In blockbuster movies over the past five or ten years, corporations have replaced foreigners as the enemy. In Jurassic World, it is the careless desire for profit that drives a bunch of winkingly stereotypical characters to create a giant hybrid dinosaur that they can’t control and that proceeds to kill and eat everybody. Vincent D’Onofrio might as well have cartoon money signs in his eyes as he stumps around, slapping people on the back and making speeches about pride and glory. This suggests that it must be widely accepted amongst worldwide moviegoers that it is just as likely that capitalism will kill all of us as it is that foreigners will kill all of us. Rather, it has produced a sort of resigned quality, the kind of thing that people are talk about when they say things like “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” despite the fact that the very thing that often ends the world in such imaginings is capitalism.
Two recent shows in Mexico City, presented in very similar circumstances, share remarkably similar feelings of resignation, at once cheerful and lurid, depressed and bright. At lodos, in the working-class, hip neighborhood of San Rafael, twenty meters from arguably the best tacos in the city, a group show curated by Noah Barker, “International Currency,” with Scott Reeder, Cameron Rowland, and Liam Gillick. Six kilometers away, in upper middle-class, hip Roma Sur, Lulu presents a solo show by Ian Kiaer, “Limp Oak.” Both galleries are very small white boxes installed into non-commercial spaces, rooms that can handle four, maybe ten people at a time.
In lodos, against the wall, facing each other, two pairs of stones, rubble apparently, from Detroit even, one an electric shade of blue, one an equally electric shade of orange. I thought immediately of that line from Queer as Folk, the American version, where Justin—you know, the twinky one—says that orange is the new blue. Somebody else at the gallery, a charming and inquisitive artist from Denver, mentioned that famous Situationist poster of a woman throwing a piece of rubble picked up or culled from the street: “beauty in the street.” I kicked myself for not immediately recalling that reference, in the same way that I sometimes kick myself for not recognizing certain pop stars or famous actors. But then again, these rocks were certainly not for throwing at the gleaming storefronts of capital. They perfectly placed, beautifully painted, resting gently against the wall, framing the viewer or the viewer’s feet. I should have worn white shoes, the reflection might have been gorgeous.
Nearby, leering out of the walls, are a pair of pieces by a local electrician, directed by Cameron Rowland to disconnect an outlet, remove the faceplace, and expose the wires benath. A light in a corner remains off, incapacitated by the lack of power. Copper spills out of the wall, gross and hairy. Filling the room with a vaguely anxious murmur is a video by Liam Gillick, juxtaposing a pair of audio recordings, one of people heckling a particularly cheesy free jazz performance, one of people heckling Occupy Wall Street, with a Greek beach scene—devoid of tourists, beautiful, the site of the perhaps imminant dissolution of the neoliberal European dream, calming. The pairing of the hilariously bad, gratingly macho free jazz performance and the OWS encampment suggests the current political irrelevance of both forms, both of which at different times seemed so promising. The only thing that seems appealing is the beach.
Meanwhile, a few kilometers straight south, in a calm and breezy block of Roma Sur, in a similarly small white box installed in a residential, or partially-residential, space, a disconcertingly similar show is up at Lulu. Ian Kiaer has painted the floor a highlighter yellow, a yellow that makes almost too-perfect sense with the orange and blue rubble sitting pretty at lodos. The lurid glow the yellow floor casts up onto the Kiaer’s works on the wall and the floor: a rather unremarkable cardboard-tube piece, a painting that feels out of place, and a show-saving tarpaulin leached through with a whitish emulsion, riddled with lines and shadows brought out by the weird light. The tarpaulin is borrowed from the informal vendors that line nearby intersections, hawking tacos, tortas, cigarrettes, gum—whatever, really. At the end of the night, the vendors roll up the refuse—lettuce, cigarette butts, dirt—in the tarpaulin and dump it. The way the tarpaulin lightly sags is reminiscent of the waves lazily lapping at the shore in Liam Gillick’s video at lodos. I can imagine listening to the soundtrack to Gillick’s video and standing in Lulu, as if it’s coming from another room, and it making sense. Turn it on now, then make this color fill up your computer screen. Maybe put your computer in your bedroom if the bed is unmade. That’s kind of the vibe.
That is, it’s not just the sickly bright palette the two shows have in common. There is a distinct feeling, a kind of resigned, sagging quality, that they share. In wrecked cities and towns around the world, copper wire, like the wires that lean out of the walls in Rowland’s piece at lodos, is stripped from abandoned properties and sold for scrap. It is the classic journey of the stereotypical heroin addict, enshrined in characters like Bubbles in the Wire, pushing the shopping cart piled high with scrap to make enough money to get the day’s fix, to nod off in some other wrecked corner of the bled-out city. The chunks of pavement gleaming in lodos rest easy; the video lulls you to a troubled, but only vaguely troubled, sleep; that light won’t even turn on. In Lulu, the only piece that appears to have involve concentrated effort, an acrylic on cotton with tight geometries, beautiful lines, etc, feels excessive, out of place, completely unnecessary—a waste of effort. The yellow glow from the floor makes the pale pink in the top third feel foul.
Taken together, the two shows point to an economy of resignation, a careful balance of vitality against a near-total lack of hope. They point to the end of the of the long-dying attitude that art is or can be a tool of revolt. In Infinitely Demanding, a resolutely hopeful book written shortly before the Occupy Wall Street movement began and subsequently ended, Simon Critchley points out the outmodedness of the desire to escape the state: “we cannot hope, at this point in history,” he writes unequivocally, “to attain a complete withering away of the state.” Indeed, in states that do appear to be dissolving, such as Syria or the DRC or Mexico, this dissolution can be in no way termed a “withering away”—it is a much more violent, brutal affair. What Critchley suggests instead is to establish “an interstitial distance within the state,” the creation of a sort of gap space wherein politics, agency, etc are possible, within, but at the same time separate from, the state. While Critchley terms this in relentlessly positive, breathless, hopeful terms, I read this space as something lurid: a cyst, a gaping hole. It reminds me a bit of Lee Edelman’s conception of queerness as that which gleefully unravels the future, or the present even, from the inside. If art has lost its political relevance, which it perhaps never had, perhaps it can instead form the neon, shitty lining of the hole in the future.
Liam Gillick. That is right, the man whose imagination can take him anywhere. A transparent master of the question of Modernity? Cat lover? Designer/author/theorist/artist/architect? The son Donald Judd never wanted? Enigma cloaked in riddle? Relational Aesthetic celebrity? All these things and more… We at Bad at Sports try and get to the bottom of Liam’s magic in this hour-long interview.
The last element in Liam Gillick’s 4 part global retrospective, “Three perspectives and a short scenario” will run through January 10th at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Accompanying that exhibition, Gillick has produced “The one hundred and sixty-third floor: Liam Gillick Curates the Collection,” which is also be on view.
Liam Gillick emerged in the early 1990s as part of a re-energized British art scene, producing a sophisticated body of work ranging from his signature “platform” sculptures — architectural structures made of aluminum and colored Plexiglas that facilitate or complicate social interaction — to wall paintings, text sculptures, and published texts that reflect on the increasing gap between utopian idealism and the actualities of the world.
His work joins that of generational peers such as Rirkrit Tiravanija and Philippe Parreno in defining what critic Nicholas Bourriaud described as “relational aesthetics,” an approach that emphasizes the shifting social role and function of art at the turn of the millennium. Gillick’s work has had a profound impact on a contemporary understanding of how art and architecture influence, and are themselves influenced by, interpersonal communication and interactions in the public sphere.
This exhibition is presented in association with the Witte de With in Rotterdam, Kunsthalle Zurich, and the Kunstverein in Munich. It is the most significant and comprehensive exhibition of Gillick’s work in an American museum to date, comprising a major site-specific installation in the gallery ceiling as well as a presentation of his design and published works, and a film documenting projects from the entirety of his career. The MCA is the only American venue for the exhibition. Read more
Guest Post by Jen Gillespie
Last week I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art to see Liam Gillick’s near retrospective, which the MCA is calling a survey and is really sort of a sample, of Liam’s work. Titled Liam Gillick: Three perspectives and a short scenario. This work typifies his interest in social idealism, the interplay of architectural constraint on psychological conditions and playful imagery or colors to punctuate and sustain an exaggerated tension throughout the space of the installation. The exhibit is up from October 10, 2009 – January 10, 2010. Though it is now old news, to an uncertain extent, Gillick’s project for the German Pavilion for the Venice Biennale is what I really wanted to share. I am in love with this talking cat project. Titled, How Are You Going to Behave? A Kitchen Cat Speaks the installation of a cat atop a maze of cabinetry with audio of Gillick’s voice speaking as the cat. The audio narrates a story of the speaking cat as the only one of its kind, it is both novel and wise. It is a thing unlike anything else and so is able to cause a new social interaction, though that newness is both guiding and constrained the speaking cat is therefore limited and doomed to loose its first blush of novelty within the narrative of the hypothetical interplay of cat and society. Gillick’s reference to hybridity and fragment as well as the banal loneliness inherent to being the only of a kind and to serve no purpose other than as a cultural or social fulcrum reminds me of Kafka’s A Crossbreed (A Sport) a very short story starring a lambcat, its owner and some children. I am intrigued by the similarities of the narratives so very relevant in their times of authorship yet separated by nearly a century. I am struck by the repetition. Check out Liam Gillick’s show at the MCA, this audio image of a Kitchen Cat that speaks and this very short story by Franz Kafka
Liam Gillick: Three perspectives and a short scenario
October 10, 2009 – January 10, 2010
www.deutscher-pavillon.org image and audio
A Crossbreed (A Sport)- Franz Kafka
October 15, 2009 · Print This Article
I forget that sporadically posting for an awesome blog can be construed as arts journalism, and this pays off in many ways. One of these payoffs I got recently was being able to see a media preview of the MCA‘s two new shows: Liam Gillick: Three perspectives and a short scenario, and Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq. Both Gillick and Deller were there, as well as MCA curator Dominic Molon.
Liam Gillick is completely charming Englishman who wore very nice shoes. The MCA is the last institution to host the exhibition, which was previously in the Witte de With in Rotterdam, Kunsthalle Zurich, and the Kunstverein in Munich in different manifestations.
Gillick began speaking by saying that he was curious as to how one could reinvent the midcareer retrospective. Instead of seeing the evolution of his work as a linear progress to be documented according to its timeline, he noted his own “promiscuity of ideas” and wanted to return to his own 17-year-old, suburban, pre-art aesthetic for this survey. Consumed at that time in his life with the legacy of acrchitecture and design, Gillick and curator Dominic Molon (through “dynamic argument and discussion”) created a space that is half carpeted and half concrete, separated by wooden screens. The normally milk white plexiglass ceiling in the gallery is replaced by multicolor plexiglass tiles. There is a vitrine with various posters, books, small designed objects, and publications, which is stunning to look at. Interestingly, Gillick likened this collection of paraphernalia to the experience of moving your home or apartment, and realizing you have so many things, and then realizing that you don’t want to be the sum of these things. There are only two small images hung on the wall, a hand drawn self portrait, next to a digital cubic image done by a German graphic designer. The portrait, which looks like a dopey school mascot, Gillick jokingly described as representing himself as well as all “verbose, self involved, white guy artists of the past 50 years”. The last piece in the room, which appeared incredibly sparse, especially for a retrospective, was a power point presentation set to a repetitive drum beat. Gillick spoke about how he created the drum beat, and then pulled one image at a time, pairing with each image one line of a story that he made up as he went along.
Jeremy Deller’s artist talk felt very different than Gillick’s. As the herd of us media folk slowly was lead into the room, Deller invited us to sit on the nice ikea furniture in the center of the space. There was a coffee table, there were tea and cookies, and mostly everyone was very uncomfortable being asked to sit down. A few martyrs sacrificed themselves and sat down, and then Deller introduced the project. In the space, there are the rusted remains of a car, exploded by a car bomb on Al-Mutanabbi, a street in Baghdad in 2007. This car was towed behind a truck on a six week trip that the artist, an Iraqi citizen, and a marine (that sounds like a terrible joke…) took across the country before the work was exhibited. The artists explains the trip, which was filmed, as a way to promote discussion about the war in Iraq with everyday people as the troup stopped in cities across the US. Also displayed is a huge flag by artist Ed Hall that says “It is what it is” in English, and an equivalent saying in Arabic below it. Painted on two walls are Iraq and the United States, on which the artist has proposed sister cities or twin cities, mimicking what France and Britain did after the second world war to foster community and dialogue between cities that had been in conflict.
The “main part of the show”, as Deller put it, was the lounge area, which will have various service veterans, Iraqi citizens, and academics available daily to engage in discussion with the public. The morning I was there, Iraqi translator and artist Esam Pasha was there, as well as economist and retired marine veteran Wesley Gray. Deller was very adamant that this was “not art”, but an exhibition, and wanted the conversations had to “be the art”. These conversations are not going to be recorded or documented in any way, which I think is kind of a bummer.
The questions from the media to the Wesley Gray and Esam Pasha were uncomfortable at times. When one person asked Gray (who is fluent in Arabic) how he learned the language (through a virtual reality video game), he spoke breifly about customs and signs of respect to the Iraqi people that he had to learn before shipping out. When another journalist followed up with Pasha asking how the people of Iraq were prepared for the American culture (rock music, hats, sunglasses), Pasha replied that they only learned to smile, raise their hands, and do what they were told. He said that the people with the guns are the ones in control. I think a huge success of this project is the civility of the “professionals” during the dialogue that was started. Esam Pasha, another marine veteran and Jeremy Deller were together nonstop for six weeks and could still sit down for a discussion on that day.
I genuinely respect Deller’s desire to create a space for an informed discussion to take place between strangers. We are taught in America that politics is one thing that you shouldn’t bring up at a dinner party, let alone with a stranger. What I think is bullshit, however, is Deller’s assertion that this project is “not art”. He stated this many times during his talk, raising examples like if it was an exhibit in a natural history museum we wouldn’t be calling it art. It kind of miffed me because it seemed as if he was saying that because it wasn’t art, it was somehow more than art, or more significant than art. He seemed to be implying that admitting it was art (hello, you have chosen to exhibit it in a contemporary art museum in a white walled room) would detract from the project, which I think is insulting.
Art or not art, decide for yourself. The calendar of daily talk schedules and speaker biographies for Deller’s project can be found here.
Times are tough, but there’s a lot to look forward to with the coming Fall art season in Chicago. Here’s what Meg and I are most looking forward to seeing over the next three months — and be sure to check out Stephanie’s guide to Friday and Saturday openings below!
9/11 Philip Von Zweck at ThreeWalls (M, C) The title of this show is “The Fortieth Anniversary of the First Anniversary of May -68 (in September).” Von Zweck is a significant and much-beloved figure in the Chicago art scene who ran a highly respected apartment gallery for a number of years. This exhibition marks his return to a more traditional solo artist exhibition framework.
9/11 Luis Gispert at Rhona Hoffman (C) New large-scale photographic portraits and videos by the Miami-born, Brooklyn-based Gispert that focus on immigrant sectors of the American workforce and the search for expressive outlets outside the realm of labor. A three-channel film focuses on Gispert’s friend Rene, a Cuban immigrant who works in a Miami restaurant supply store.
9/11 Jessica Labatte at Scott Projects (M). Labatte’s exhibition Bright Branches documents found objects collected from Chicago alleys and junk stores.
9/11 Craig Doty: Women at Roots and Culture (M,C). The women in Doty’s new photographic series have been described as appearing “physically exhausted as well as ethically or morally debased,” i.e. a wet and shivering woman looking out past viewers with few narrative clues as to why, etc. Given Choire Sicha’s description of Doty as “a sick little pervert” whose previous body of work was “very John Hughes meets John Waters meets John Lydon,” well, let’s just say we can’t wait to see his approach to the subject for ourselves.
9/12 Doug Ischar at Golden (M,C). A body of work from 1985, never before seen in its entirety, is the enticement here. Ischar’s show is titled Marginal Waters and features images taken in Chicago’s now-defunct Belmont Rocks.
9/19 Jonas Wood at Shane Campbell Gallery (C). He’s from L.A. and showed at Black Dragon Society, plus he’s collaborated with painter Mark Grotjahn…for now, that’s all I need to know to want to see Wood’s show.
9/19 Jason Lazarus, Wolfgang Plöger, Zoe Strauss at The Art Institute (M). A show of recent photographic acquisitions of these artists’ works by the Art Institute.
9/20 Allen Sekula, Polonia and Other Fables at The Renaissance Society (C). New photographs by anti-globalization hero Sekula that focus on Chicago’s rich labor history, its Polish working-class population along with The University of Chicago’s famous lineage of economic theorists. Heady yet vital stuff from this woefully under-recognized L.A.-based artist.
9/25 – 9/27 Mikhail Baryshnikov at Harris Theater (M). It’s Baryshnikov dude. ‘Nuff said.
9/30 Heartland at the Smart Museum (C). Co-organized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, a survey of artists from the Midwest aka the American Heartland. Hopefully it’ll subvert the syrupy connotations of it’s title, or at least be the kind of show that people argue, bitch and moan about rather than simply ignore.
10/2 – 10/4 Western Exhibitions and Golden Age at the NY Art Book Fair (M). The only event to make it to our list that is not in Chicago. If your in New York at the beginning of October check out two Chicagoans holding it down at the Fair.
October, opening date TBA, Carroll Dunham at He Said/She Said (C). Carroll Dunham shows in a suburban apartment gallery: the Oak Park home of Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott. Can’t wait for this.
10/8-21 Chicago International Film Festival (M) In it’s 45th year the film festival the two week festival is the hub for all film fanatics. This festival might be the only time to catch certain films so be sure to check out their schedule in advance.
10/10 Jeremy Deller: It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, at the MCA (M) Commissioned by The Three M Project Jeremy Deller will invite numerous participants to discuss their knowledge of the Iraq War. Some guest will include verterans, and scholars.
James Welling at Donald Young (C)
10/10 Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage at The Art Institute (C). I’m a sucker for Victoriana, and this exhibition –the first “to comprehensively examine the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage, presenting work that has rarely-and in many cases never-before been displayed or reproduced” — is probably the one show I’m most looking forward to seeing this fall. A medium mostly practiced by aristocratic women, Victorian photocollage combined human, animal, and botanical forms in all sorts of wacky and whimsical ways, and I’m looking forward to reading the accompanying full-color catalogue to learn more about the ways that female artists of this era approached the form some sixty odd years before Picasso and Braque started playing around with it.
10/13 Alex Halsted and David Moré at Gallery 400 (C). Chicago-based Moré “collaborates” with an elephant nose fish, who emits an electrical pulse as a navigation tool which the artist then amplifies. I love the gallery’s blurb on this show: “This performance duo mixes issues of displacement, communications, commercial sound and inter-species contact in a singularly engaging bio-tech format.” Yep, pretty much says it all.
10/16 In Search of the Mundane at ThreeWalls (M) Organized by Randall Szott and InCUBATE According to ThreeWalls this series will , “include boozy brunches, a lecture on the art of storytelling, various leisure excursions, and a tour of personal collections.”
10/17 Liam Gillick Curates the MCA Collection (M, C). We love the way that the MCA is experimenting with the curation of its permanent collection. The MCA has invited Liam Gillick to select works for its next hanging.
11/TBA James Welling at Donald Young (C). New work by L.A. photographer Welling, whose ongoing interest in the experimental and abstract possibilities of photography set his work apart from contemporaries like Sherrie Levine and Cindy Sherman as well as today’s younger generation focusing heavily on portraiture. Welling’s last show at Donald Young featured photograms of flowers and “torsos” (the latter actually made out of screens sculpted to resemble human curves) made without the use of a camera; the results were gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he delves into next.
12/4 Carrie Schneider at MCA 12×12 (M, C) Often using herself as her main character, Schneider melds several genres of art-making including body art, performance, self-portraiture photography and film in images that are haunting, creepy, and hallucinatory in their resonance. If someone ever gave Schneider a huge project budget she could give Matthew Barney a run for his money, but for now we’ll look forward to seeing the new short film Schneider plans to premiere in her first solo museum outing at the MCA. According to the MCA’s website, the film, made in Helsinki, Finland while the artist was there on residency, continues the artists’ ongoing exploration of doubled selves and the uncanny.