The principle of space runs like a thread through the solo exhibition of the artist duo Nicole Six and Paul Petritsch. Upon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted by the video installation Raum für 5 min. 16 sec. (Space for 5 min. 16 sec.), 2014, which is projected onto two walls that face each other, showing Six installing a video camera. After the cameras are switched on, the artist shoots one and then the other with a rifle, destroying both. The shot corresponds to the cut in the video, such that the method of shot/countershot is interpreted literally. As the title of the work suggests, the entire process takes five minutes and sixteen seconds—also exactly the amount of time Six and Petritisch needed in order to construct and deconstruct their performative video-space.
The artists operate within a similar movement-countermovement in Das Meer der Stille (The Sea of Silence), 2014, a temporary intervention in an exterior space that can be viewed by visitors as a video document. In the space, Six and Petritsch have reconstructed every trace left on the moon by the astronauts of the Apollo 11 Mission in 1969 still visible to this day. On one hand, this refers to a work they created on a piece of land in Austria that addresses the thesis that the moon came into being as the result of a meteor crashing into the Earth. On the other, Six and Petritisch set the working of the land on the moon, like an abstract drawing in a meadow, into connection with Johannes Kepler, who was active in Linz in the seventeenth century. The mathematician and astronomer described a trip to the moon in the story Somnium sive astronomia lunaris, from 1609, anticipating the genre of science fiction.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
The extensive and extraordinary oeuvre of Hermann J. Painitz, which has hardly received attention in the past few decades, now shines remarkably in the Austrian province of St. Pölten. Since the 1960s, Painitz has been known for examining processes of translation between disciplines and for sketching the passage of time in motionless media such as painting and drawing. His art is deeply inspired by the Wiener Gruppe (who were in turn influenced by Wittgenstein) and was friends with the filmmaker Peter Kubelka, Kurt Kren of the Wiener Aktionismus, and the early media artist Marc Adrian, all four of whom influenced one another.
Focusing on works from the 1960s and ’70s, “Self Evident,” which is curated by Alexandra Schantl, homes in on Painitz’s analytic and formalist pictures and sculptures while also offering numerous works on paper, collages, sound works, poems, and theoretical texts—some of the latter written while he was president of the Wiener Secession from 1977 to 1983. Many of his works incorporate numbers or simple monochrome forms (such as spheres, squares, and cubes), which equally bring to mind notations, rhythms, and sequences. This is especially the case with Painitz’s characteristic concentric configurations, which resemble targets and can be found in almost every work on view. In Lebende österreichische Künstler (Living Austrian Artists), 1974, he even mapped out his artistic contemporaries via circles in a self-devised system.
In the 1970s, Painitz developed a system of pictograms and diagrams from which he crafted new visual codes, eventually creating his own alphabets that exchange objects for letters. For instance, in Bread Alphabet, 1975, each letter corresponds to a baked good. In attempting to decipher these works, one notices that they sometimes reflect a series of choices—and indeed a life—behind their constructedness.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Sculpture for it’s own sake: That’s how the latest exhibition at Galerie Elisabeth & Klaus Thoman could be described. Titled “Sculpture Unchaperoned” and assembled by Austrian sculptor Michael Kienzer, the show includes works by nineteen artists who treat sculpture as an expandable and procedural concept.
Austrian artist Thomas Baumann’s Tau Sling, 2008, for example, includes a rope mounted onto an endless loop run by a motor. The rope, several inches thick, is continually chafed by the ongoing process, which causes its threads to fall and stick to the wall. Dust falls to the floor and doesn’t only cover it and the mirror installed below the work, but also spreads across the gallery toward the artworks near by. The mirror conveys the impression of infinity, which is counteracted by the inevitable disintegration of the rope.
Danish artist Lone Haugaard Madsen’s Raum #324 (Room #324), 2014, comprises not only objects found in her own studio but also, more important, objects such as wooden benches, linens, and other materials that were found in the work spaces of other artists. The artist has taken these cast-offs and reworked them by casting, repainting, and rearranging them into an installation. Belgian artist Peter Buggenhout’s The Blind Leading the Blind #22, 2008, in turn, confronts the visitor with a threatening dark, heavy object made of resin, foam, polyester, steel, and plywood that is covered with a thick layer of dust. Like an excavated object from the past, not yet free of its dirt, the work waits in the exhibition room for future treatment.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Artists Ines Doujak and Oliver Ressler asked seven artists to each organize a weeklong exhibition that examines current affairs based on their understandings of utopia. The fourth in this lineup is “Salon Fluchthilfe,” a show and public programming series about the politics of exile. Curated by Zanny Begg, it’s titled after the German term fluchthilfe, meaning to aid an escape, which is often used in reference to helping people cross borders. An equivalent term in English doesn’t quite exist—ironically resonating with the disputed position of the émigré.
Katarzyna Winiecka contributes documentation of Vienna’s refugee protest movement addressing oppressive global migration policies. Elsewhere, the Afghani photographer Barat Ali Batoor presents a series of poignant images, “The Unseen Road to Asylum,” 2013, that records his smuggled passage to Australia. On the final leg of Batoor’s journey with a group of fellow Hazara—a persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan—their ship sunk near Indonesia. His tense shots of men huddled in bright-orange life jackets on a cramped wooden boat evoke the trauma of the impending tragedy.
The collective Undrawing the Line, of which Begg is a member, introduces a fantastical counterpoint to Batoor’s grim realism with In the Shade of a Waq Waq Tree, 2014, papered over two walls in the gallery and a billboard on the building’s facade. Sourced from original drawings made by participants in Sydney’s Refugee Art Project workshops and then digitally combined into anaglyphic 3D prints, this work’s key motif is the waq waq tree, a mythological Middle Eastern hybrid plant whose fruit resembles human heads. By relying on collaboration and blurring the personal and the social, this work is perhaps the best metaphor for a utopian enterprise.
Michaël Borremans’s paintings function like “a knife in the eye.” The sharp quality usually is presented through a timeless feeling of beauty, which can be seen in this extensive survey containing forty-seven paintings, forty-six drawings, five films, and two maquettes, all made between 2000 and 2013.
In his larger oil paintings, figures appear alone in a moment of immobility or introverted action. Typically, there is no eye contact with the viewer, and it’s not always clear if the figure depicted is alive, such as those in The Bodies (I), 2005, or the one in The Preservation, 2001, where a translucent cap is placed on the head of girl with closed eyes. The scenes are quiet and often involve some kind of inexplicable appearance, which is the point that draws the viewer into the image. In Two Circles, 2006, for example, human bodies appear as miniatures from a bird’s-eye view in two connected circle formations assembled for some higher—or maybe evil—cause. The eerie, oppressive atmosphere in Borremans’s work is also produced through scale differences within each scene, as in The House of Opportunity, 2004, in which an oversize building without windows appears as a foreign element in an otherwise pastoral setting.
Borremans relates his technique to pre-modern sources—the work of Diego Velázquez being his greatest example because of its combination of psychological sensibility with an increasingly loose and suggestive brushstroke. It is also difficult not to relate Borremans’s paintings to the oeuvre of his fellow countryman, René Magritte. It is in the surreal if not strictly Belgian imagination where we see the contemporary image gain focus.
Previously exhibited in the lobby of the Medusa Cement Company’s former headquarters as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Bellwether project, this new installation of ten of Elaine Cameron-Weir’s sculptures emphasizes a formal and conceptual slipperiness, trapping the viewer between sculpture and decoration, attention and deflection. Composed of rows of crisscrossing brass antennae drilled into marble, alabaster, sandstone, and soapstone bases, most works also have mounted, adjustable brass Monstera deliciosa leaves that retain imprints from the handling and installation process. Further contaminating any allegiance to elegance, the sculptures resemble overgrown houseplants, while the antennae signal interference against interpretation. As a display of untamed domesticity, these works betray their decorative function to hint at a subtle danger.
For the past three years, the artist has been working on a science-fiction-themed journal set across three time zones. Its protagonist is an aesthete, reminiscent of Jean Des Esseintes in Joris-Karl Huysmans’s Ŕ rebours , who returns from a trip to the equator with a post-traumatic tremor. This character’s own diary entries feature in the chronicle, including flashbacks to a source of his trauma, and touch on themes ranging from telekinesis to Versace, homology to Victor Horta. Titling her sculptures with lines pilfered from this journal, such as we find her loitering in a twilight zone at the entrance (all works 2014) or the gorgon Medusa, possesses a solidifying telekinetic weapon mediated by the act of looking, a blind spot, a mystery that can’t be seen directly, Cameron-Weir exposes an anxiety triggered by looking and preys on our willingness to succumb to psychic invasions.
This show’s title, “Abandon the Parents,” invites us to subvert tradition, reject prescription, and enter a world of life, death, culture, and sex. To this end, artist and curator Henrik Olesen—with help from gallerists Daniel Buchholz and Christopher Müller—has assembled a constellation of self-discovery: 250-plus artifacts in nearly every medium. Paintings are hung three-high above densely curated vitrines of first edition books; an unplayable LP is backed by sound and video art on tiny screens. This exploded world possesses its own density—its own currents, suggestions, persuasions—indeed, its own traditions. Tom of Finland’s iconic bulging bikers make several appearances, for example—in original drawings, but also in Olesen’s collage Abschied von den Eltern (Abandon the Parents), 2003, and on the cover of a 1992 book of short stories by Phil Andros. Other works have simply the tang of liberty—such as the loosely intersecting figures in Anne Imhof’s Was tun Freund?, (What to Do Friend) 2013, or Michael Krebber’s Untitled, 1996. Elsewhere, a figure made of painted lumber by K8 Hardy and a city trash can by Klara Liden reenforce each other’s brutal anthropomorphism—like weary, post-Marxist bodies, slumped together in solidarity.
The exhibition also contains a number of impressive curatorial coups—for instance, a painting by Kristian Zahrtmann, a nineteenth-century Danish history painter and sometimes cross-dresser who rendered ladies of status with an opulence approaching drag. His Death of Queen Sophie Amalie, 1882, usually in a heavy gilt frame as part of the Statens Museum for Kunst’s permanent hang, has here been stripped down—just one of a dozen naked canvases on a particular wall—yet also rendered permeable, reentered into Olesen’s complex thesis. Many of these cross-wirings are culturally specific, and will evade most viewers; I was lucky to have if not a father, at least a Danish friend. In this world without parents, only an overflow of texts and images provides unruly guidance; casework and sculptures create dead ends; works bear the invitations of labels to “touch” or “do not touch.”
On first look, Tove Storch’s three new sculptural works—some standing, others lying directly on the floor—look like pieces of one big, rusty radiator. Upon closer inspection, though, one discovers they’re unexpectedly fragile and made of rusted metal and transparent silk with thin spaces between the layers of fabric. Creating works that look monumental but are actually light and in some ways delicate signifies a dissonance between appearance and the reality essential to her work.
Extending a Minimalist tradition wherein the inherent properties of the materials used decide the aesthetic and limits of a work, as in the output of Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, Storch also addresses the invisible forces that shape our world and adds her own elegant touch. The two mediums utilized here enter into a new and dirty relationship with each other in which the naturally occurring rust discolors the raw silk. Rather than discrete monuments to pure conceptual thought, these works reflect the natural processes of decay and contamination that living things endure. Considering the title of the standing “Pages” (all works 2014) series, every silk layer stretched inside its metal covers becomes like a page in a book. Indeed, paper and artists’ books play a dominant role in Storch’s practice, and here she elegantly transforms these rather immense metal sculptures into a poetic analogy for the art object as a container of ideas.
Those of us who encountered Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project at the Tate Modern in 2003, where the vast turbine hall was infused with a radiant light, could be forgiven for at first being skeptical about experiencing a similarly transformative environment with Riverbed, 2014. As the central work of this exhibition, the installation is surprisingly overpowering. Occupying a series of four galleries at least half-filled with 180 tons of gray Icelandic stone, Riverbed produces a myriad of pleasantly disorienting sensations in fluid succession. The rooms are humid, musty, and bathed in a powdery-white light, reminiscent of an overcast Icelandic sky. Various hills and piles of stones create an uneven terrain that unfold around a flowing stream one must jump across in order to traverse the galleries. The rocky surface crunches, shifts, and falls beneath unsure footsteps, while the impulse to reach for that perfect Instagram shot must be curtailed if one does not want to slip or end up wet.
At Louisiana, the expansive riverbed galleries are complimented by Eliasson’s Model Room, 2003, a space displaying hundreds of the geometric models the artist uses to create his installations, as well as three of his visceral short films: Movement microscope, 2011; Your embodied garden, 2013; and Innen Stadt Aussen (Inner City Out), 2010. Taken as a whole, rather than an intervention into the space of the museum, the show is a dramatic elaboration of this institution. Indeed, the dynamic vistas and spatial sensations created within the galleries are matched only by the famous sea cliff views of Louisiana, and the exhibition as a whole reflects on the relationship between art and nature that this museum mobilizes so memorably.
Initially, the premise of Jonas Lund’s latest show in Amsterdam would seem to address a simple yet tangled question: Can a painting become art by following instructions from a book? Painted by four hired assistants following Lund’s specific book of guidelines during the gallery’s open hours, the finished works are then photographed and uploaded to the website studio-practice.biz. A designated panel of artists, curators, dealers, and collectors reviews each piece and posts their judgments to the site as advice on which paintings should be signed and which to destroy. In this context, the gallery is transformed into a visible production line of art. The team’s materials are scattered around while paintings of various sizes stand piled against a wall or hang pending final decision. On another wall is a monitor displaying website updates in real time, as well as mounted surveillance cameras streaming a live feed of the production process to the exhibition’s virtual visitors.
The insular nature of the project—opinions within the art world blatantly determining the value of artworks made for that world—points to a certain cyclical cynicism about the contemporary production and reception of works. All of the paintings are sufficiently marketable given their Abstract Expressionist quality, and they have catchy titles such as Laura Palmer’s Curtain 2 and Offset Matterhorn #1. Given the precision with which the documenting website has been designed and managed, including an unusual presentation of the assistants’ labor contract, as well as the less significant role of the participating gallerists and the complete absence of the artist himself (apart from a final comment and signature on the chosen works), it becomes evident that Lund holds a mirror to the art world’s systems of evaluation and assignations of value.
For the inaugural presentation of “Positions”—a newly launched exhibition model that continues the museum’s focus on radical, socially engaged art—Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Céline Condorelli, Bouchra Khalili, Koki Tanaka, and Charles van Otterdijk have been invited to display a substantial body of work investigating how we take a stance and position ourselves in the world. In dialogue with one another, these practices address the viability of political agency—that is, the capability of a person to act free of oppression or coercion—in the twenty-first century.
Dutch artist van Otterdijk’s cryptic installation Double Centre, 2009-2014, for instance, consists of a series of stark, fluorescent-lit rooms populated by deceptively familiar, quotidian-looking objects, which at first glance resemble functional desks, chairs, or bookcases, but upon closer inspection are eerily unidentifiable. Based on two enigmatic, undisclosed buildings that the artist discovered on the German-Polish border, the installation is chilling and unsettling; its bunker-like atmosphere recalls covert detention centers, the likes of which proliferated during the War on Terror.
Similarly concerned with how sites and nation-states are surveilled and controlled, Jordanian artist Abu Hamdan’s cacophonous Tape Echo, 2013–14, reflects on the “ethical soundscape” of Cairo (a city notorious for its unnerving din), which has, in the past few years, come under tighter military command. To record and, by extension, intervene in the city’s highly politicized audio space, the artist has recycled the cassette sermon, a media formerly used to broadcast Islamic prayer that has recently been replaced by government-sanctioned, digitally-distributed speeches. Because magnetic tape never deletes its content, only realigns it, Abu Hamdam poignantly ensures that the sermons of a not so distant, more liberated past survive as a foundation of those of a more suppressed present.
Curated by Maria Brewińska and stemming from the works of French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s Corpus (2002) and Corpus II: Writings on Sexuality (2013), this exhibition explores the body’s relationship to sexuality, religion, and pleasure using contrasting mediums and methods which provoke sensory and cerebral realms. The show includes visceral works bordering on the unsettling (as in artist Sarah Lucas’s Lounger #2, 2011, exhibiting contorted, puppetlike sculptural figures in compromising positions); the grotesque (as in Jacek Malinowski’s HalfAWoman, 2000, a documentary-format film about a woman suffering from the fictive Pelvic Degeneration Syndrome, leaving her missing the lower half of her body); or even the seductive and soul-wrenching (as in Marina Abramovic’s Nude With Skeleton, 2005).
The perceived worlds of those both consumed and haunted by the flesh are fundamental components of the exhibition, which is littered with images of people packed together, sharing tight spaces, as in Santiago Sierra’s 465 Paid People, 1999—a work that cajoles viewers into considering the human body on a more primitive level. “Corpus” appears to be retrospective, yet displayed works still prove as inciting as they once were during their initial debut. The power of touch and allure of a body which now exists but one day shall not—much like all that is tangible yet transient—reminds one that both the moment and one’s worldly presence are inherently evanescent.
Teresa Solar Abboud's latest solo show “Foreign Office” conveys a shift from her usual video practice, which has mostly focused on language, translation, and the construction of meaning. These topics remain at the core of her practice, but they are now tackled through sculpture. Here, she presents two ceramics that that were inspired by Thamsenqa Jantjie’s onstage gestures at Nelson Mandela’s recent funeral, where, as it is widely known, he posed as a sign language interpreter while making a mysterious and nonsensical array of gestures. Solar Abboud has always been interested in the tangible aspects of language, though I doubt she has ever gone this far.
It is important to stress that Solar Abboud has not attempted to “master” pottery (just as Jantjie did not seem to master his own purported discipline). To create the works on view, Solar Abboud used a potter’s wheel and mimicked the spurious interpreter’s gestures. Placed on the ground or supported by benches in a neat installation, the resulting vertical shapes are ultimately abstract not only because of their form but because they stem from a corrupted and illegible language. They stand as vibrant yet opaque signifiers that bridge the gap between mind and body. And in so doing, they let the unconscious perform.
In a similar vein, a few hanging sculptures coated with shades of pink fluorescent paint evoke the slickness one expects of diplomatic language. They are also shaped by sign language—here, the signs for the Spanish words embassy and revolution. Language is thus created through the filling of a space, which is an apt metaphor for sculpture. Significantly, a potter’s wheel stands inside the show as a minimal shape that evokes the self-reflexive tension between language and form the show seeks to portray.
Many of the thirty-five watercolors in Oslo-based Vanessa Baird’s latest exhibition are titled after classic and contemporary literature—texts by author and fellow Norwegian Karl Ove Knausgĺrd as well as folktales. The images render a disturbing if droll vision of troubled characters in places spanning from fairy-tale scenes to present-day Oslo. Created between 2006 and 2014, some of the watercolors reference a major public commission of Baird’s, which caused controversy as it subtly referenced the 2011 terrorist attacks, the deadliest on Norwegian soil since WWII. In one work on view in this show, an image of the bombed-out government center is juxtaposed with depictions of an elementary school and of the city’s most infamous hot-dog vendor at his cart and other buildings.
The light in the gallery is soft throughout, and the space is painted in a muted gray. This environment markedly contrasts with the burning, bleeding hands and feet of the characters depicted within the frames, their orifices (both natural and inflicted) exposed, erect penises galore. Like oversized pages from a sketchbook, some large-scale works, such as Prednisolon, 2006, are composed according to a wallpaper logic. The pictorial elements of each work possess no illusion of space or depth; instead, the houses, flowers, and unhappy bodies are simply visually listed, distributed to form an offbeat pattern.
There are many hembygdsgille—or historical societies—across Sweden, each one concerned with its own particular region or town. David Larsson, for this exhibition at Haninge Kulturhus, has worked closely with the hembygdsgille in the Stockholm exurb of Haninge. Haninge isn’t a particularly special place, but absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence; the municipality isn’t completely devoid of intrigue. Its history lies in its development—its expansions, rebuilding, and remodeling. Along with the new, the old has accumulated, and the hembygdsgille tries to collect and preserve it all. Its members are passionate amateurs: When, for instance, Stone Age artifacts were unearthed during a railway construction project, they were stored in paper bags under one member’s house. Faced with a bag filled with such fragments, Larsson is as interested in the bag as its contents, seeing the historical value in both—an approach that makes for a compelling exhibition.
The single installation on view features Larsson’s selection of objects from the collection: tchotchkes ranging from old to recent, special to quotidian. It’s all intermingled with photographs and narratives about people, places, and other notable aspects of Haninge and its hembygdsgille. The show drives at questions of what is kept and discarded, what’s seen to have value and what is not. Throughout, Larsson’s perspective seems to consider all that’s simultaneously noteworthy and ordinary; Haninge, like so many places, can be both unique and typical.
Every year, the moon drifts farther away from Earth a distance equivalent to “the length of a worm,” in the lyrical words of astronomer Chris Impey. Consequently, because of a planetary tug-of-war that slows the planet down, today was fifty-four billionths of a second longer than yesterday. Inversely, calculations suggest that, four billion years ago, the moon was ten times closer than it is now. Then, a day passed in six hours.
Gunilla Klingberg’s exhibition ponders these questions, via old and new works that reflect on the universe, its movements and, it seems perforce, on entropy, spanning from the subject of Ley lines—an alleged aligning of humanity’s monoliths—to the moon’s gradations. The predominant artwork is the exhibition’s namesake, A Sign in Space, 2012/14, a title which derives from a chapter in Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. It’s a lengthy stretch of sand intersecting the sizable Konsthall over which a paver (a truck that levels asphalt) has been driven to impress a star-shaped pattern. For another version of the piece, staged in 2012 on Laga Beach, Spain, the truck’s cylinder was rolled to imprint the same pattern on the seashore at low tide. When the tide turned, the pattern was effaced, only to be recreated every following ebb, in an eternal, cyclical return of tide and of sign. As Qfwfq, Calvino’s protagonist—who marked his place with an insignia in the Milky Way—discovered, making any sort of sign is a precarious business, whether because symbols disappear or because they lose their meaning.
Lisa Ross’s large-scale photographs of found shrines nestled among the sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert in the Chinese region of Xinjiang waver between landscapes and portraits of their absent creators. Made from branches and fabric remnants, baby cribs and ladders, the subjects could be boundary markers for imaginary kingdoms, the skeletons of temporary shelters, or sculptural armatures. Impossibly bright scraps of cloth fly like pennants or hang in huge bouquets, leaning into the constant wind that has abraded all wooden surfaces smooth. The shrines’ incongruous presences in the starkness of the desert evokes site-specific or even ephemeral Land art like Andy Goldsworthy’s, while the glowing backlight and lush color palette of these works is absolutely cinematic.
As science-fictional or fanciful images, they are compelling—but as cultural documents, tragic. These shrines, called mazars, are the physical traces of offerings and prayers for protection created by the Muslim Uyghurs native to Xinjiang. Ross shot these photographs over ten years of travel through the region, beginning just after 9/11 and the explosion of rhetoric about Islamic terrorism that has powerfully affected Xinjiang civic life. While Ross explicitly avoids politicizing, for a viewer with any familiarity with the recent social instability of Western China and the deteriorating relations between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese, the lonely images have an air of dystopia, even apocalypse. As a counterpoint, Pilgrimage (Tractor), 2009, a single-channel video of Uyghur pilgrims quietly assembling around the shrine, offers a suggestion of aesthetic oasis, if not armistice.
The exhibition “post-excavation” takes on the moment following disinterment as its subject. Each of the exhibiting artists’ works concerns an uncovering—though none are quite about discovery, they are rather about display itself. For instance, Emanuele Becheri presents two series of found objects that share the title “32a Penton Place, Southwark, London SE17 3JT, 17 September 2010,” marking where and when the materials were found. One consists of eight old, crumpled issues of Frieze and the other of five worn-out vinyl records including Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits. As artifacts of disintegration, they’re brought back to a place within culture by an attempted resuscitation.
Dick Hedlund’s crude canvases, titled Omni, 2013, Arges 2, and Arges 3, both 2014, are pushed, stretched, and pierced with needles to the point where the fabric creates illusions of structure, reminiscent of terrestrial strata, as if feigning the look of lines in Earth marked by time. Lea Porsager’s installation Celestial Body—Disrupted Nerve Fluid and Crossed Shock Waves, 2011, consists of two metal poles horizontally suspended, crossing at eye level and effectively interrupting the space, along with two framed wall-mounted texts that expound on cosmic phenomena and magnetic fields. The texts manage to be mystifying yet elucidating, mixing symbols like crossed circles with lines such as “There had to be a bigger leap, a greater chasm of estrangement, out of reach and out of bounds for the thinking, explanatory mind. There would be no subject, just object,” which echoes the poles’ imposing, objective presence. As a whole, the works in the exhibition suggest that some things resist vision, like magnetic lines, and what is uncovered must find a new form of display.
For his solo debut, Los Angeles–based artist Michael Manning presents large-scale paintings, videos, and installations that revolve around his interest in punk counterculture movements and their rapport with “reactionary network politics,” which use the Internet as medium. One initially encounters a wreath of blue hyacinths, in part paying homage to Darby Crash’s suicide (from the California punk band The Germs). The artist’s mélange of “trill” abstraction—including vibrant colors digitally printed onto nylon, as in Wild Salmon and Salted Avocado Hecado, 2014, which is displayed across the main floor alongside others such as the media piece Curry Swordfish and Passionfruit, 2014—pushes one to abandon safer interpretations that stem from viewing art at face value instead of considering the interplay between text, image, and communication outlets.
Wokked Chinese Long Beans with Chicharrones, 2014, displays the actress Kristen Stewart caught by the paparazzi and marked with a blue circle (similar to The Germs’ logo), while Lobster Boniato Mash, 2014, reads “DARK DATA,” accompanying an image of NSA’s Data Center. Both are digital prints on film backlit by LEDs and instances of what the Internet offers as fodder for “post-Internet” JPEG creators—the touchscreen and DPI-obsessed. The exhibition title, “Wild Fusion, VOL. III: WWWHATWWWEDOISSECRET,” is reminiscent of a song by the aforementioned band; a punk-inspired approach is also used in Manning’s exhibition text consisting of song quotes, Tweets, and clipped confessionals. Is it useful to ask: What criteria are now required to be “punk”—or political at best?
Precursor to the riot grrrl provocatrices of the 1990s and Raymond Pettibon, Sweden’s Lena Svedberg created menacing cartoons that documented xenophobia and she displayed them at the height of her generation’s activist fever, in 1969. Her masterwork, Mr Aldman – Superhero of the Universe, 1969, which debuted at the 1969 Paris Youth Biennale, is on view at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. The main character, resembling a twisted Hieronymus Bosch figure, gets to Beirut by following an oil pipeline; appearing along the way are Svedberg’s illustrations of heads of state and church leaders (including Pope Paul VI), and the flags of Israel, France, Palestine, and the US, among others. Implicating these figures and hubs of power by including them on his journey, Mr. Aldman witnesses the implosion of the Middle East’s delicate political ecosystem amid the Western pursuit of oil.
There’s no doubt that the subject matter of much of Svedberg’s artwork, especially the acidic Mr Aldman, was influenced by the brief part of her childhood spent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where her father was the ruling party’s economic advisor. Later, when Svedberg attended the Royal Academy in Stockholm, she did not engage much in creating subversive imagery until cofounding the radical satire magazine PUSS in 1968, a short-lived underground endeavor that featured surrealist, assemblaged covers.
Though Moderna Museet has owned Mr Aldman for four decades, the suite was only recently restored after sitting in disrepair. The incendiary work, as relevant as ever, merely suggests what blunt expressions of the next few tumultuous decades Svedberg’s work might have been if she had not committed suicide in 1972, at the age of twenty-six.
Strata, 2014, Atalay Yavuz’s intervention in the convenience store Özge Bakkaliye is before anything else a timely gesture. Produced through Protocinema, an itinerant art organization that provides artists with opportunities to develop their work’s site-specifically, Strata sees Yavuz’s practice blossom in a collaboration that blurs boundaries between utilitarian and art objects. The work is a clear Plexiglas box filled with light-blue Ultrasound gel, placed just behind the shop’s street-facing windows. Taken out of its medical context, the gel is here employed by the artist to produce a Minimalist aesthetic, and yet knowledge of the substance’s conventional function when treating patients adds a layer of humanity to the otherwise innocuous shop. Moreover, as Istanbul increasingly becomes a site of exponential construction-based growth, the demolition of old buildings is a daily sight. Özge Bakkaliye thus holds a symbolic position in the throbbing heart of the city, functioning as an independent market among boutiques and coffee pubs. Atalay treats this environment with respect, intervening without disrupting the daily functioning of the place.
Inside Özge Bakkaliye, Atalay has also installed Prozac, 2013—Prozac syrup poured over a reflective surface. The antidepressant turned mirror becomes a critique of self-imagination in the age of medicinal enhancement. The very idea of seeing one’s image through Prozac is both eerie and funny—after all, I’m sure many have wondered more than once whether life would be better with the pharmaceutical. Where better to ponder this than in the familiar space of Özge Bakkaliye?