Brian Dettmer’s sculptures are like steampunk versions of data clouds. Treating books as if they were bodies under investigation (the word ‘autopsy’ comes up frequently in discussions of this artist’s work), Dettmer expertly fillets them, foregrounding certain pictures, words, and illustrations while excising others in order to highlight previously unnoticed relationships. The results are densely layered bibliophilic wunderkammer that are truly incredible to behold.
Dettmer’s cuts are surgically precise, but they’re also curatorial in nature. By transforming books into objects of pure contemplation and display, Dettmer destroys their ability to be useful in the manner they once were. At the same time, he invests them with new signifying potential. In this case, bodies of knowledge are made to display their own viscera in a simultaneous rather than sequential manner; it’s not exactly like how we experience the Internet, but it certainly evokes it.
Dettmer’s books can be surprisingly provocative, too, stirring up all kinds of nostalgia, reverence, and even guilt about the fate of printed matter in the age of the iPhone, the Kindle, and the Vook. In the catalogue essay, portions of which have been excerpted in the gallery’s press release, Antonia Pocock argues that Dettmer’s book carvings “represent an impulse to resuscitate the tangible records of information that appear dead when faced with the dynamic, instantly adaptable media of the information era. Under Dettmer’s hand, the rigid rectangle of the book dissolves into a chaos of new data connections.”
Dettmer focus isn’t solely on text, however. It’s equally enamored of illustration, which in Dettmer’s preferred choice of books–mostly of the encyclopedic or instructional kind–take the form of intricate woodcuts, line drawings, and schematics along with various forms of cartography. The Web is filled with images, but it’s not an illustrator’s medium. The three dimensionality of Dettmer’s sculpturalized books reminds us of how the internet and the computer screen tend to flatten images, obliterating shadow and fine detail and making hand-drawn efforts largely irrelevant.
The exhibition also includes a two-channel video downstairs which provides insight into Dettmer’s painstaking working process. Thankfully, the videos leave a lot of the how-to’s unanswered, which keeps the mystery of it all alive. I didn’t want Dettmer’s process to be totally transparent –where’s the fun in that? Instead, they remain, for me at least, Carrollian follies so strange and alluring I wanted to shrink myself down, crawl inside them, and explore.
Brian Dettmer’s “Adaptations” will be on view at Packer Schopf Gallery through May 9th.
Wow. I thought this story might be cooling down, but instead it’s exploding! Check out this link-filled update by Hrag Vartanian on the occupation & arrests at The New School over the mass firings of adjunct fine art faculty calling for New School President Bob Kerrey’s resignation. UPDATE: (check out this website for statements issued directly by students and others involved in or sympathetic to the protests, rallies, occupation and other recent New School-related events).
Vartanian’s following the events closely via news, blogs, and Twitter updates from those on the ground. The New York Times has background on the story, plus video of the arrests and photos of the protest.
On the social networking front….The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMET) in Athens, Greece, presents Tag ties & effective spies, an online exhibition of internet art that takes a critical look at social networking. From the exhibition website:
Tag ties & affective spies is a critical approach on the social media of our times. What happens when we are “tagging” , “posting” and “sharing” our experiences and opinions in platforms such as those of Facebook, YouTube, flickr or del.icio.us? Are we really connecting and interacting or are we also forming the content and the structure of the social web itself? The online works included, highlight the controversies of the web 2.0, commenting on the constant balancing between order and chaos, democracy and adhocracy, exposure and exploitation that it presents.
Curated by Daphne Dragona, the exhibition features works by Alessandro Ludovico , Christophe Bruno , Daphne Dragona, Gregory Chatonsky, Jodi, Jonathan Harris, Juan Martin Prada, Les Liens Invisibles, Paolo Cirio, Personal Cinema, Ramsay Stirling, Sep Kamvar, The erasers, and Wayne Clements. (Via Rhizome).
A subjective round-up of the week’s art-world events, news stories, blog links and other happenings in Chicago and beyond that are of note or otherwise got me thinkin’.
*Deathtoll of L’Aquila earthquake in Italy is at 189; the earthquake injured over 1,000 and left thousands more homeless; extensive damage to architectural monuments and artworks in the area deal a severe blow to Italy’s cultural heritage.
*Museum ethics smackdown: Donn Zaretsky’s “What’s Wrong with the AAMD’s Deaccessioning Policy” vs. Christopher Knight’s “What’s Wrong with the Argument Attacking AAMD Policy.” Go Christopher!
*The Geography of Buzz. (New York Times).
*“I’ve Seen the Future, and It Belongs to the Dead”: Edward Winkleman on whether deceased artists can bring the art market back to life.
*Ball-Nogues Studio (based in L.A.’s Echo Park) to design Elastic Plastic Sponge for Coachella this year. It’s a 250 x 25 foot sculpture made of plastic tubing that will mist water on overheated festival-goers, made in collaboration with students at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci Arc). (via Culture Monster).
*Attention all K-12 art and media educators in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles: applications for Art21′s Art Educators 2009/10, “a yearlong professional development initiative designed to cultivate and support K-12 art educators interested in bringing contemporary art, artists, and themes into their classrooms,” are available now.
Mechanisms for Validation (Please, please just love me, or at least tell me I’m pretty, but I’ll settle for confirmation that I’m smart)
April 9th, 7pm
119 n. peoria #2d
Chicago, IL 60607
Moderated by our very own Duncan Mackenzie
“Join us for this threewallsSALON to discuss the means by which artists and practices are validated in the contemporary art world, where that validation comes from and how it is bestowed.” via their website
The Generational: Younger Than Jesus
4/8/09 – 7/5/09
New York, NY 10002
“For “Younger Than Jesus,” the first edition of “The Generational,” the New Museum’s new signature triennial, fifty artists from twenty-five countries will be presented. The only exhibition of its kind in the United States, “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus” will offer a rich, intricate, multidisciplinary exploration of the work being produced by a new generation of artists born after 1976.” Via the New Museum website
[Tim says] This show opened earlier this week, but I did not get a chance to see it. Billed as the “signature triennial,” the New Museum still seems to be in heavy competition for attention amongst the heavy hitters at Whitney and P.S.1.
Five Dollar Store
Intervals: Julieta Aranda
April 10 – July 19, 2009
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY USA 10128
In Aranda’s presentation, four conceptually related works propose an alternative notion of temporal experience as a shifting and unquantifiable state, liberated from rigid conventions of measurement.
In case you can’t tell yet, my event calendar is usually determined by the artists that surround me. Julieta Aranda is one of the artists behind e-flux and an editor for their journal, although I have not seen much of her given that she has been installing this show, finally opening on Friday. Tyler Coburn mentioned Julieta Aranda as an artist to watch in the March issue of Art Review.
- You are Young: New Sculptures by Ali Bailey
“Ali Bailey’s most recent work describes fictional scenarios that hint to a collective memory or experience while addressing multiple themes of chance, failure, melancholy and loss. Bailey’s body of work utilizes a wide range of materials from industrial plastics and polyurethanes, to plaster, oil paint, and found materials. In a similar vein as Chicago artist Tony Tasset, Bailey forces one to consider the history of sculpture: carving, forming, molding, and the ready-made. Bailey uses his own symbols of adolescence and transience to reveal a tension between a unique experience and a shared consciousness.” via the gallery’s press release
Unbuilt Roads Presented by Hans Ulrich Obrist
OPENING Sat. April 11, 2009
41 Essex Street
NYC NY 10002
Based on the book Unbuilt Roads:107 Unrealised Projects, Hatje Cantz (1997)
edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Guy Tortosa
From the e-flux announcement:
From April 10 to July 19, 2009, the Guggenheim Museum will inaugurate Intervals, a new contemporary art series, with a multipart installation by Julieta Aranda (b. 1975, Mexico City).
[Tim says] This is the first official exhibition opening in E-flux‘s new project space at 41 Essex street. This is also the first time in a few years Hans Ulrich Obrist has done a project in New York.