Vilka var årets mest intressanta utställningar, händelser och publikationer 2013? I Kunstkritikks julkalender sammanfattar Kunstkritikks egna skribenter och inbjudna gäster konståret 2013. Nummer 18 är Maria Lind, tidigare Iaspisdirektör och chef för bland annat Kunstverein München, för närvarande curator och chef för Tensta konsthall.
Three strong experiences of artworks in 2013, in chronological order
Visiting the abstract painter Victor Pasmore’s brutalist sculpture-cum-architecture-cum-bridge, The Apollo Pavilion, in the new town Peterlee outside Newcastle, on a chilly day in March, was an intense visceral experience. Inaugurated in 1970, the concrete pavilion sits next to a pond in the middle of a housing estate. Surrounding The Apollo Pavilion are beautiful surfaces on the ground made of small and smooth natural rocks. The only diagonals in an otherwise intimate but straight-angled space are introduced by the sunlight which comes through the open ceiling and animates the whole place. It is an exquisite spatial articulation, at the same time indoors and outdoors. Artists such as Jane & Louise Wilson, Toby Patterson and more recently also Thomas Elovsson & Peter Geschwind have found it to be a fruitful springboard for art works. My attention was brought to the pavilion by the two latter, whose Time-Space Shuttle Apollo Pavilion is now on view at Tensta konsthall. The pavilion is both a modern Stonehenge and a space rocket, which, after years of serious decay, much hatred and near demolition, is now in pristine condition with proper lighting and signage. It has afterall become part of the official national heritage of Great Britain.
A woman backstage is slowly transforming herself into a man. In long shots, make-up, clothing and body language come together in the form of a male character dressed in old-style Korean clothes, culminating in a brief solo performance on a stage surrounded by red velvet curtains. The video, titled Act of Effect and made by Jung Eun-young, also known as Siren, was screened in a black box at the Hermes Foundation in Seoul in the summer. In the next room four flat screens hanging on the wall featured four different actresses. During various decades they have been involved with a new form of traditional Korean musical, yeosung gukgeuk, which since the American-Korean war has only featured women, also in the roles of men. The genuine queerness of the phenomenon, the stories of the struggles of the actresses in a severely male-dominated society and the gentle visuals of Siren made for a work which keeps popping up in my mind.
Orllegro is a term which was invented in the 1950s to indicate a fake textile material with extraordinary qualities. It is also the title of artist Pae White’s recent commission for the MAK (Museum Angewandte Kunst) in Vienna where only metal threads have been used to make four monumental tapestries. Fabricated by old textile companies in Belgium with the most up to date technology they glimmer of silver and gold, moving from the abstract to the figurative, in the form of White’s own book case. Installed to make it possible to see both sides of the tapestries, they function as stage sets with intriguing patterns such as quilt-like shapes and digital debris. It is spectacular, in the best sense of the word. A number of wooden toys made in Vienna in the 1920s from the MAK’s collection have been the starting point for chess games made by a group of fabricators and artists close to the artist. These colorful objects have their own stage in a long vitrine, next to a table with an artist book of 720 pages. It contains ephemera owned by White as well as numerous commercial papers (for writing, wrapping etc), Japanese cut stencil’s and other things from the museum collection. Orllegro, which opened 8 Oct and will be on view for a year, is a reminder that White is one of the most formally sophisticated artists around, who relentlessly finds new routes to test techniques, shapes, and trains of thought. It is grounded in the fromal articulations of the early modernists and, at the same time, has a genuinely suggestive quality.
Three noteworthy events in the art world in 2013, in order of significance
This year’s edition of the Bienal do Mercosul in Porto Alegre offered the best exhibition in a long time and a very special opening weekend in September. In addition, it continued the Bienal’s own tradition of experimental and in other ways ambitious mediation activities. Under the rubric of “Weather Permitting” mainly object-based works by among others Allan McCollum, Cao Fei, Eduardo Navarro, Jason Dodge, Pratchaya Pinthong, Liudvikas Buklys, Sara Ramos and Tania Perez-Cordova inhabited and created atmospheric, emotional and political climates. The exhibition was extremely well-installed in four main venues, three of which lent themselves to classical systems of display. A number of works where located and/or happened around Porto Alegre, which happens to have pioneered participatory budgeting, something that Bik Van der Pol picked up for their new work. Robert Rauschenberg’s Mud Muse and Tony Smith’s giant cardboard structure Bat Cave were examples of older works coming out of collaborations with commercial companies. George Levantis’ sailing-inspired installation Sea Fall Through the Stars (Three Voyages 1974-75) resulted from his residency with a shipping company through the Artist Placement Group. Buenos Aires-based conceptual artist Marta Minujin’s classic 1966 work Simultaneity in Simultaneity – where she, Allan Kaprow in the US, and Wolf Vostell in Germany were connected at the same time, through the communications media available at the time – featured through documents in vitrines and an “ekphrasis”. The format of ekphrasis allowed for immaterial or otherwise no-longer existing works to be articulated discursively, in front of an audience. Master-minded by artistic director Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy and her team, the opening weekend culminated with a performance with the unbeatable Tarek Atoui on the roof terrass of a gas factory, one of the venues, next to the river. Atoui’s unique brand of old school electronica mixed with more contemporary sounds took everybody through the sunset into a magical night.
How to make sense of the routine events of the academic world? As seminars and conferences have filtered through to the art world, where they often appear in even more academizised constumes than on their home turf, it becomes more interesting and urgent than ever to push them beyond their limits. Passive Liquidity Provider, Goldin+Senneby’s 50% PhD (practice-based research) seminar, which took place in a small meeting room at Regus at Stureplan in the afternoon of 17 May, sat smack between these two worlds. And yet, it literally became part of this collaborative duo’s art work. Yes, there were people in front talking and another group facing them who where listening. But it was far from both your average academic setting and your usual art world discursive situation. Framed by impeccable corporate interior design and in the presence of some thirty listeners, the anonymous computer Scientist Ybodon explained how the algorythmic trading model commissioned by Goldin+Senneby functions. This model is used to trade with the 100.000 SEK which is their full production budget for the PhD. The success or failure of the model will determine how much money the artists will eventually have for their research. Presentations by Goldin+ Senneby’s advisor, artist Hinrich Sachs, and the curator Barbara Steiner contextualized Passive Liquidity Provider within the collaborative duos practice, which does something rare. It develops an entirely new and unique way of working artistically, which in the case of this particular seminar managed to evoke a sense of vertigo, beyond that which is triggered by thinking about financial speculation. What kind of research will be made possible if the trading model is successful? What if it fails?
2013 is the year when invitations to participate in seminars and symposia as well as to write texts have been followed by requests to do so for free. To work without payment is unfortunately not unusal in the sphere of contemporary art but the differences this year seem to be the frequency, that it includes tasks such as keynote speaking and that it has moved into both bigger and more prestigious institutions and publically funded organisations. From the London School of Economics to the Istanbul Biennial and Kunstkritikk, I have been in this situation several times this year, where arguments have ranged from “we don’t have any money” to “it is an honor to do this”. I have accepted the three invitations above, thinking hard about what architect Ana Dzokic has called today’s “zombie institutions”.
Three memorable texts in 2013, in order of length
The Weather by Lisa Robertson. Mind blowing poetry of the anthropocene. As she herself describes it: “It’s real. It’s mythic. It’s wild. It’s a vernacular. It’s didactic. It’s boredom. It’s ceaseless. It’s a delusional space.” It might have changed my life.
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. On a summer’s day in 1767, the twelve-year old Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo had enough. He refused to eat his snails for dinner and promptly left behind his aristocratic family and their comfortable life for an existence in the trees. From that point on, Cosimo lived in the tree-tops of northern Italy. Like a monkey he climbed and he swung himself across great distances. No pleasures of life were renounced on the branches, although it was sometimes complicated to achieve them: he constructed a cozy shelter for himself, devised a system for food supply, continued Latin lessons with his instructor – sometimes by sitting on the lower branches and sometimes even by asking the teacher to join him in the tree. Although he never set foot on the ground after the snail dinner, he had a rich social life. He even managed to have love affairs high above ground. Re-reading Calvino’s 1957 novel this summer I was struck by the fact that Cosimo’s retreat did not require any advanced equipment or technology, it only needed long ropes, a bit of exercise, and ingenuity. It was a simple change of level, which transformed his life and, in turn, profoundly affected many of Calvino’s readers. An altogether different form of life was the result of this shift. But it is one close at hand. So close that it was invisible before it was tested. Cosimo invented uses for forms that had hitherto been unexplored by humans – his was an existential feat. Strangely enough, to this very day the trees remain the territory of birds, insects, monkeys, snakes, and other creatures more inventive than us.
Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber. This red brick of a book is a thought-provoking and inspiring journey into the history of credit systems during different periods and in different places. Even before money there was debt, contrary to common knowledge among economic historians and theoreticians. If late capitalism has made us all “the natives of abstraction” (Sven Lütticken) this book makes clear that even before money there was abstraction, through debt. Thanks to many concrete examples Graeber animates a story which helps us understand the emergence of an almost entirely economized existence.