20. desember – Mike Sperlinger

Kunstkritikks egne skribenter og inviterte gjester velger det mest interessante fra kunståret 2013. Hver dag fra 1. til 24. desember kommer et nytt bidrag. I dag: Mike Sperlinger.

Hva var de mest interessante utstillingene, begivenhetene og publikasjonene i 2013? I Kunstkritikks julekalender oppsummerer Kunstkritikks egne skribenter og inviterte gjester kunståret 2013. Den 20. i rekken er Mike Sperlinger, skribent, kurator og professor i skrivekunst på Kunstakademiet i Oslo.


Jimmy Robert, Untitled (Munich), 2013. Foto: 1857.
Jimmy Robert, Untitled (Munich), 2013. Foto: 1857.


  Jimmy Robert, Made to Measure, 1857, Oslo.

I saw this show shortly after I arrived in Oslo. I’ve known Jimmy’s work for a long time, but I had never been to 1857 before. In this case he staged a series of exquisite gestures which indeed took the measure of the extraordinary space – of its size, its history as a lumberyard, its stark theatricality – using photographic prints in sculptural constellations with structures of bare birch wood. The show also incorporated a beautiful two-part wall text by artist and writer Ian White, a close friend and colleague whose premature death this autumn remains incomprehensible.

Stephen Sutcliffe, Outwork), 2013.
Stephen Sutcliffe, Outwork), 2013.
  Stephen Sutcliffe, Outwork, Tramway, Glasgow.

Sutcliffe has built up a deeply idiosyncratic body of work over the last decade, much of it drawing on fragments of British television from his enormous archive of off-air recordings. Outwork was a three-screen video installation about framing devices – introductions, trailers, outtakes, marginalia, etc. – exploring with great dexterity how our attention is channelled and corralled, complete with cameos from Jacques Derrida and Burt Reynolds. One of those exciting moments where an artist’s work seems to progress by a leap.

From the original show Black Eyes and Lemonade) in 1951.
From the original show Black Eyes and Lemonade) in 1951.
  Black Eyes and Lemonade: Curating Popular Art, Whitechapel Gallery, London.

Most of my favourite recent shows at the Whitechapel have been in their modest new archive gallery, which presents capsule summaries of historical Whitechapel shows through documentation.  This show revisited a ground-breaking 1951 exhibition of “popular art” curated by Barbara Jones, which at the time meant an occupation of the gallery by everything from pavement chalk artists to an edible St Paul’s Cathedral. The archive display, in deceptively polite style, managed to present the mid-century debates around high/low, mass-production versus the museum etc. in a way which made them seem embarrassingly contemporary. Proposal: let’s open a space which, Borges-style, only stages shows-about-shows.


From Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing).
From Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing).


  Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing, film on general release.

Recently released in Norway, and still available to see on a couple of screens in Oslo if you feel like definitively bursting your Christmas bubble. An account of the mass killings in Indonesia in 1965-6 made in collaboration with some of the perpetrators, whom Oppenheimer encouraged to stage and film carnivalesque recreations of their own crimes. As a documentary, it is a scandal in every sense. Watching it is like standing on the end of a pier which is collapsing, looking back at the shore, which itself is sinking into the sea.


  Malicious Damage    Ilsa Colsell, Malicious Damage: The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton, London, Donlon Books.

The library books in question were borrowed from my local library in London. They were infamously détourned and reshelved by playwright Joe Orton and his boyfriend (and later his murderer) Kenneth Halliwell, leading to the pair’s prosecution. I always assumed their vandalism had survived only as an anecdote, but here, 50 years later, is a deluxe, coffee-table-compatible catalogue of their interventions in which the pair’s work looks as brazen, flaming and funny as early Richard Hamilton or Linder. (Linder, incidentally, gave a fantastic account of her own work in a talk OCA in Oslo only last week).

  Fox   The Fox, ed. Mathew Whittington, www.thefox.info.

Offering itself, at least in name, as an unauthorised 4th issue of the legendary Art&Language journal (40 years after its last appearance), this has been compiled by artist/designer Mathew Whittington as a miscellany of vulpine metaphors. Contributors – witting or otherwise – range from Hannah Arendt to Ben Watson. Quixotic!

  persona   Persona, ed. Melissa Gordon & Marina Vishmidt.

Another self-published journal of uncertain regularity, low production values and large ideas. Mostly artists, mostly female, mostly writing about contemporary artistic self-presentation. Unacademic and sometimes thrilling, including some of the most considered recent reflections on artistic strategies of withdrawal.