Looking Back, Looking Forward: Part 1
The first in a series looking back at the highlights of 2012 and thinking ahead to some reasons to be cheerful in 2013, as chosen by frieze editors and contributors.
Anthony Huberman is a curator and writer. He is the director of The Artist’s Institute in New York, USA and teaches at Hunter College.
Lutz Bacher, The Book of Sand, 2010-12, 25 tons of sand, dimensions variable
PICKS OF 2012
• ‘Steve McQueen’ at The Art Institute, Chicago (until January 6). I think he’s the Bruce Nauman of my generation, but even more perverted.
• ‘Locus Solus’ at the Reina Sofía, Madrid. Finally, I got my chance to really get to know the world of Raymond Roussel.
• ‘In the Still Epiphany’ at the Pulitzer Foundation, St. Louis. Curated by the artist Gedi Sibony, this exhibition taught me everything about how to hold something in place.
• Lutz Bacher at Alex Zachary Peter Currie, New York and at the Whitney Biennial. One involved 25 tons of sand filling an Upper East Side apartment, and the other thousands of baseballs filling the entire 4th floor of a major art museum (Baseballs II, 2011-2012). Both also included a video called What Are You Thinking? (2011) which simply faded from white to black and back again, with a heart-breaking soundtrack. Enough said?
• The idea of a “brain” made up not of words or statements, but of objects. As in: the semi-circular gallery in the Fridericianum that was the heart of dOCUMENTA (13), and the white-tiled room at the centre of Rosemarie’s Trockel’s ‘A Cosmos’ at the New Museum, New York (until January 20)
• Some great machines: Thomas Bayrle‘s car engines at dOCUMENTA (13), Trisha Donnelly‘s selection of microchip diagrams in MoMA‘s collection, and Bruno Gironcoli‘s possibly alien machines at Mamco, Geneva.
• Raven Row. But then again, Raven Row is to the art world what Jon Stewart is to TV – there is no suspense, because you know they’ll win every year. Another extraordinary year at Raven Row.
• Yale Union. A newcomer – Saul Steinberg, Marianne Wex, Ian Hamilton Finlay, George Kuchar, Susan Howe… a brilliant program run by brilliant people in Portland, Oregon.
• David Weiss, we miss you.
• Julian Assange, we support you.
Thomas Bayrle, Frankfurter Tapete, 1980, offset print on paper, wall paper (detail)
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL IN 2013
ALL THAT IS BELGIAN OR SEMI-BELGIAN:
• Thomas Bayrle at Wiels, Brussels (February 9 – May 12)
• Harald Thys and Jos de Gruyter at MuKHA, Antwerp (February 8 – May 19)
• Peter Wächtler, based in Brussels, having his first show in New York at Ludlow 38 (opens January 20)
• Lucy McKenzie, also based in Brussels, and her show at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam (April 20 – September 20)
• Finally getting to visit the Antoine Wiertz Museum, Brussels
Dan Fox is senior editor of frieze and is based in New York, USA.
Pierre Huyghe, Untitled, 2011–2, Karlsaue Park, dOCUMENTA (13)
The numerologically credulous amongst you will be aware that the 5125-year cycle of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is due to come to an apocalyptic close on 21 December 2012. This is when the Earth collides with the planet Nibiru and suffers a catastrophic geomagnetic reversal of the North and South Poles. In preparation for the arrival of the final day of the 13th b’ak’tun, I am dispensing with the conventional decimal-based ranking system for my highlights of 2012, and will instead use what scholars of eschatology have calculated to be a New Number Order that will come into effect following the appearance of Kisin, Mayan God of Death, and the radical distortion of linear time caused by the supermassive black hole due to open up in the centre of the galaxy around lunchtime on Christmas Day. In the event that Armageddon does not arrive before the holiday sales start, the following list also includes my reasons to be cheerful for 2013, although a fat lot of good they’ll do you as Quetzalcoatl rips you limb-from-limb amidst the scorched ruins of civilization.
1,472,657: dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel. If you had asked me in early June what my exhibition highlight of 2012 was, I might well have predicted a hands-down win for dOCUMENTA (13). Looking back, I suspect I was tIPSY oN tHE kOOL-aID oF cRITICAL pRAISE that had pinned Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s edition of the quintennial mega-show for gongs at the Academy Awards, Nobel Prize and London 2012 Olympics. Which isn’t to say that dOCUMENTA (13) didn’t feature intelligent and thought-provoking passages, but it tested my patience with the rhetorics and personality cults of curating, and as the year wore on, left me with feelings of increasing alienation from the purpose of super-sized exhibitions.
Six months on from visiting Kassel, my memory of dOCUMENTA (13) is made up of only fragments and details; small working parts of a bigger engine motoring curatorial ideas that were often hard to fathom. Clearest of these memories is a walk I took one afternoon that started with Pierre Huyghe‘s Untitled interzone in the middle of the orderly Karlsaue park, a ghostly patch of mud and wild plants populated by bees and a pink-legged dog. From there I walked on to Raimundas Malasauskas and Marcos Lutyen‘s Hypnotic Show; 30 blissful minutes spent under hypnosis, the ‘art work’ appearing in my mind’s eye. My stroll finished up at the Tino Sehgal piece where, in a blacked-out room, a troupe of dancers enchanted the dark with call-and-response cries, anecdotes about the financial precarity of the creative life, and an a cappella version of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. These experiences were each intimate, small-scale, tinted by humour, pleasure, imagination.
5: ‘Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly’, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Speaking of shows that are intimate, small-scale, and tinted by humour, pleasure and imagination, how about Trisha Donnelly’s ‘Artist Choice’? (This beat to the punch my other favourite MoMA show this year, ‘Century of the Child: Growing By Design 1900–2000’ a fascinating look at how artists and designers have shaped children’s learning and play.) Donnelly’s inventive and often surprising selections from the museum’s art and design collection were spread across three rooms, packing together like cosmic sardines works such as Odilon Redon and Marsden Hartley paintings, Eliot Porter bird photographs, Walter Pichler drawings, pyramidal air-ionizers, Polaroid sunglasses, a wheelchair and psychedelic-coloured diagrams of silicon microprocessors.
2,389,524: Yale Union, Portland, Oregon. Yale Union’s exhibition ‘Steinberg, Saul. The New Yorker. New York, 1945–2000. (Harold, William, Robert, Tina, David, Eds.)’, organized by Robert Snowden and Scott Ponik, looked at Steinberg’s work for The New Yorker, attentive to the questions his career raises about how art circulates in society. (I wrote about it here if you’ve the inclination to find out more.) The existence of this non-profit space in the Pacific Northwest is also a reason to be cheerful in 2013.
Saul Steinberg, cover illustration for The New Yorker, October 1969
11: Jonas Mekas. Two retrospectives in 2012 – one at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the other at London’s Serpentine Gallery – reminded us not only of the extraordinary historical record Mekas’ film diaries provide of artistic life in New York across six decades, but how the lifeblood of art and culture depends upon communities of friends, family and like minds; not global gallery brands, market logic and the tinnitus din of PR.
79,672: 2012 Whitney Biennial. Particularly LaToya Ruby Frazier’s photographs, Wu Tsang’s GREEN ROOM installation, Charles Atlas and Michael Clark’s performance, and the films of Luther Price, Michael Robinson and Laida Lertxundi. And whilst we’re talking about the Whitney Museum, a cheery prospect for early next year is ‘Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective,’ which arrives there from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Leapfrogging ahead, the 2014 Whitney promises to be something to be cheerful about given the recent appointment of Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms and Michelle Grabner as the show’s curators. But before that, in biennial land, I’ve high hopes for the 2013 Carnegie International, put together by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski.
Frank Ocean; photograph Nabil Elderkin
9: New music. I didn’t have many no-risk-disks this year, but amongst them were Frank Ocean’s Orange (if R’n’B were to have its own prog rock moment, then surely it’s Ocean’s track ‘Pyramids’ although the return in 2012 of R. Kelly’s lunatic musical soap opera Trapped in the Closet is a close contender); Jai Paul’s single Jasmine, which sounds like a hazy memory of Prince, Detroit techno and too many late nights; Third Mouth by Alexander Tucker, a vision of modern pastoral psychedelia; the drone dub of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s LP Timon Imok Manta and the ever-inventive C Spencer Yeh’s album-length foray into pop songwriting, Transitions. One album I’m particularly looking forward to in early 2012 is Museum of Loneliness, a spoken word LP by filmmaker and writer Chris Petit (director of Radio On and author of essential London novel Robinson), released by London-based label Test Centre as part of a new series of albums made with writers.
Laurie Spiegel in her home studio, circa 1976. Photo: Lewis Forsdale
431: Old music. Reissues on highest rotation for me were Can’s Lost Tapes, and the compilation Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974–84. Can need no introduction, but Personal Space salvages obscure soul and funk tracks crafted from rudimentary synthesizers and drum machines, creating some astonishing, spaced-out dance music. (Check out Deborah Washington’s ‘Shortest Lady’ or Spontaneous Overflow’s ‘All About Money’, for instance.) Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe (originally released in 1980) acquainted me with the work of one of the female pioneers of electronic composition, whilst the re-release of the 1985 album Zummo with an X, by Peter Zummo, recorded with Arthur Russell, Rik Albani and Bill Ruyle, was a slow, beautiful reminder of how fertile New York’s downtown music scene was in the 1980s. (The piece ‘Lateral Pass’ was originally composed for the Trisha Brown Dance Company.) I was also happy to see a re-release for Midnight Cleaners (1982) by Cleaners from Venus, an overdue nod to Martin Newell, the one-man music scene of downtown Wivenhoe, rural Essex.
8999: Other music. In live performance, the opportunity to see Pauline Oliveros play in New York, at her 80th birthday concert at ISSUE Project Room in May, was a special one. So too was Darmstadt’s 8th annual performance of Terry Riley’s In C at Public Assembly, New York; a joyous, raucous and spirited rendition of Riley’s landmark work of 20th century art, performed by around 20 key players from New York’s new music scenes, including David Grubbs, David van Teigham, Nick Hallett, Zach Layton, Kid Millions and Alex Waterman. (Waterman’s Vidas Perfectas a new Spanish language production of Robert Ashley’s 1983 opera Perfect Lives, continued to evolve in 2012, with a performance at London’s Serpentine Pavilion.)
For music makers, Sufi Plus Ins released this year and developed by DJ Rupture (aka Jace Clayton) with Bill Bowen, Rosten Woo, Hassan Wargui, Maggie Schmitt and Juan Alcon Duran deserves a nod for blowing open the Western-centric mindset of most music software interfaces.
As for books about music in 2012, Tam Tam Books’ English translation (by Paul Knobloch) of Gilles Verlant’s biography of Serge Gainsbourg, Gainsbourg: The Biography was a page-turner. Once I finally get around to reading David Byrne’s How Music Works – a book I’ve been excited to read since it came out in September – I’m looking forward to the publication early next year of Bob Stanley’s presumably epic Do You Believe in Magic? A Complete History of Pop.
5499: David Levine, Habit. Here is the long story: but the short version is: realist play performed on loop, eight hours a day – a meditation on the daily grind of creative life, and habituated emotional behaviour. In 2012 Levine also co-authored, with Alix Rule, the essay ‘International Art English’ for brave new pioneers of digital publishing Triple Canopy. If this essay makes even one iota of difference in pushing back against all that is dreary, pompous, vacuous, and downright grammatically whack in art writing, press releases and museum speak, then Levine, Rule and Triple Canopy will have done us a service.
42: W.A.G.E. Survey results: An onerous task, but someone had to do it. This year saw the release of results from a survey undertaken by Working Artists and the Greater Economy into the economic experiences of 600 visual and performance artists who, between 2005 and 2010, worked with museums and non-profits in New York City. The survey asked questions about artist fees, honorariums, payment of expenses, shipping and production costs. Read the analytics, presented in graphic poster form here.
Graphic from the W.A.G.E survey
74,903: Art in print. Alan Moore, author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell, describes The Vorrh by Brian Catling as ‘one of the most original and stunning works of fantasy that it has ever been my privilege to read.’ With this novel, sculptor and performance artist Catling has written a dizzyingly vast work of imagination, but it’s thankfully not of the dragons and dwarves variety of fantasy. Rather, the intoxicating language of The Vorrh – like breathing thick tropical air – is in the tradition of surrealist fiction (its title is borrowed from Raymond Roussel’s Impressions of Africa, 1910), and closer to the kitchen sink sci-fi of Alasdair Gray’s Lanark (1981) than Game of Thrones. I’m not much of a comics fan, but the collection of Dal Tokyo comic strips by artist Gary Panter from the early ‘80s LA Reader, which imagines a future Mars colonized by workers from Japan and Texas, was wonderfully mind-frying. Ridinghouse brought us The Space Between, a collection of writings on art by novelist, critic and frieze contributor Michael Bracewell – long overdue, and essential reading. Also, if anyone wants to buy me for Christmas a copy of O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica, collecting together the collages and works on paper of Bay Area artist Jess, I wouldn’t say no.
Significant Objects spun from a project by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, isn’t exactly an art book, but it has much to say about how we ascribe value to objects. Trinkets, tchotchkes and other unwanted second-hand flotsam and jetsam were purchased for a few dollars and auctioned on eBay, each item paired with a short fictional text by a writer about the object’s provenance. The experiment looked at how each story affected the amount people were prepared to pay for an item. A gold rabbit-shaped candle, for instance, bought for $3, sold for $112.50. It came with a story by Neil LaBute about a man – who may or may not be on the edge of a nervous breakdown – convinced the candle contains a real bunny made from real gold. A kitsch Russian figurine, missing its glass case, that was purchased for $3 went for a whopping $193.50. This crudely made little ornament was gilded with the legend of St. Vralkomir, as unreliably recounted by Doug Dorst. All proceeds were donated to the charity Girls Write Now and contributors included Matthew de Abaitua, Nicholson Baker, Matthew Battles, Meg Cabot, Patrick Cates, Willliam Gibson, Ben Greenman, Jason Grote, Shiela Heti, Wayne Koestenbaum, Shelley Jackson, Jonathan Lethem, Mimi Lipson, Tom McCarthy, Lydia Millet, Annie Nocenti, Jenny Offill, Gary Panter, Ed Park, James Parker, Padgett Powell, Bruce Sterling, Luc Sante, David Shields, Colleen Werthmann, Colson Whitehead, Cintra Wilson and Douglas Wolk. You want insight into the psychology of collecting? Read this.
∞: Sandy. The destructive impact of the super-storm on the Caribbean and east coast was no highlight of 2012, but it was a reminder that the view art provides on life is a parallax view; that there are crucial degrees of difference between what we think is important to keep in the frame, and what’s really essential.
Summer Guthery is a curator and writer based in New York, where she runs The Canal Series and teaches at the School of Visual Arts.
Picks of 2012
Roberto Benigni goes wild at the Oscars
Risks to sentiment but I like smaller, less shiny, set ups for looking. These places provide, startling, indeed impudent, new slants. Artist’s Institute, Soloway, Cleopatras. All are exuberant. As is Triple Canopy and Artists Space – Books and Talks. We should be scrawling their names on subway walls. Lucie Fontaine at Marianne Boesky as a two-week seance of an exhibition gave hope. “Views from a Volcano” on the early days at The Kitchen was a fascinating look back. A few quick trips to the west coast left me enthused, open and receptive – Math Bass’s performance Brutal Set and Vishal Jugdeo’s Goods Carrier both at the Hammer and Land Art at MOCA made the trip. In the Pacific Northwest, the curatorial undertakings at Yale Union are teaching the rest of us a thing or two about the firmness of opinion and the clarity of exposition. And, The Documenta. Sweeping statements miss the crumbs. Michael Portnoy’s 27 Gnosis was a highlight, a twisted carnival gameshow in a dirt mound led down a path by Michael and Ieva Miseviciute, Korbian Agnier’s apples stole breath and Kadar Attia’s colonial flotsam has been like philosophical flypaper. I feel lucky to have seen each of these and others.
I am looking forward to Performa 2013 (November 1-24) in all its ambitions and complications.
Quinn Latimer is the author of Rumored Animals (Dream Horse Press, 2012) and the forthcoming Describe This Distance , which examines the work of Sarah Lucas, as well as shame, palindromes, passivity, fertility statuary, Antonin Artaud, Diego Rivera, and Susan Sontag.
Heike-Karin Föll, ‘n° 25 – n° 89 (the delphinium version), installation view at Elaine MGK, Basel.
BEST OF 2012 MIXTAPE (EXTENDED VERSION)
1. Heike-Karin Föll / ‘n° 25 – n° 89 (the delphinium version),’ Elaine MGK, Basel, Switzerland
2. Cevdet Erek / Room of Rhythms 1, 2010–2012, Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany, and ‘Week’ (2012) at Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
3. Moyra Davey / The Wet and the Dry (The Social Life of the Book) (Paraguay Press, 2012)
4. Mahmoud Darwish Museum / Ramallah, Palestine
5. Charlotte Moth / ‘Ce qui est fragile est toujours nouveau,’ Centre d’art Contemporain Genève, Switzerland
6. Susan Sontag / As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)
7. Solange / ‘Losing You,’ True EP (Terrible Records, 2012)
8. Karl Holmqvist and Stefan Tcherepnin / New Jerseyy, Basel, Switzerland
9. Julia Rometti and Victor Costales / Inscriptions in stone—Cosmic volume (2012)
24-page black-and-white supplement in Al-Ayyam newspaper, Palestine, Sunday November 4, 2012
10. Solange / ‘Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work,’ True EP (Terrible Records, 2012)
11. Lili Reynaud-Dewar / ‘Ceci est ma maison / This is my place,’ Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, France
12. Kaspar Mueller / Galerie Francesca Pia, Zurich, Switzerland
13. Hannah Ryggen / anti-fascist tapestries, dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany
14. Klappfon / experimental music program curated by Michael Zaugg, Plattfon, Basel, Switzerland
15. Nuri Koerfer / Oslo 10, Basel, Switzerland
16. Cat Power / ‘Manhattan,’ Sun (Matador Records, 2012)
17. Ariana Reines / Mercury (Fence Books, 2011)
18. Fabian Marti / Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Switzerland
19. Stedelijk Museum / reopening and re-hang, Amsterdam, Netherlands
20. Clarice Lispector / new translations into English out from New Directions (The Passion According to G.H., The Hour of the Star, Near to the Wild Heart)
22. Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi / ‘Around,’ Think Thoughts (2012)
23. La Grotta Bar / Ramallah, Palestine
Haris Epaminonda, Chronicles, 2010-ongoing, Super 8 transfer to digital, video still
VOLUME 2 (FORTHCOMING 2013)
1. ‘Projects 100: Akram Zaatari’ / June 4–September 23 / Museum of Modern Art, New York.
2. ‘Abstract Generation: Now in Print’ / February 13–June 24 / Museum of Modern Art, New York.
3. ‘Tell It To My Heart: Collected by Julie Ault,’ / February 2 – 12 May / Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel
4. ‘Haris Epaminonda’ / Kunsthaus Zurich (February 15–May 5)
5. ‘Mike Kelley’ (through April 1) / Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
6. Paolo Thorsen-Nagel / And On (Material Records, 2013).
7. I am also looking forward to getting around to reading: Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2013) and Lisa Robertson’s Nilling: prose essays on noise, pornography, the codex, melancholy, Lucretius, folds, cities and related aporias (BookThug, 2012); R’s Boat (University of California Press, 2010) and The Men: a Lyric Book (BookThug, 2000).
‘Noticias de America’, exhibition view at Mendes Wood, São Paulo
Jochen Volz is Head of Programmes at the Serpentine Gallery, London and curator at Instituto Inhotim, Brazil.
BEST OF 2012
• Fernanda Gomes’ installation at the 30th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo.
• Robert Ashley’s Vidas Perfectas, a five episode opera performance, starring Ned Sublette, Elio Villafranca, Peter Gordon, Elisa Santiago and Raul de Nieves as part of Park Nights at the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 and at Café Oto, London.
• Helen Marten’s solo exhibition, ‘Plank Salad’, at the Chisenhale Gallery, London. http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/exhibitions/current_exhibition.php
• Tino Sehgal’s This Variation shown at the Huguenot House in Kassel, Germany, as part of documenta (13)
• Paulo Nazareth’s exhibition, titled ‘Noticias de America’, at Mendes Wood, São Paulo
• ‘Parque Industrial’, curated by Julieta González, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo, including artists like Yael Bartana, Thomas Bayrle, Alexandre da Cunha, Carlos Garaicoa, Magdalena Jitrik, Jac Leirner, Renata Lucas, Marepe, Josephine Meckseper, Cildo Meireles, Mai-Thu Perret, Pedro Reyes and Gabriel Sierra, amongst others. http://www.galerialuisastrina.com.br/exhibitions/parque-industrial.aspx
• ‘The Ungovernables’, the second triennial exhibition at the New Museum, New York, curated by Eungie Joo. http://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/the-ungovernables
LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2013
9th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil, curated by Sofía Hernandez Chong Cuy, together with Sarah Demeuse, Mônica Hoff, Raimundas Malašauskas, Daniela Pérez, Julia Rebouças, Bernardo de Souza and Dominic Willsdon. http://bienalmercosul.org.br/novo/index.php?option=com_noticia&Itemid=5&task=detalhe&id=1103