By Robert Rosenblum
Gagosian Gallery / Rizzoli, £80.00 / $150.00
meeting his wife-to-be, Rachel Feinstein. Here, the
transvestite leprechaun, with lipstick-swollen lips
and made-up eyes, gets his black rubber hands on
the mammary mountain of the cherub-Playmate.
Gone is the apology to abstract minimalism, and
in its place, the beginning of Currin’s infamous
breast period, which does make you wonder if
erotic repression produces better paintings: see
The Nursery (1994), in which Rachel suckles infant-
man Currin. The fake baby is only one archetypal
shade away from the ventriloquist’s dummy, which
he explores in The Kennedys (1996). Men are
reduced to the phoney pal who sits on your knee
and cannot speak for himself.
Not all the breast paintings are bad. The
Magnificent Bosom (1997) shows a once pretty
woman with enormous breasts, her face blotched
with palette knife paint so that it seems corrupted
by the breasts’ weighty presence, evoking the
contradictory cruelty of desire. “The palette knife
reminds me of the way it feels when you ruin
something with love,” says Currin.
Currin’s later work shows a mature,
contented style, which is becoming more technically
assured and less abrasive. He’s developed layers of
art historical references, especially to Mannerism
and introduced complex underpainting. Marriage
and fatherhood have regrettably ironed out his
kinks. Cherry Smyth
John Currin
MIXED MEDIA BOOKS
p118-121 Books AR Feb07.indd 119 8/1/07 15:39:24
Edited by Grant Watson, Gerrie van Noord & Gavin Everall
Bookworks / Project Arts Centre, £15.99
If, when Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in
1848, the ‘spectre of Communism’ was haunting
Europe, it was a rhetorical flourish that described
the ruling elites’ dread of an actual living and
growing political movement. Today Stalinist
communism lies broken and discredited, and we
are repeatedly told that ‘there is no alternative’
to the free market system and liberal democracy.
Yet for those who continue to want to think about
alternatives, the ‘spectre of communism’ still
haunts. Making Everything New brings together
artists and writers for whom art is a place to reflect
on ideas of social change, organisation, work and
the relationship of individuals to each other.
Appropriately then, ex-Project Arts
Centre curator Grant Watson (whose exhibition
Communism in 2005 covered similar territory)
contributes an ‘Interview with a Ghost’. The ghost
here, and throughout the book, is Marx, and it his
stridently radical and impassioned optimism which
contrasts to the relativism, caution and pessimism
of today, through which these contributions
navigate. Watson is to-the-point when he
states that ‘we are living in a situation where it is
possible to say almost anything’, but that it seems
‘impossible for these words to effect a radical
transformation, which makes for a general sense
of disengagement’.
Perhaps, however, it’s the sense
of disengagement that precludes radical
transformation, and Making Everything New is
interesting for its fragile, ground-up attempt to
rethink the term ‘communism’ without nostalgia,
while being wary of eclectic reinventions to suit the
present. Given its focus on art-making and artists,
there’s a strong current theme of thinking about
forms of organisation, collaboration, creativity
and free sociality: it’s evident in the eloquent
and funny interview with General Idea’s AA
Bronson, about the freewheeling, often absurd,
sometimes radical collectives that emerged in
the aftermath of the 1960s. Jim Fitzpatrick, the
unsung designer of the famous black-and-red
Che Guevara poster, is interviewed by Aleksandra
Mir, steadfastly generous and amused about the
way his design has become common cultural
property, without recompense or recognition.
And Rob Stone’s arch and lucid essay on the
British avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew
highlights the tensions between artists creating
spaces of improvised and mutual collaboration
as an aestheticized alternative, with the need to
confront the demands of political action beyond
the space of the artwork.
Artists who seek to create an autonomous
context for their practice, often through collectivity,
become aware that it is indeed possible to make
things new, at however limited a scale. The problem
for Making Everything New is the problem that
faces our political imagination more broadly – that
we can no longer imagine humanity’s capacity to
‘make things new’ because we have lost faith in
an essentially positive view of human potential.
The humanist thinking that informed Marx – the
rational, passionate, future-oriented subject that
understands its actions as having the potential to
change its world positively – is a world away from
a culture in which human beings are no longer seen
as a benign presence but as the arrogant ecology-
raping, holocaust-producing idiot destroyers of the
planet. The ‘revolution of the senses’ that Alberto
Toscano brilliantly investigates in his essay on
Marx’s aesthetics point this way: without a positive
understanding of what we are capable of, the
positive experience of small-scale collaborative
and aesthetic production will always remain
constrained to its locality. Making Everything New
suggests a first step into realising that our politics
is haunted by our loss of faith in ourselves, a ghost
it is urgently time to exorcise. J.J. Charlesworth
ARTREVIEW
Making Everything
New: A Project on
Communism
MIXED MEDIA BOOKS
p118-121 Books AR Feb07.indd 120 8/1/07 15:39:31
Why won’t Goth die? In Contemporary Gothic,
Catherine Spooner performs a critical vivisection
of the Goth subculture aesthetic to isolate the
reasons why it eternally resurfaces in marginal
and mainstream contemporary culture. Cutting
through the subculture’s conventions and clichés,
Spooner examines Goth’s roots in the gothic
literary tradition while deftly deconstructing
some of the more visible examples of Gothic
pervasiveness.
Spooner, a lecturer in English Literature at
Lancaster University and author of the fascinating
2004 volume Fashioning Gothic Bodies, a
history of the gothic fashion aesthetic, traces the
flowering of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
horror literature through an interdisciplinary
array of media. Unlike many of her peers, or the
adolescents channelling their angst, destructive
urges or feelings of alienation into Goth’s
theatrically grotesque aesthetic, Spooner refuses
to regard Goth as a peripheral or antisocial
subcultural sect. She also rejects the commonly
held idea that Goth acts as the dark underbelly to
our light, bright pop culture.
Instead, Spooner places contemporary
Goth within a larger corporate context and
explores the commoditization of the grotesque.
She slices through the conceptual ligature
underpinning London’s ghoulish themed pubs,
a sampling of satanically suggestive alcohol
advertising, the abject art of the Chapman
brothers, Gregory Crewdson and Joel-Peter
Witkin, as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, already
popular fodder for academics. Smartly skimming
well-worn territory like body modification and
theories about how millennium anxiety accounts
for gothic tendencies, Spooner instead looks at
Goth as camp performance.
By Catherine Spooner
FOCI/Reaktion Books, £12.95 / $19.95
Morbidity, aberrant sexuality, superstition
and the appropriation of mass-media horror
imagery are prominent themes in contemporary
art, from Damien Hirst’s collection of flashing,
nasty memento mori through to the new breed
of emerging American artists seen in Saatchi’s
USA Today collection at the Royal Academy. But
Spooner looks past art to Goth’s dark influence
on other, fluffier areas of culture. Her lucid probing
into Goth’s historical, conceptual and commercial
roots dispels much of its mystique as an aesthetic
rebellion against mainstream imagery, without
dismissing its inherent contradictions and its
contemporary cultural importance.
As with most subcultures, within their
own ranks Goths are notoriously obsessed with
defining and maintaining an internal hierarchy
of authenticity. This subculture snobbery means
that many of the sources Spooner examines lie on
the outer edge of Goth. But as she persuasively
argues, there can be no ‘authentic Goth’, because
‘Gothic possesses no original… Gothic takes
the form of a series of revivals, each based on a
fantasized idea of the previous one. As a form it
has always been about fakery.’ Marilyn Manson
and Buffy are therefore no less ‘authentic’ than
the vampire cults that are as consumed with
superficial fashion concerns as any other high
school subgroup. Being confronted by the
healthy, normal, banal subcutaneous layers that
underlie Goth might disappoint many of its
most dedicated followers, but Spooner also
eloquently demonstrates that even commercially
marketed and consumed Goth culture provides
a vital intelligent, critical counterpoint to the
pop, sparkle and giggle of mass popular culture.
Ana Finel Honigman
Contemporary Gothic
p118-121 Books AR Feb07.indd 121 4/1/07 23:49:10
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REVIEWS
ON THE
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ON THE
RECORD
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 123 3/1/07 03:13:05
L O S A N G E L E S C O U N T Y M U S E U M O F A R T, L O S A N G E L E S
19 N O V E M B E R – 4 M A R C H
In seeking to articulate Magritte’s fraternal relationship with
surrealism and his siring of Pop art and postmodernism, the extensive
evidence presented leads to another conclusion, revealing Magritte to be
none of these things, but instead an early conceptual artist. He made art
that wasn’t about art history, and was concerned with the physical world
only in passing; he made art about language and the ideas (rather than the
objects) it represents. Painting in Magritte’s programme was a means to an
end, an element in a semiotic construction. His art was not about seeing
familiar objects in new ways – that’s Pop’s business. Nor was it about how
such objects prompt and manipulate the subconscious – that’s the terrain
of surrealism. Magritte was suspicious of both agendas. Elegantly curated
to highlight deliberate and specific stylistic and symbolic correspondences
and citations between the practitioners of these movements, the installation
demonstrates just how incomplete that interpretation is. In being shown
alongside those artists anointed as his heirs, Magritte, in opposition,
emerges as a voice clearly dedicated to goals that reach beyond stylistic
influence and innovation to strike at more basic and problematic questions
of information and modernity.
Magritte’s strategy depended in large part on the legibility of his
objects, what curator Stephanie Barron calls his ‘misleading literalness’; but
this means that his was not a revolution in style on the order of Impressionism
or Cubism. It was about language and communication and the eects
of modernity on the operations of each. His interest in language takes a
more literal form in his popular uses of text, especially with the legendary
painting The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (1929), the centrepiece of the exhibition and a part
of LACMA’s permanent collection. But it also appears in less widely known works, like The Interpretation
of Dreams (1952). An intimate chart-like arrangement of objects (egg, shoe, hat, etc), each bearing a false
caption (‘moon’, ‘snow’, ‘storm’ and so on), the painting confuses the viewer regarding the mechanics of his
own seeing, invoking a ghost in the machine of perception that has nothing to do with either the painting
or the objects and words therein. The Human Condition (1933) depicts a pastoral vista visible through an
open window, partially blocked by a canvas on an easel depicting a painting of the identical view. The real
subject of the image is not the artist’s skill in landscape, nor his employment as a painter, nor the peaceful
tone of the view; it is desire. This image, as so many others here, is a comment on the twentieth century’s
obsession with representations and possessions, and its perverse preference for mediated experience.
Magritte’s technical acumen is beyond reproach; his texts, interiors, forms, figures and landscapes are
instantly identifiable and traditionally rendered, his titles elaborate and well-considered. All that remains
indeterminate is the ultimate meanings of the images; he allowed room for expansive significance only by
close orchestration of everything else.
The artists whose work physically resembles Magritte’s own work the least are nevertheless closest
to it in spirit. The hyperrealism, sensuality and scale manipulations in Charles Ray’s oversize mannequin
Fall ’91 (1992); Robert Gober’s unsavoury waxen body-part sculptures; Ed Ruscha’s SPAM painting (Actual
MAGRITTE AND CONTEMPORARY ART:
THE TREACHERY OF IMAGES
THIS AMBITIOUS EXHIBITION EXAMINES THE INFLUENCE OF SEMINAL TWENTIETHCENTURY
BELGIAN ARTIST RENE MAGRITTE ON THE POSTWAR VISUAL ART OF BOTH EUROPE
AND AMERICA. WHILE IT DOESN’T PROVE ITS CASE BEYOND A DEFT CHOREOGRAPHY OF
DELIGHTFUL COINCIDENCE AND HOMAGE, IT ACCIDENTALLY HITS A TRUER MARK.
REVIEWS MAGRITTE
ARTREVIEW
Robert Gober, Untitled,
1990, beeswax, cotton, wool,
human hair, leather shoe,
27 x 52 x 14 cm.
Photo: Lee Stalsworth,
© Hirshhorn Museum
and Sculpture Garden,
Smithsonian Institution.
© the artist
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 124 3/1/07 03:13:06
above: René Magritte, The
Listening Room, 1952, oil on
canvas, 45 x 55 cm. Photo
Paul Hester, courtesy of the
Menil Collection. © 2006 C.
Herscovici/London, ARS/New
York.
Size, 1962), with its sensually worked surfaces and raw spaces that border
on the abstract. Warhol’s comic and inconveniently large cereal boxes; Je
Koons’s cast bronze life raft that hovers on the sky of the floor like a Beatles
movie animation; Barbara Kruger’s domineering signage that lacks subtlety
in its satire of commercial disingenuousness.
The curators might have considered including a younger generation
of artists, such as those who grew out of Juxtapoz magazine’s low-brow
post-illustration movement – the Clayton Brothers, Robert Williams, Mark
Ryden, Eric White, Aaron Smith, Sandow Birk – who also share Magritte’s
drive to reinvent perception from the bottom up, the better to keep pace
with a rapidly evolving world. The greatest achievement of the museum
exhibition is by far the installation design by artist John Baldessari. From
the building’s entrances, shaped like negative spaces and alluding to the
paintings, to the expansive carpet of blue sky and fluy white clouds, to
the ceiling papered in aerial photographs of LA freeways, to the bowler
hats worn by guards, the space and scale inversions compellingly alter the
viewer’s frame of reference in ways that result in more attention being paid
to what surrounds you. Disorienting, it sets the stage for an undertaking of
rediscovery and whimsy, tinged with nausea, of which the caustic Magritte
would no doubt have approved. Shana Nys Dambrot
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 125 3/1/07 03:13:08
ALIEN NATION
IC A , L O N D O N
7 N O V E M B E R – 14 J A N U A R Y
In the 1951 sci-fi classic The Thing from Another World,
the hero issues the following warning: “Watch the skies
everywhere… keep looking… keep watching the skies.”
It’s a line that illuminates our muddled ideas about the
unknown – its nebulous provenance and our identification
of it in chiefly visual terms. Co-curated by the ICA and
London’s Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA),
Alien Nation reworks Cold War-era narratives to address
the visual politics of the other in the contemporary world,
now preoccupied with fears of terrorism and immigration.
Twelve artists explore the subject of the stranger in our
midst, fictive aliens standing in for the real status of
alienness, supported by vintage posters and footage
from early science-fiction films.
The works move from dealing with the unknown
as it is assimilated into the everyday, to proposing
moments of conflict between the two. Entering the
lower gallery, the viewer is confronted with immediately
recognisable figures: a family of long-limbed, bug-eyed
creatures (Yinka Shonibare’s Dysfunctional Family,
1999) and hybrids composed of household debris
(Laylah Ali’s Untitled (Types), 2004). Domesticated and
unthreatening, these familiar forms put forward the idea
of the alien already among us, a point further stressed in
Henna Nadeem’s A Picture Book of Britain (2006), where
images of rural England are overlaid with fractured,
un-Western patterns. Ultimately enhanced by these configurations, Nadeem’s collages make a reassuring case for
cultural integration, rather than mine the troubled borders of the fear of miscegenation, a position shared with these
other works.
Navigating more ambiguous terrain, Hew Locke’s Golden Horde (2006), an impressive armada of fantastical
battleships, occupies an entire room of the upper gallery. Locke’s barbed flotilla, bearing a toy arsenal and dripping
with costume jewellery, references the European warships of the seventeenth century. But the vessels, helmed by
multi-ethnic dolls, have a piratical aspect too; it is equally unclear whether the jewellery they bear are authentically
‘other’ or really plundered goods, a fantasy in which ethnicity is a hybrid born of forcing colonialists to switch allegiance
or walk the plank. Elsewhere, Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne’s film installation, Murmur (2003–4), looks to the
subconscious as the interior site of the alien. Of these, Monster – a hazy reworking of 1953’s It Came from Outer
Space – visualises the alien’s assimilation of human form, with sinuous, watery visuals evoking easily breached, fluid
margins. It is here that we see a departure from a known narrative (colonial history, say, or the skeleton of an old film)
into something less certain.
There is something jarring about this exhibition, but perhaps not in the way the curators had hoped. While
some works engage with the show’s theme by touching on how the fear of the unknown comes from a deeper cultural
uncertainty of who we believe ourselves to be, much of Alien Nation insists on resolving and trivialising dierence
under the sign of a cosy cultural tolerance – more Star Trek than War of the Worlds. Ultimately it is the graphics,
posters and antique footage, disconcertingly relevant after all this time, with their hysterical manipulation of threat
and fear, that stay with you. Laura Allsop
Alien Nation installation view:
Yinka Shonibare, Dysfunctional Family,
1999 (foreground) and Mario Ybarra, Jr,
Brown and Proud, 2006 (background).
Photo: © Marcus Leith, 2006.
Courtesy the artists and the ICA, London
REVIEWS ALIEN NATION
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 126 8/1/07 15:32:04
‘Our definition of play is to deliberately break the rules and invent our own,
thus freeing creative activity from restrictions, to redesign aesthetic and
revolutionary actions that undermine or elude social control.’ (CutUp, 2006)
CutUp are a collective who make interventions in the street, dismantling
and reassembling billboard posters. In the gallery, CutUp present the cleaned-
up simulacra of these events, the neatly compartmentalised relics of a night out
culture-jamming.
CutUp claim to use strategies of subversion to disrupt the flows of
advertising. They pixelate and remap images from billboards while shoring up
their position with a familiar rhetoric of free creativity, graphic agitation and
the street as site of cultural intervention. But this seems to produce an inherent
contradiction: what are they doing here? Why entice us into a neutralised space
in the heart of Hoxton to look at light boxes, when their clarion call should be
for us to take to the streets? It seems clear that this practice is not involved, as
its Situationist antecedents were, with a radical critique of the spectacle as a
revolutionary strategy. The situational aesthetics of this work and its concerns
with site, address and audience become compromised by the retreat to the
gallery space.
You can see the influence of Adbusters, and faint Situationist echoes, but
the politeness ingrained in the project leaves it closer to MTV. A stylised face
or modernist block emerges from the fragments of a shredded advertisement,
but does this retexturing of an image really reroute meaning? Or is this another
layer of gloss added to the spectacle; a sophisticated graphic trick that fantasises
about agitation and disruption culturally, while things continue as they are?
The cut-up technique of reconfiguration and juxtaposition was one
of the key innovations of the twentieth-century avant-gardes, used to rouse
society from its somnambulistic delusions, but this show feels slow, soporific.
You don’t feel the electronic tagging device cutting into your ankle, or the
rage of the rioter in the banlieue, only the slight disaection of the skater. The
city gets the coee-table drum-and-bass treatment – ‘urban’ as shortcut to
edgy chic. The plywood installations, brutalist architecture as recurring motif,
traces of paranoiac squatlands without the ketamine casualties, leave an
empty aesthetic devoid of radical critique. We’re still in a gallery, with the act
of subversion still kept out there, at a distance, consumed by the spectacle it
purports to attack.
The catalogue oers something more direct, a classic image of a
subverted billboard, a heroic détournement, the tactic employed by the
Situationists to tear the veneer from the false promises of consumerism. The
text ‘La Vida te espera’, the promise of a happier life, remains unobliterated
and is juxtaposed by the rerouted image of a ravaged face, an emblem of
dismantled humanity. Therein lies the power of the double take, the capitalist
lie ruptured for a fleeting moment. And this is when CutUp really works, in the
street, writ large.
This is a culture where antisocial-behaviour orders and electronic tagging
are swiftly absorbed by the language of advertising and used to sell Grime
compilations to middle-class tourists. Critiquing the hegemony of commercial
visual culture and questioning the colonisation of public space by multinational
corporations is to be welcomed; adding to it with layers of obfuscation is not.
Subverting billboards without a wider revolutionary strategy, or even a sense of
the altered politics of presentation that apply to the gallery space, simply looks
gimmicky. Better crassly defaced billboards asking the simple question, ‘ Who
do they think they’re fooling – you?’ Laura Oldfield Ford
CUTUP: OUT OF THE RUINS OF THE REAL…
S E V E N T E E N G A L L E R Y, L O N D O N
1 D E C E M B E R – 14 J A N U A R Y
REVIEWS CUTUP
ARTREVIEW
CutUp installation view,
from left:
Untitled, 2006, reordered bus
shelter advertising poster in
light box, 185 x 127 x 9 cm.
Untitled, 2006,
cut advertising poster
in light box,
190 x 130 x 13 cm.
Both courtesy Seventeen
Gallery, London
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 127 8/1/07 15:32:14
French artist Cyprien Gaillard brilliantly captures the insidious creep of
catastrophe in his seven-minute film Real Remnants of Fictive Wars, Part V
(2006). Set in the grand garden of a chateau, the camera tracks slowly along
a balustrade with a group of established trees beyond it. What appears to be a
cloud of smoke bursts from the central tree, a spontaneous combustion without
flame, as if the tree, rather than absorbing the carbon dioxide from the air, has
reversed the process and is pulsing poisonous spores back into the environment.
Fittingly, the word ‘environment’ comes from the Old French viron – to encircle
– and Gaillard’s film, rattling forth from a huge Czech 35mm projector, surrounds
the spectator with the concise, mesmeric power of a short, savage poem. The
spectral dispersal engulfs the scene, then fades, leaving ash-like deposits on the
tree’s branches. Gaillard’s film acts both as secret evidence of an experiment and
a prescient fantasy of what may come. Despite the architectural barrier posed
by the ornate balustrade, toxic air pollution or radioactive fallout will get us all.
The smoke (apparently foam ejected from fire extinguishers harnessed within
the tree) settles, leaving a beleaguered and depleted-looking tree. The sear
lawn and empty ornamental pond reinforce the crisis of cultivation in drought
conditions, and the setting echoes Renoir’s 1939 La Règle du Jeu, which warned
of a social urgency of a dierent kind. While Gaillard’s earlier smoke-without-
fire interventions were enacted at the foot of tower blocks, evoking race riots,
teargas and the desire to demolish inadequate social housing, by locating his
‘explosions’ in a pastoral site he shifts the dramatic focus. Here the trees can no
longer be relied on to supply the classical harmony of an idyllic view.
Political and ecological concerns also frame Belief in the Age of Disbelief
(2005), a series of seventeenth-century etchings into which Gaillard has
inserted drawings of tower blocks. The ancient landscape invokes dated words
like ‘copse’, ‘ dingle’, ‘arbour’ and ‘glade’, while the buildings exude the polite
discretion of developer’s plans working to make the constructions look ‘natural’,
adding to, rather than distorting, the contours of the bucolic surroundings.
Gaillard teases out the culture/nature binary, since the etchings have already
cultivated a habit of thinking about how landscape should be composed and
admired. These same cultural attitudes foster the belief that natural resources
are inexhaustible, that human culture transcends nature. Gaillard’s project
is about safety and threat: it’s becoming harder to view a green expanse
without seeing it as endangered. By contrast, Gaillard’s series of Polaroids in
display cases (Geographical Analogies, 2006), set largely in California, have an
unfinished look. He seems less sure of himself in the place where they invented
the fenced-in wilderness of Yosemite and evergreen suburbs. Cherry Smyth
CYPRIEN GAILLARD
L A U R A B A R T L E T T G A L L E R Y, L O N D O N
3 N O V E M B E R – 16 D E C E M B E R
Real Remnants of Fictive
Wars, Part V, 2006, 35mm
fi lm, 7 min. Courtesy Laura
Bartlett Gallery, London
REVIEWS CYPRIEN GAILLARD
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 128 3/1/07 03:13:54
Rebecca Bending Over
Backwards to Make Us
a Table, 2006, glass
shelf, 35mm slides, slide
projector, dimensions
variable. Photo: Oliver
Marlow. Courtesy
Associates Gallery, London
A SS O CI A T E S G A L L E R Y, L O N D O N
30 N O V E M B E R – 16 D E C E M B E R
KIM COLEMAN
JENNY HOGARTH:
TIME BANK
REVIEWS TIME BANK
ARTREVIEW
Aesthetically, Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth’s Time Bank absorbs
you as soon as you open the gallery door. Its ideas, meanings and
eects, on the other hand, are a little more wilfully reticent. Although
the show comprises seven individual works, they criss-cross literally
and associatively, demanding a somewhat protracted process of
disentanglement. Entrapment (all works 2006), a three-dimensional
geometric drawing made in red GloWire, fills the space, connecting its
architectural limits as well as the wall-based works. Pictorially it speaks of
science fiction or elaborate puzzles or the geometric archetypes found
in a classical painter’s studio. Its scale, too, implies an unidentified ludic
and participatory function, like a diagram divorced from its referent. To
consider Time Bank, it seems, is to puzzle over puzzles.
The dim conditions required for Entrapment to glow portentously
demand that the viewer peer closely at a series of wall-mounted
photograms, forcing the eye to really push the limits of its retinal cones.
It takes a while before images of a set square, a series of intersecting
circles – perhaps coee rings or bangles – and venetian blinds become
apparent. In some instances the image never quite declares itself,
belligerently clutching onto some cabalistic information.
Two projector pieces, on the other hand, have a self-contained logic that delivers itself instantly and intact.
Rebecca Bending Over Backwards to Make Us a Table does exactly what it claims: a projected image of a woman making
like a crab appears to serve as the base for a real glass shelf attached to the wall. The pun is twofold, visually hingeing on
the intersection between representation and reality, while on the linguistic level Rebecca is indeed going out of her way
to make a table. This second reading is elaborated in an interview with the artists, where they describe the narrative of
the show as being ‘about people kind of working together collaboratively… about people being creative’. Bending over
backwards, then, becomes analogous to the processes of give and take that collaboration necessitates. And presumably
Infinite Us’s – in which projected images show the artists holding the projectors that project the other’s image, implying
an endless regress of representations – becomes an illustration of the pair’s interdependency.
This self-referential play is both the interesting and fallible essence of the work. A single work neatly forms a mise
en abîme of the show and collaborative practice as a whole, but the relationship between narrative and image is somewhat
indexical. Coleman & Hogarth established the Embassy, an artist-run space in Edinburgh that shows international work
with a strong performative and event-based programme, but to reduce this to tropes and static images is to schematise
its infinite variegations. Sally O’Reilly
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 129 3/1/07 03:14:02
REVIEWS FRIEDRICH
ARTREVIEW
Doggerfisher group shows tend to foreground work in a way that assuages lyrical description, the
sort of ‘poetry’ – written while skipping around with a butterfly net – that gives poetry a bad name.
The current show, featuring seven German friends who either live in or have lived in London, looks
perfectly at home. Curated by Bruce Haines, co-director of Ancient & Modern in London, it oers
a non-linear ambience rather than a manifesto or a lesson, and while this is no bad thing, it’s no great
surprise either.
The highlight is undoubtedly Alex Heim’s Untitled (2006), five car wing mirrors found smashed
under the Thames in the notoriously twisty Rotherhithe Tunnel. They are beguilingly simple mosaics, Baudelairean memento mori
that perfectly encapsulate a mood of intoxicating pleasure that some of the other work aspires to. Heim personifies Baudelaire’s
avatar of the poet-as-ragpicker. His Kanal 2 (2005), a looped DVD queasily documenting flotsam and jetsam in a canal, is also
beautifully articulate in its minimalism, achieving its eect without retreating from the interstices of everyday life. Other works are
produced in a comparably simple way, notably Markus Amm’s untitled abstract photograms based on his paintings. These works lurk
around the exquisite deformities of early modernism, deploying the Romantic device of clair-obscur to generate subtle assonance
and dissonance.
Many of the artists share a less healthy preoccupation with style, studio-based plasticity and art history. Ellen Gronemeyer’s
paintings have a novelty relationship with Friedrich’s imaginary retro-modernity; dabbling with the naive angst of folksy moderns.
Resembling Brancusi’s Endless Column, Nicole Wermers’s yellow and black steel sculpture Kusine (2006) also feels too obvious in
this context. Karin Ruggaber’s Wall #4 (2006) – a wood and ceramic sandwich – is most symptomatic of the show’s weaknesses. A
desperate attempt to make art, it is highly haptic while shy and unassuming, woven from predictable materials and art histrionics.
When viewed alongside the other works, a grungy Bloomsbury-brown tonality murmurs and mumbles, consciously or otherwise
promulgating a heimliche seriousness, a visual foie gras.
With such reticent work there is the ever-present danger of sleepwalking into the tyranny of good taste, an absolutism
enriched by hedge-fund bonuses currently fattening the London kunst-goose. Friedrich poses the thorny old question of how
friendship and a shared geography might influence form. It’s worth noting that the kind of neoromantic disintegration favoured by
many younger Berlin-based artists can also be seen in The Metal Bridge at Sorcha Dallas in Glasgow, which features work by Thomas
Helbig. And there’s something of this sensibility in Planting the Tele at Mary Mary in Glasgow, curated by artist Hayley Tompkins.
Postconceptual neoromanticism is now long in the tooth in Scotland and Berlin. With the notable exception of Heim, Friedrich feels
second-generation and is preaching to the converted. Neil Mulholland
Alex Heim, Untitled (Five
found wing mirrors from
Rotherhithe Tunnel), 2006,
found objects, wood plinth,
120 x 130 x 12 cm.
Courtesy the artist and
Doggerfi sher,Edinburgh
FRIEDRICH
D O G G E R FIS H E R , E DI N B U R G H
15 D E C E M B E R – 3 F E B R U A R Y
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 130 8/1/07 15:32:27
Tami Demaree’s solo debut has all the pull of a good pop song.
The rainbowed garlands of plastic puballs that festoon the gallery’s
lobby pose an enchanting threshold into a sort of bubble-gum paradise
that looks a lot like the interior of a teenage girl’s bedroom. There
are movie posters dating to the period of the artist’s own youth (The
Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything), painted over with
storybook imagery in bold Magic Marker tones. There are horses and
unicorns and oversize lipstick-mark kisses and hearts pierced with arrows
and other sharp implements and eyes with teardrops and a pep rally-style
banner emblazoned with the show’s title that epitomises romantic but
ready-for-heartbreak spirit. There’s even an actual pop song: ‘Nothing
Compares 2 U’, written by Prince, popularised by Sinéad O’Connor and
performed by Demaree herself with great sincerity on a video monitor
that sits on the floor, surrounded, altar-like, with tall blue candles.
With nearly 60 objects in all – paintings, drawings, sculptures,
wall paintings, neon and the one video – it’s an impressive production,
and Demaree has both the skill and the cleverness to hold it all together.
The painting is strong, confident and often quite lovely, as in My Heart
Radiates Gold (all works 2006), a painting of the torso of a human skeleton
rendered on an old astronomy poster (the ribcage encircles a cluster of
stars). Wound in with the pop culture references are numerous images
of snakes, wolves, deer and other symbolically freighted wild animals,
as well as images of trees and dark, wooded landscapes, all of which
lend the show an intriguing fairy-tale quality that helps to substantiate
the romantic sentiment. And that sentiment itself can be touching,
particularly as it comes across in the titles, most of which appear in each
work as text: How Can I Explain the Thundering of My Heart, Oh My God
Your Right That Hurt and I Shouldn’t Have Texted You Back, It Made Me
Look Desperate (this last is the title of a wall painting of an eye with blue
neon tears), to name a few.
That said, even a decent pop song like ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ begins to wear thin the fourth or fifth time
through, at least to adult ears, and the same goes for the sentiments Demaree neatly – perhaps too neatly – encapsulates
in this work. These are loud emotions, but not especially deep or substantial, and after the dazzle of the show’s bright
colours and its cleverness wears o, there’s not much left to hold on to. What’s more, it begins to feel – again, like a
pop song – suspiciously calculated, an artist shrewdly covering all the art-school bases (painting, video, text, found
objects, craft, site-specific installation, scrappy styrofoam sculpture) without actually saying a great deal. Nostalgia can
be satisfying, and it’s certainly a popular strategy these days, particularly for artists of Demaree’s (and, for the record,
my) generation, but it only goes so far. With this much talent, one longs to see some teeth. Holly Myers
TAMI DEMAREE: I’LL CROSS MY FINGERS
BUT I WON’T HOLD MY BREATH
A N G ST R O M G A L L E R Y, L O S A N G E L E S
4 N O V E M B E R – 23 D E C E M B E R
Tami Demaree installation
view. Courtesy Angstrom
Gallery, Los Angeles
REVIEWS TAMI DEMAREE
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 131 3/1/07 03:14:12
REVIEWS ROBERT LONGO
ARTREVIEW
Guns. Waves. Mushroom clouds. And now, celestial bodies: planets, stars and nebulae. These are the subjects of Robert Longo’s
continued mining of the sublime. Though his large-scale charcoal drawings on paper have become familiar – signature, even – the
immensity of the work and their exacting facility never fail to seduce, which is no doubt a necessary part of Longo’s art. As with
his previous show at Metro Pictures, which showcased magnificent nuclear explosions rendered in velvety black and the brilliant,
seemingly impossible white of unmarked paper, seduction is integral to the discomfort. One stands in awe in front of these images,
and then, slowly at first, but with fair acceleration, that once-unadulterated aesthetic enjoyment runs up against the Idea: here we
have the weed of science, physical forces propagating where they were never meant to, a sun on the surface of the earth.
This fits Edmund Burke’s equation for the sublime quite nicely: beauty + dread. Kant, however, required further specificity.
Knowing we are safe from such forces, that we occupy a position at a remove from any of their direct eects, allows for an experience
of the ‘ dynamical sublime’. Recognising, in our capacity to reason, that we surpass our own ability to imagine oers up an experience
of the ‘mathematical sublime’. (‘Infinity’ provides the favoured test case here: easily conceived, di cult to imagine.) We should note,
however, that the former involves a confrontation with the world, while the latter issues from a confrontation with ourselves, and
Longo’s lush images of atomic explosions would seem to produce both experiences simultaneously: a ‘Look at that!’ crossed with a
hushed ‘Look at that’.
This most recent series of drawings withdraws from such ambivalence. Longo has a story to tell here. Included in the show
are two quite small works, Untitled (Dante, after J.P.) (2006), which reproduces Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm: Number 30 (1950), and
Untitled (Virgil, after H.B.) (2006), which shows the back panels of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504). Each is a picture of a
universe: Bosch’s profane sphere, Pollock’s existential web. To these Longo adds his own – or rather our shared – planets and stars, as
if to suggest that these are now the figures with which our imaginations and our reason must contend. They are the stu of reality as
much as the stu of dreams, to which the two pictures of Longo’s sleeping children, also included in the show, attest, at least as much
as the two small drawings attest to the contingency of our knowledge and our fallible desire for enlightenment.
Longo’s drawings are elaborate constructions after all: highly mediated pictures of objects in space and time, rendered
from photographs, themselves the products of complex technologies and material histories. ‘Simulations’ was a term once used to
describe his productions, and the word still rings true, just as the sentimentality of some ‘inward and invisible grace’ does not ring at
all, particularly given the vacuum of space. Jonathan T.D. Neil
ROBERT LONGO: THE OUTWARD
AND VISIBLE SIGNS OF AN INWARD
AND INVISIBLE GRACE
M E T R O PIC T U R E S, N E W YO R K
3 N O V E M B E R – 9 D E C E M B E R
Untitled (Dante, after
J.P.), 2006, graphite
on paper, 13 x 26 cm.
Courtesy the artist and
Metro Pictures, New York
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 132 3/1/07 03:15:16
TIM EITEL:
CENTER
OF GRAVITY
Not so long ago, Leipzig painter Tim Eitel was
painting very sunny pictures of the lives of young art-
lovers. Executed with sharp detailing and the look of
photographic snapshots, they made you inclined to
double-take as you kept coming upon some person or
interior or artwork you thought you knew. Eitel seemed
committed to particulars; but he was also clearly
interested in larger generalities, as his pictures captured
these people outside the galleries too: often alone,
pensive and, crucially, apparently enjoying the same
excited sensibilities and nuanced appreciation that they
experienced when they looked at art.
Eitel’s first solo show with Pace Wildenstein (his
first in the US) demonstrated that some aspects of this
project haven’t changed. Some of his small pictures
still depict people in the galleries, and one of the
larger works, Onung (all works 2006), shows a crowd
of schoolchildren sitting before a tall white stripe that
appears to be opening up before them like an illuminated
Barnett Newman. However, Eitel’s palette has darkened
significantly, and he has widened his perspective to
represent life on the streets, in particular the lives of
the homeless, who are seen sleeping and struggling
in abstracted grey scenes. Liegende shows the top of
the head of one sleeping figure; Gra ti shows another
wrestling with a shopping cart; Lager concentrates on
an overflowing cart alone; and Rauch shows a blasted
landscape with pluming towers of smoke rising in the
foreground while figures dig what might be a shallow
grave in the distance.
Given that so many of these pictures retain
the mood of ennui and alienation that provided the
undercurrent in Eitel’s earlier pictures, it is intriguing just how dramatic and unbalancing
his new subject matter is for the tone of his work. His new world seems violently
unequal: Süden shows young professionals milling about on the street, possibly
outside the o ce, and one wonders how long it will be before some tattered figure
leaps from the shadows and knifes them. Yet the mood is of a latent threat that derives
not only from the subject matter but also from the paint quality, from the detailed
depiction and the sense of suave urbanity that attends Eitel’s smooth paint surfaces
and finely modulated backdrops. One thinks of Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’s
American Psycho, employing the same elevated judgement in his search for violence
and degradation as he might in picking good claret. In fact, partially for this reason,
one finds oneself quarrelling with that smooth fine finish like some nineteenth-century
Salon visitor objecting to the finish of the Impressionists – and that’s a strange feeling to
have before a painting these days. So if at first, with some of these pictures, one senses
that Eitel’s earlier accuracy and clarity of purpose is slipping out of control as he takes
on his subjects, one can still be engaged by his new mood. Morgan Falconer
PA C E W I L D E N ST EI N, N E W YO R K
17 N O V E M B E R – 20 J A N U A R Y
Offnung, 2006, oil on
linen, 274 x 220 cm.
Photo: Kerry Ryan McFate,
courtesy Pace Wildenstein,
New York. © 2006 the
artist/ARS/New York and VG
Bild-Kunst/Bonn
REVIEWS TIM EITEL
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 133 3/1/07 03:15:23
REVIEWS LIAM GILLICK
ARTREVIEW
Ten trestle tables, neatly arranged: seven carry signs or simple constructions,
three are vacant. On the stair’s landing, a multicoloured platform hangs beneath
lights. Thus Liam Gillick’s Literally Based on H.Z. waits for others to arrive.
Ideally the platform and worktable create an environment for shared
action of some kind, and prompt speculation concerning what could have
happened, what might yet do so and even, perhaps, ‘thinking about this form
of thinking’.
But as such ‘scenario thinking’ unfolds in the subjunctive – premised
upon a ‘what if…’ – it implies a lack of present activity and dialogue. Others
have not yet arrived. It’s assumed that from the recognition that something is
missing comes the longing for something to be done, something to be made
into a project, to be planned for – an ongoing, multifarious design project, say,
around which a provisional community is to gather (the current exhibition, for
example, results from collaboration between Gillick and Austrian artist Heimo
Zobernig – ‘H.Z.’ ).
For dialogue, if it develops at all, does not do so upon, under, through or
about the work so much as around it (and some might say despite it). Insofar as
the worktable that solicits us to make an encounter functions as the territorial
base of strategic planning, and thereby frames that encounter against the
arrière-garde background of neomodernist cocooning, so one must approach
obliquely what is projected in order to see what is beside the point. For the
playful elements in Gillick’s work are often overlooked, yet they occasionally
elevate it above familiar criticisms (the platform as conversation piece for the
cultural services sector, as corporate feng shui, and so on). Many of these
criticisms are to the point, yet rather stunted. They tend to diminish Gillick’s
parodic overdetermination of corporate and modernist strategy. But more so,
they seem unwilling to read Gillick against the grain.
Literally Based on H.Z. is marked by shifts down in scale, to the level
of the tabletop, the display model and the test-piece. Correspondingly,
there are shifts in significance and potential. This process of miniaturisation
also dismembers, removing from the work the aspiration to condition an
environment, and altering the temporal quality of its objects from ‘what if ’
or ‘what might be’ to ‘once upon a time’. Here the model is on the way to
becoming a toy, what Giorgio Agamben calls a ‘cipher of history’. And as
it enters into play, Model for a pavilion on the site of an abandoned car plant
(2006), for instance, becomes less a failed prompt to make statements or
create new scenarios than an exemplar of meta-communication, suspending
the background against which certain communications are expected. Although
Gillick’s interest in this background might only be to rea rm its status, the
occasional and unexpected generosity of his materials diverts such intentions.
Gillick’s most recent research concerns the progressive redundancy
of production methods in a post-industrial situation and the crisis that might
follow. That may be, but it is where Gillick’s work shows its own redundancy
that it ceases to be a simple demonstration of compromise and becomes more
open than its rhetoric of openness allows. Tim Stott
LIAM GILLICK:
LITERALLY BASED ON H.Z.
K E R L I N G A L L E R Y, D U B L I N
11 N O V E M B E R – 10 D E C E M B E R
Literally Based on H.Z.,
2006, ten table units and
seven prototypes/structures
to be arranged by the user
in any permutation. Courtesy
Kerlin Gallery, Dublin
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 134 8/1/07 17:25:17
Guy de Cointet’s work is full of the aura specific to rarely shown, underappreciated
artists, and remains complex to exhibit. If the ideal contextualisation of his textual
and sculptural pieces is the performance, a cryptic nostalgia prevails when
encountering the drawings, books, props and stage sets by the artist, and it is
reinforced by the displays (editions under windows, objects on platforms, video
recordings with their dated textures) used to give an account of this seminal
work. This specific relation to time and museum is not just a side eect of the
French artist’s premature death, in 1983, in Los Angeles; it is also a deliberate
aspect of his work.
The space between his primary, nearly primitive, brightly coloured
sculptures and the kind of hyper-sophisticated protolanguage of his texts and
dialogues is in many ways filled by de Cointet’s claim for an independent and
eccentric position. Uneasy with connecting to an epoch or a movement, his
artworks seem to stem from contradictory time flux. They distinguish themselves
from minimal art by the ambiguous superficiality and lightness of the easily
disposable abstract sculptures; from conceptual art by their surrealist poetry
imbued with American vernacular pop references; and from performance art
by the exaggerated theatricality of the acts.
On the day of the opening at CRAC Sète, two performances, Tell Me
and My Father’s Diary (both 1978), were re-enacted by the original actresses.
This subtle historical masquerade, and the peculiarity of its exactitude, made
tangible the oblique fetishism of the original staging. The actresses seemed
to be wearing a mask, allegorical altogether of time and camp beauty, their
dialogues sounding alternatively archaic and contemporary: the sculptures and
paintings they manipulated, freshly covered with a coat of paint (de Cointet
used to paint them over and over again), functioned as overly made-up props
charged with spiritual power. But beyond this esoteric conglomerate of elements
and levels, there is genuine playfulness and freedom.
In one of the drawings from the series My Marriage, one can read,
handwritten on top of a delicately coloured trapezoidal shape: ‘ When
I got divorced, it hit me bad.’ Of course, like the rest of de Cointet’s works,
this drawing is encrypted: behind the abstract shape is a letter, behind the
sentence is a symbol, behind their association is a subconscious meaning.
But this cryptic quality doesn’t rest on any opaque intellectualism. Rather, it
unveils the mechanisms of language with the help of raw material, such as TV
slogans, ads and heard conversation, and demystifies abstraction and formalism
through this direct technique of collaging elements together (to borrow a
neologism from General Idea), treating them on an equal level, as no more or
less than signs. With this particular blend of abruptness and refinement in his
method, Guy de Cointet was a major influence on the artists present in this
show: Catherine Sullivan, Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley, whose installation
Performance Related Objects (1977–9) functions well here, as if mirroring and
allowing Ethiopia (1976), another performance ensemble by de Cointet, to fully
exist – without, however, being ‘re-activated’. Ophélie Reynaud-Dewar
Guy de Cointet, Ethiopia, 1976,
installation with Robert Wilhite,
MAMCO collection, Geneva. Photo: Marc
Domage. © CRAC-LR, Sète
GUY DE COINTET:
MAKING WORDS WITH THINGS
C E N T R E R E GIO N A L D’A R T C O N T E M P O R A I N, S E T E
17 N O V E M B E R – 4 F E B R U A R Y
REVIEWS MAKING WORDS
ARTREVIEW
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 135 3/1/07 03:15:30
REVIEWS PAUL CHAN
ARTREVIEW
From a projector, three rectangular patches of light are cast on the floor of the
exhibition hall, like daylight filtering through French windows. The silhouette of
an apple appears, falling slowly. Perhaps this is the Newtonian apple, wafting
rather than plunging, like an autumn leaf leisurely finding its way to earth. Or is
this rather an evocation of the Fall, with Eve’s temptingly luscious fruit hovering
before our eyes? Other black shadows follow, all digital animations, floating down
in a mesmerising reverie of dancing objects, reminiscent of Alice’s descent into
the rabbit-hole, where furniture bobbed alongside her. Cellphones, sunglasses,
cars, all manner of modern devices, follow the buoyant apple. Suddenly, from
the other direction, a human figure drops with the velocity one expects in
nature, inverting our perception of which way is up or down.
So – it appears – the objects are defying gravity, drifting upwards in a
reversed Rapture wherein everything aside from humanity is saved from the
Apocalypse. In Paul Chan’s version, even animals ascend, with the passage of a
dog unfortunately reminding the viewer of a cow flying across the screen in Jan
de Bont’s unintentionally hilarious 1996 film Twister. Indeed, despite the initially
enticing fascination with the floating objects, the piece 3rd Light (2006, only
one section of a multi-part series entitled The 7 Lights, 2005–) is somehow akin
to a disaster movie gone wrong, not so much for the animation itself but rather
in the attempts to endow it with a meaning beyond its simple aesthetic appeal.
It’s OK – even necessary – for a disaster movie to be campy and feature bad
actors, but if it’s then proclaimed as a serious eort at confronting an ecological
crisis, one get the giggles. While the pieces 1st Light and 2nd Light were in a
similar vein (falling/rising shadowy objects, changing colour fields of light,
simply projected), here in 3rd Light a replica of the table from Leonardo’s Last
Supper is placed in the path of the projection and supposedly ‘accentuates the
theological quality’ of the work. If anything, the table visually disrupts what is a
very pretty illustration of people falling to their deaths and the world exploding
at a leisurely pace, and is just a little too obvious in making the connection
between the apple and man’s destruction of his Eden. The catalogue makes
valid references to 9/11 (obviously) – as well as to Genesis and Plato’s Allegory
of the Cave – but the most engaging feature of the piece is its ability to draw
us helplessly into another dimension where time slows down and almost stands
still, a function that requires no explanation. Amanda Coulson
PAUL CHAN
P O R TI K U S, F R A N K F U R T
28 O C T O B E R – 3 D E C E M B E R
3rd Light, 2006, installation view.
Photo: Wolfgang Günzel. Courtesy
Greene Naftali Gallery, New York
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 136 3/1/07 03:15:35
Yasumasa Morimura’s new exhibition Seasons of Passion / A Requiem: Chapter 1 is a brilliant photo and video series based
on the documentary photography of various dreadful incidents in postwar history: author Yukio Mishima’s attempted
coup d’ état in 1970; a seventeen-year-old right-winger’s stabbing of Japanese socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma in 1960;
Jack Ruby’s shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963; the execution of a Vietcong soldier in Vietnam in 1966. Such images
are (in)famous scenes of the twentieth century and yet represent real moments of death.
For the last two decades Morimura has been known for his self-portrait series, such as Actresses, in which he
dresses up as Marilyn Monroe or Faye Dunaway, and Daughters of Art History, in which he superimposes his image on
the figures of Western masterpiece paintings. Unlike his eorts to be women through the use of elaborate make-up and
body sculpting, in this new series he attempts to become brutal men, to get close to the expression of people in the throes
of anger, death or blind faith.
As in his previous series, Morimura plays all the characters in the images, appearing here as both killer and victim.
The exquisite silver gelatin prints of three historical incidents are astonishing, but most remarkable is A Requiem: Mishima
1970.11.25 – 2006.4.6 (2006), a colour photograph and a videowork about Yukio Mishima’s last speech. (Morimura’s
recent monochrome prints are also of Mishima, based on Eikoh Hosoe’s surrealistic photographs for which Mishima
posed in 1963. We can easily see how keen Morimura is to get into Yukio Mishima – a popular novelist as well as an
extreme nationalist; a hairy, macho, naive man.)
On 25 November 1970 Mishima attempted a coup
d’ état at Ichigaya Self-Defence Force headquarters, in Tokyo.
He made a last speech from the balcony before committing
suicide by hara-kiri. Dressed in the brown military suit of
Mishima’s private army and wearing white gloves, Morimura
as Mishima is seen shouting from the balcony. In this video,
Morimura delivers Mishima’s last speech but changes
the original political message to one concerning issues of
contemporary art.
“Be quiet! Listen to me! Listen to what I say!” Morimura
shouts. “You are artists [samurai], aren’t you? If you are, why is
it you are so enthralled with forms of expression [constitution]
that deny who you are? Why do you kiss the ass of every
passing fad and fancy in Japanese art today [constitution],
as they undermine your identity?” Mishima’s original speech
was met with a chorus of jeers and curses, but the voice of
Morimura echoes in a sunny, empty public park. The speech
ends with “Banzai! Banzai! Long live art [your majesty]!
Banzai!” Transfusing the passion as well as the mortification
of men into his own body, Morimura tries to engage in the
twentieth century as it is symbolised by men; the century of
creation and demolition through modernisation, denied us in
the twenty-first century, symbolised by women. Of course this
has little to do with the new Japanese prime minister Shinzo
Abe’s promotion of patriotism or Takashi Murakami’s global
strategy of superflat. After elucidating Japan’s complex love-
hate relationship with Western culture through the metaphor
of the father/daughter relationship, the new Seasons of Passion
/ A Requiem: Chapter 1 seems a flourishing of Morimura’s
ambitious approach to the issue of the relationship of the two
cultures through examination of the past, the ambiguity of
gender and the play of fiction and non-fiction.
Chiaki Sakaguchi
YASUMASA MORIMURA: SEASONS OF
PASSION A REQUIEM: CHAPTER
11 N O V E M B E R – 16 D E C E M B E R
S H U G O A R TS, T O K YO
REVIEWS MORIMURA
ARTREVIEW
A Requiem: OSWALD, 1963.11.24
- 2006.4.1, 2006, silver
gelatin print. Courtesy
SHUGOARTS, Tokyo
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 137 3/1/07 03:15:42
REVIEWS OLIVER PIETSCH
ARTREVIEW
Oliver Pietsch uses films as archives of consolidated opinion and documents
of human behaviour. He reassembles scenes from historic material into new
narratives and concentrates these into thematic sequences. In the fashion of
video clips, he overdubs them with music, thus creating absurd insights into the
imagery of popular culture.
In the front room of the gallery, three short films are projected in turn; they
centre around imagery of violence and death, as portrayed in the movies. A few
cinema folding seats have been installed for convenience and atmosphere. Due
to the violence of some of the images in the show, the windows of the gallery
have been blacked out, and only three peepholes in the door provide glimpses
of the inside. With a sex shop next door, this not only serves the necessities
of projection and the protection of the faint-hearted but also suggests some
frowned-upon pleasure to be consumed behind closed doors.
Domin, Libra Nos (2006) is a blood feast of people killing themselves with
a gun, making clear how many such very graphic depictions of violent death can
be found in cinematic history. In Maybe Not (2005), people are continuously
falling to their deaths – either jumping from high buildings or being pushed.
There is only one glimpse of hope here, as Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman plunges
after Kirsten Dunst. The third film, Hit Me (2006), consists of acts of violence
against women. Starting with a man slowly stretching his muscles, it then turns
into a frenzied succession of blows. Women are brutally battered and their faces
beaten, establishing this as a common figure of cinematic language. The film
ends with an interview with an actor who declares of his roles that “if there is a
certain amount of violence in these films, that is the movie”; which means, we
can only suppose that it is therefore not related at all to reality.
In a separate room at the back of the gallery, furnished with rugs and
cushions to sit and lounge, Pietsch presents his most ambitious film project
to date: The Conquest of Happiness (2005), a 45-minute compilation of drug
use and its representation in film. Pietsch’s almost encyclopedic overview on
drugs in film is sorted by substance, ranging – in the chapter on cocaine – from
Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) to Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in Scarface
(1983). It establishes visual patterns and citations of drug use (Robert De Niro
and Leonardo DiCaprio smoking opium, for example) and cuts them into a
rapid, pop-promo staccato. At times comical, the film turns harrowing when
in quick succession about 15 heroin needles are inserted into human flesh.
Having researched this film for two years, Oliver Pietsch provides a substantial
comment on the unquestioned availability of these images and their iconic
value in society. Axel Lapp
Still from Domin, Libra Nos,
2006, fi lm, 45 min. Courtesy
Goff + Rosenthal, Berlin

OLIVER PIETSCH:
THE CONQUEST OF HAPPINESS
G O F F + R O S E N T H A L , B E R L I N
17 N O V E M B E R – 30 D E C E M B E R
p123-138 Reviews AR Feb07.indd 138 3/1/07 03:15:48
ArtRev_p139_Feb07.pdf 9/1/07 16:40 Page 1
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ARC ONE GALLERY
Arc One Flinders Lane
Melbourne, Vic 3000
T +61 3 9650 0589
F +61 3 9650 0591
Open Tue-Fri 11-5,
Sat 11-4
arc1gallery.com
SHERMAN GALLERY
16-20 Goodhope St
Paddington, Sydney
2021
T +61 2 9331 1112
Open Tue-Fri 10-6,
Sat 11-6
shermangalleries.com.
au
p140-141 Feb Listings AR Feb07.i3 3 10/1/07 17:49:29
5–7 December
Miami Parties
photography PATRICK MCMULLAN.COM
4 December
Turner Prize Ceremony, Tate Britain, London
photography DAFYDD JONES
ARTREVIEW
A

B
C
D

ON THE TOWN
p142-143 Party Pages AR Feb07.in142 142 9/1/07 01:06:12

Wang Qingsong
MlAMl PARTlE5
A 2006 Swarovski Crystal Aerospace by Ross Lovegrove
(Swarovski Crystal Palace opening, 5 December)
B Alex de Betak (Swarovski)
C Robert Bensoussan & Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo dinner
for the Whitney Contemporaries, 6 December)
D Mojgan Hariri, Yves Behar & Gisue Hariri (Swarovski)
E Nadja Swarovski & Zaha Hadid (Swarovski)
F Carl Ettensperger, Michael Douglas,
Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dr Cem Kinay, Edouard Ettedgui (O Property
Collection dinner hosted by Dr Cem Kinay, 7 December)
G Natasha Zupan (Swarovski)
TURHER PRlZE CEREMOHY
1 Norman Rosenthal & Martin Creed
2 Gavin Turk & Bona Montagu
5 Sarah Lucas & Dinos Chapman
4 Jeremy Deller
5 Mark Titchner & Rachel Williams
6 Maureen Paley
7 Tomma Abts
ß Warren & Victoria Miro
9 Silvia Ziranek
10 Wolfgang Tillmans
E
6
7
ß
9
10
F
G
p142-143 Party Pages AR Feb07.in143 143 10/1/07 16:54:43
Power Ti es
www.creati vethri ftshop.com
Ne w wo r k b y Gu e r r a d e l a Pa z
Cr e a t i v e T h r i f t s h o p ( CT S )
Tel ( 917) 826 5550, i nf o@creat i vet hri f t shop.com
Guerra de l a Paz
2006 | mi x medi a wi th men’s ti es | 324 i nch rope
ArtRev_p144_Feb07.pdf 9/1/07 16:41 Page 1
ArtRev_p145_Feb07.pdf 9/1/07 16:42 Page 1
ARTREVIEW
With photos, I’m
used to everyone
telling me how great
they are; film
reviews can hurt
ON THE RECORD
ROBERT WAS SCHOLARSHIP AS VAUDEVILLE,
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA WRITTEN ON A COCKTAIL NAPKIN,
A PRESTIDIGITATOR OF THE FANTABULOUS.
SOMEHOW, ON OUR LITTLE PART OF THE WORLD,
THE ART PART, HE’LL ALWAYS BE HERE
CHARLIE FINCH ON THE DEATH OF ROBERT ROSENBLUM, ARTNET.COM
THE
BRITS
SHOULD
NEVER
DO BIENNIALS,
TRIENNIALS,
OR ANYTHING
WITH
AN ENNIAL
IN IT
ANONYMOUS POST, NEWSTATESMAN.COM
THE OLD FEAR OF THE BLANK
CANVAS IS A COMMON THING
YOU HEAR FROM PAINTERS
BUT WHAT’S THE EQUIVALENT
FROM CONCEPTUAL ARTISTS,
THE FEAR OF A BLANK MIND?
I think Los Angeles is going to be the
contemporary art capital of the world
ELI BROAD, LA TIMES
My talent is
well-practised –
practised extremely
hard at looking
un-laboured.
I spent 7 years
learning to draw
ADRIAN SEARLE, THE GUARDIAN
WALEAD BESHTY ON MIAMI, ARTFORUM.COM
TRACEY EMIN, THE INDEPENDENT
RANKIN, THE OBSERVER
p146 Quotes AR Feb07.indd 146 4/1/07 23:41:21
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