REVIEWS

STEVE MiCCUEEN, CHARLOTTE, 2004 * 16 MM FILM, CONTINUOUS PROJECTION - COURTESY BIACS 2, SEVILLE

SEVILLE THE UNHOMELY: PHANTOM SCENES IN GLOBAL SOCIETY
MONASTERIO DE LA CARTUJA, CENTRO ANDALUZ DE ARTE CONTEMPORANEO AND REALES ATARAZANAS 2A BIENAL INTERNACIONAL DE ARTE CONTEMPORANEO DE SEVILLA (BiACS 2)

In his mission statement, Okwui Enwezor describes the second International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Seville (BIACS 2) as "a specular and spectral enterprise." Perhaps even more so, it seems an essentially speculative one. His first large-scale exhibition since Documenta 11, the Seville biennial obviously offered a radically different platform in terms of reach and scale. Compared with the gargantuan machinations of Documenta, BIACS 2 was relatively intimate, serving a mainly local audience, with a little more than 80 artists spread out over only two locations, the Reales Atarazanas and the Monasterio de la Cartuja. More striking, however, was a marked difference in tone. Where Documenta 11 was emphatic and uncompromising, almost hostile to the viewer, BIACS 2 drew its strength from a more open-ended, contemplative mood. In Enwezor's words, this biennial aimed to investigate "the constant transformation of modes of recognition into forms of nonrecognition" because of profound "disturbances in world social formations." The essential unsettledness Enwezor previously attributed to the postcolonial experience here enveloped the entire experiential realm, a type of permanent impermanence of things. The work of Chris Marker seems paradigmatic to this biennial. Marker once dismissed the term "documentary" as "a trail of sanctimonious boredom," and it seems exactly in the shift from the documentary impulse so definitive of Documenta 11 to Marker's more rhizomatic approach to history and representation that the Seville biennial finds its poignancy. Marker was represented by two works in the Reales Atarazanas, a highly theatrical, sprawling structure dating from the Middle Ages, with cavernous spaces and earthen floors. The 2004 film Chats perches (The

Case ofthe GrinningCat)revisits his obsession with comprehending history via a wandering approach. "Staring Back" (2006), Marker's most recent body of work, clusters black-and-white photographs of protesters and riot police spanning several decades, from moody images bathed in a '60s patina to contemporary shots, hurried, pixelated, of the cell-phone variety. The layering of present and past imbues this political standoff with both the metaphysical and the concrete. Some of the best work in the Reales picked up on the threads originating in Marker's work, bypassing trite documentary statement with complex investigations of the representability of history and lived reality. There was, for instance, November (2004), Hito Steyerl's video meditation on how the romantic clich6s of film, feminism, and revolutionary struggle mingle and bleed into personal life, and the striking installation Invisible Film (2005), by Melik Ohanian, centered on the sound track of Peter Watkins's 1971 film PunishmentPark (withdrawn from US cinemas only four days after its original release). Tony Labat presented an intriguing 2006 multichannel video installation, Day Labor: Mapping the Outside (FatChanceBruce Nauman), showing images of day laborers waiting to be picked up, filmed from the artist's studio. The work offers a layered critique of how the economic realm inflects spatiotemporal experience; its title, a smart riff on Bruce Nauman's Mappingthe Studio (FatChance John Cage), puts Labat's lingering in the studio in a dialectic relationship with the lingering of his subjects in the street. Other works tested the limits of documentation, like the reified madness of Thomas Hirschhorn's RE (2006), a strange documentation-cum-installation of his earlier Mus6e Pr6caireAlbinet(2004). The free-form, associative quality of the exhibition in the Reales gave way to a more directed experience in the corridors of the second site, the Monasterio de la Cartuja, a reconverted monastery home to the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporinco. This section seemed bracketed by Gerhard Richter's three stunning abstract works Abstraktes Bild (Abstract Painting) (1999-2000) and the film projection Charlotte (2004), by Steve McQueen, perhaps the best work in this exhibition. McQueen's

100 MODERN PAINTERS I MARCH 2007

REVIEWS

hauntingly intimate pan of actress Charlotte Rampling's face, drenched in red light, the creases and folds of her skin prodded then smoothed by the finger of the artist, underscores how even bodies cannot escape unsettledness. The moment when the finger reaches toward her eyeball is excruciating and emphasizes with a visceral pang how every memory is ultimately registered in the body. This recalibration of history, representation, and the body retroactively colors the rest of the exhibition, creating a dialogue between problematizations of the documentary format, like Lamia Joreige's touching video piece Objects of War (2000-2006) and Yto Barradaýs intriguing quasianthropological studies, and investigations of the spatiotemporal disjuncture of the body, as in the architectural works by Absalon and Manfred Pernice. On the whole, apart from the sometimes sloppy installation, a smattering of truly awful painting, and a pronounced lack of new commissions, this was a satisfying biennial. Enwezor placed it under the sign of the contingent, aiming to explore themes of adjacency, neighborliness, and the asymptotic as a counterpoint to the increasingly claustrophobic identity discourse that characterizes so much contemporary politics. The "phantom scenes" refer to "disfigurations, lapses and outright antagonisms which have been generated over such wide scale that they have affected both the conception of time and space." When one names these disfigurations-Guantinamo, Abu Ghraib-the political clout of this most aesthetic of Enwezor's exhibitions to date becomes more than evident. There is urgency in unsettling. -YASMINE VAN PEE
GARY HILL, GUILT(DETAIL), 2006 ° TELESCOPES, GOLD PIECES, AND OTHER MATERIALS. DIMENSIONS VARIABLE • COURTESY FONDATION CARTIER POUR L'ART CONTEMPORAI N, PARIS

MATHIEU MERCIER
CHEZ VALENTIN

Out of such everyday materials as industrial carpeting, wood, and plastic, Mathieu Mercier fabricates objects that evoke the Duchampian readymade and the reductive abstraction of Mondrian, among other modernist icons. A good example of this strategy is the combination of a dark blue carpet intersected by a yellow wood plank, Untitled (2006), which creates a sculptural rendition of an abstract painting. Yet this is not mere copycat appropriation or flippant citation (nor is it derivative of Jessica Stockholder,

although there is a resonance between the artists). With wit and conceptual rigor, Mercier gives new life to these forms through the synthesis of DIY aesthetics and slick design. His resuscitative gesture-along with the work of so many contemporary artists, including Liam Gillick, Jan de Cock, and Rirkrit Tiravanija-participates in a revived debate about whether the utopian aspirations of the avant-garde are still relevant. For this to be possible, Mercier suggests, the object must be recuperated from the grasp of branding and fetishism and transformed into a subject of interpretation and critical reflection. -NUIT BANAI

GERHARD RICHTERABSTRAKTES BILD, 1999 *OIL ON CANVAS, 4 X 4 FT - COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY, PARIS

PARIS GARY HILL
FONDATION CARTIER POUR L'ART CONTEMPORAIN

A critique of Americas grip on world oil was the driving factor of Gary Hill's two astounding new installations created last year for this show. Frustrum featured a projection of a computer-generated eagle trapped inside an electrical tower. As it struggled to break free and fly- conceivably toward a bar of gold at the bottom of a vat of black oil placed on

the floor of the gallery-loud electrifying snaps reverberated throughout the gallery. Placed in an adjacent room, Guilt consisted of five evenly spaced telescopes, each trained on five slowly rotating gold coins. The political turned personal: one side of the coin depicted the artist's face being pummeled by his own hand, while the other portrayed a bare derriere. Above each viewing position was a lowvolume recording of the artist's voice lambasting his own practice; Hill's selfindictment is, in the end, an indictment of the viewer herself. -JILL CONNER

MATH IEU MERCIER, INSTALLATION VIEW - COURTESY GALERIE CHEZ VALENTIN, PARIS

MARCH 2007 1 MODERN PAINTERS 101

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TITLE: The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society: Monasterio de la Cartuja, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contempor%aneo and Reales Atarazanas SOURCE: Mod Painters Mr 2007 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: http://www.modernpainters.co.uk/