Looking Back, Looking Forward: Part 6
Continuing our 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.
Polly Staple is director of Chisenhale Gallery, London and a contributing editor of frieze.
Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) looked electric in the flesh at the Musée D’Orsay. Don’t be fooled by all the frills, that dappled sunlight is ushering in a whole new world.
Ken Lum’s programme at the Banff Centre, ‘Art and the effects of the Real’, with accompanying film screenings, conversation and ping pong.
Brian Jungen & Duane Linklater’s Modest Livelihood (2012), an epic film about silence, self-determination and moose hunting which premiered at the Walter Phillips Gallery, the Banff Centre as part of dOCUMENTA (13).
Tacita Dean, Manhattan Mouse Museum, 2011, film still
Manhattan Mouse Museum (2011), Tacita Dean’s film of Claus Oldenburg dusting his collection of small objects, one part of her exhibition of film portraits ‘Five Americans’ at the New Museum.
‘Topology’ at Tate Modern was a series of keynote lectures and discussion over a 6-month period initiated by Jean Mathee and including speakers such as Eric Alliez, David Harvey, Catherine Malabou, Suely Rolnik and Peter Sloterdijk all exploring topology and transformation. More public programmes like this please.
‘Animism’ at e-flux curated by Anselm Franke, which has been on tour across venues in Europe for several years, is still a stand our group exhibition. A complex, thoughtful project exploring the context of animation at the frontier of colonial modernity, here the works investigated methods of objectification and reification the exact opposite of animation and subjectification
Thomas Hirschorn’s Touching Reality (2012), presented in Okwui Enwezor’s ‘Intense Proximity: The Triennial’, at the Palais de Tokyo, depicts a hand scrolling through graphic images of corpses and destroyed bodies on a touch screen. This work is impossible to look at and absolutely precise about our present moment.
Trisha Donnelly’s work at the Gloria Cinema as part of dOCUMENTA (13) was equally precise about the status of image making and the resistance of linguistic form but here beautifully rendered as site-specific interlude.
Amalia Pica, Some Of That Colour, 2009, bunting, watercolour and dye on paper and chair, dimensions variable. Photograph: Qui Yang.
Nick Relph at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York.
Ed Atkins at MoMA PS1 New York and the group exhibition ‘Frozen Lakes’ at Artists Space alongside James Richards, Banu Cennetoglu, Aaron Flint Jamison, Ken Okiishi and Charlotte Prodger.
Aaron Flint Jamison at Cubitt Gallery, London.
Amalia Pica at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and MIT List Visual Arts Center.
Jordan Wolfson at S.M.A.K. Ghent.
Helen Marten at CCS Bard, alongside Haim Steinbach.
The Venice Biennial.
Timotheus Vermeulen is assistant professor in Cultural Theory at the Radboud University Nijmegen, where he also heads the Centre for New Aesthetics. He is co-founding editor of the academic arts and culture webzine Notes on Metamodernism. He is currently completing two books on metamodernism together with Robin van den Akker.
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2012, film still
Picks of 2012
Unsurprisingly, given my own field of interest, I was very taken with the ‘Discussing Metamodernism’ group show at Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin. Including works by established artists like Mona Hatoum, Monica Bonvicini and Olafur Eliasson alongside emerging performers such as Andy Holden, Ragnar Kjartansson and Annabel Daou, its post-ironic urgency really captured the tense and uncertain spirit of the times. For much the same reason, I also really enjoyed ‘Meer Licht’ at Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle. Then there were Pedro Reyes, Adrian Royas, and Tino Sehgal at dOCUMENTA (13), and Egle Budvytyte’s work Magicians at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam.
In literature, the publication of the first biography of David Foster Wallace (D.T Max, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story) was exciting, as were the oddly entertaining diaries of Peter Sloterdijk, Zeilen und TageI (Suhrkamp); the new edition of Gogol’s masterpiece Dead Souls (New York Review of Books Classics; translated by Donald Rayfield), Natasha Wimmer”s translation of Roberto Bolano’s Antwerp and Zadie Smith’s NW.
The distressing documentaries The Act of Killing (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer), a reenacting of a genocide by the perpetrators, and The Invisible War (dir. Kirby Dick), documenting rape in the US Army, have both stayed with me. Benh Zeitlin’s first feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild was also pretty special, perhaps even trumping his 2008 short Glory at Sea.
Despite the predictable backlash in magazines and blogs, I thought Mad Men was superb again. Treme and Breaking Bad were good. Parks and Recreation consistently offers the best critical comedy since Arrested Development. It really is quite incredible what television is putting out there at the moment.
Reasons to be cheerful in 2013
Looking forward to 2013 is equally exciting. Given that I recently moved to Dusseldorf, I will definitely be present at this year’s Rundgang, the academy’s graduation show. I am curious also to see what Phil Morrison’s new film, Almost Christmas, will be like. His 2005 film Junebug – his only film to date – remains one of the masterpieces in recent art history. Terrence Malick’s sudden mass output will be interesting. And of course the news that R. Kelly is working on a sequel to Trapped in the Closet is a great prospect for all art lovers.
Charles Reeve is associate professor of art history at OCAD University in Toronto, and a regular contributor to frieze.
Adel Abdessemed, Coup de tête, 2011-2012, bronze, 5.3 × 2.2 × 3.5 m, installation view outside the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Some highlights from 2012:
‘Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye’, Centre Pompidou. September 21 2011 to January 9 2012
I nearly missed my flight back to Toronto when Pompidou curator Philippe-Alain Michaud invited Atom Egoyan and me to see this show on a Tuesday (when the gallery is closed). Egoyan described the experience of seeing this amazing exhibition in a nearly-empty venue as ‘a revelation’, and he was right. The tiny photographs that Munch took of himself in his studio are absolute gems, themselves worth the embarrassment of being the guy at whom everyone glares for having delayed takeoff.
Gary Taxali Wedding Coin
When the Royal Canadian Mint gave illustrator Gary Taxali (full disclosure: Gary’s a colleague) carte blanche to apply his cartoon-ish style to six quarters, they knew he’d push buttons—as he did, by decorating one coin with two gender-neutral ‘wedding band’ characters, in celebration of Canada being only the fourth country to legalize gay marriage. This coin exemplifies Taxali’s wit and verve and, as he says, the likelihood that this currency is the first produced by a federal government to honour marriage equality makes it even better.
‘In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States’, Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. June 7 to September 3 2012
Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte Moderno, this show is, as I wrote this summer, a rarity: a blockbuster that, beyond recycling hits, deploys an impressive array of artists, famous and not, to reassess a key movement. Lee Miller’s untitled photograph of mastectomized breasts alone makes the exhibition, but the startlingly contemporary works by Bona, Lola Alvarez Bravao and Francesca Woodman underline the continuing relevance of this perspicuous complement to Surrealism, finally getting its due. Terrific catalogue.
Aung San Suu Kyi accepts 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, June 16, 2012
This moment gets into a round-up of cultural highlights because, as her long-delayed Nobel acceptance speech shows, Aung San Suu Kyi kept her sense of humour despite twenty-plus years of house arrest—and if that doesn’t deserve recognition, nothing does. The use of force against mining protestors in Monywa makes one wonder how deep are President Thein Sein’s reforms, and how permanent. For now, though, Aung San Suu Kyi continues speaking and living freely, so we’re still ahead of where we were twelve months ago.
Adel Abdessemed’s Coup de tête (2011-2012) at the Centre Pompidou for ‘Je Suis Innocent’. (until January 7, 2013.)
At over five metres high, this bronze of Zinedine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi near the end of the 2006 World Cup (and of Zidane’s career) exemplifies Abdessemed’s interest in the gap between what we believe is good and what we know is true (as the perceptive artist Tony Scherman said). For example, we believe that colonialism’s aftermath is over despite clear evidence to the contrary around the world—and we get upset Abdessemed confronts us with our knowledge that this is the case.
A few reasons to be cheerful in 2013:
Fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Most dictators have the decency to portray themselves as the greaseballs they are. But Al-Assad, with his trim suits and medical training (at the University of Damascus and London’s Western Eye Hospital), suggests he’s respectable and right to remain Syria’s president even if it requires waging chemical warfare on his people. However, the once-sympathetic West now backs the rebels, while his Deputy Foreign Minister apparently recently explored exile options in Latin America. I suspect he’ll leave by the summer or be gone à la Mussolini. Either way, good riddance.
‘Thomas Demand: Animations’ at dhc/art, Montreal. January 19, 2013 — May 12, 2013.
Right from its launch five years ago with a landmark exhibition by Marc Quinn, dhc/art established a reputation for ambitious, immaculately-produced shows featuring the world’s most influential contemporary artists. Organized around Thomas Demand’s painstaking stop-motion films and animations, ‘Animations’ will be no exception. Its centerpiece is the astonishing 100-second video Pacific Sun (2012), in which Demand recreates a YouTube clip of the view from a passenger ship’s security camera as the vessel enters a storm.
Paul Teasdale is assistant editor of frieze based in Berlin, Germany.
Thomas Schütte, The Life of A Flower, 2012
Highlights of 2012:
• Ed Atkins’ film The Trick Brain (2012) installed in a room belonging to the Berlin Magic Circle as part of the group show ‘The Big Inexplicable Paravent Illusion (Part 1)’ at Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin as well as his solo show at the Chisenhale Gallery, London
• Tino Sehgal, Omer Fast and Pierre Huyghe’s very different contributions to dOCUMENTA (13)
• The first floor of Manifesta 9
• The 2nd floor of the Whitney Biennial
• The Jo Spence survey between Studio Voltaire and Space, London
• The Artists Placement Group retrospective at Raven Row, London
• In sad circumstances, but the two-day screening of early Mike Kelley performances at the Tate Tanks
Reasons to be Cheerful in 2013:
• Thomas Schütte, ‘With Tears in My Eyes’ at Jarla Partilager, Berlin which runs till June 2013. Containing – and I didn’t think I’d be saying this in early 2013, or perhaps ever for that matter – one of my highlights for the last year and reasons to be cheerful for the next all in one: an astonishingly beautiful series of watercolours!
Karen Archey is an art critic and independent curator based in New York, and the 2012-2013 Curator-in-Residence at Abrons Arts Center.
Joan Jonas, Reanimation, performance at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany
It was after her Reanimation performance at dOCUMENTA (and a couple glasses of wine) that I met Joan Jonas and embarrassingly burst the phrase, “THAT WAS THE BEST PERFORMANCE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.” While surrounding friends and colleagues looked on in utter horror and incredulity at my lack of subtlety, the sentiment rings true. Never before had I seen an artist so expertly intertwine borrowed narrative and the history of her own oeuvre with such inquisitive use of new technology—not to mention Jonas is many decades older than digital natives who are now, beyond comprehension, using anachronistic technology characteristic of the generation of conceptualists of the 60’s and 70’s. Reanimation, a collaboration with jazz pianist Jason Moran, is Jonas’s attempt to reanimate, as the title suggests, past material in a new way, this context being scripted but largely improvised, or “collaged”. Featuring Jonas drawing, dancing, reciting text, and playing musical instruments live and in synch with a double video projection and Moran on piano, Reanimation ranges from the poetic to the shamanistic, its meaning largely felt rather than overtly iterated. My favorite passage from the performance was taken from Icelandic poet laureate Halldór Laxness’s novel Under the Glacier: “Often I think the Almighty is like a snow bunting abandoned in all weathers. Such a bird is about the weight of a postage stamp. Yet he does not blow away when he stands in the open in a tempest…He wields this fragile head against the gale, with his beak to the ground, wings folded close to his sides and his tail pointing upwards; and the wind can get no hold on him, and cleaves.”
Klara Lidén, SAD, 2012, installation view at Reena Spaulings, New York
Klara Lidén, SAD, at Reena Spaulings, New York
Klara Lidén’s SAD stuffed discarded Christmas trees behind a blue plywood construction barrier in Reena Spauling’s Chinatown space. The forest of dessicated trees, reeking of pine and replete with occasional bits of tinsel and leftover Yuletide decoration, prompted viewers to contemplate the inevitable but nonetheless dismal New York ritual of trashing Christmas trees on the city’s curbsides. Similar to the heaps of broken, cheap Chinatown umbrella skeletons that are a staple of Manhattan in early Spring, there’s something elegiac about the practice of tossing out these intimate, once-sacrosanct objects. I think of Lidén’s Charlie Brown arboretum as a metaphor for our collective, worn-out New York bodies, our need to socialize in the face of living in a city as exacerbating as New York. SAD, an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, speaks to the more universal need to come together, to get trashed, as it were, and dry out.
Wade Guyton, OS at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
A friend of mine recently joked that if art criticism and the art market were to divorce in 2013, as per a recent HuffPost spoof, Whitney curator Scott Rothkopf would make a great marriage counselor. Admittedly, my interest in the Rothkopf-curated Wade Guyton solo exhibition at the Whitney stems not from its conceptual or aesthetic prowess, but from its confusing, wildly positive reception by the New York art world. The words of venerated New York critics Peter Schjeldahl and Roberta Smith measure such effusive praise: “The work is ingenious, and also moving,” Schjeldahl writes in the New Yorker, “as a counterattack of the spirit on a culture whose proliferating technical means, by eclipsing the handmade, disembody imagination.” In Smith’s review in the New York Times she describes the show as a “cause for optimism,” quoting Rothkopf, “Wade speaks to the way images travel across our visual culture…He has figured out a way to make work that deals with technology but doesn’t feel tricky or techie, rather it’s intuitive.” Guyton does speak to the way images travels across our visual culture—not that I’m sure we need another artist dealing with such measures—though Guyton arguably speaks with a vernacular endemic to a white male-dominated notion of art in a pre-digitized world, using technology as a “paintbrush” rather than a narrative to inform his work’s content or medium. The praise of Schjeldahl and Smith is particularly perturbing, seeing as they’re generally incisive critics, as this signals the failure of a seasoned pundits to appreciate the swaths of art using actual technological mediums (you know—e-books, web pages, Twitter, etc.), instead mistaking Wade Guyton as a forerunner in the meeting of art and technology.
Ed Fornieles, The Dreamy Awards, 2012, Serpentine Gallery
Ed Fornieles, The Dreamy Awards at the Serpentine, London
Fornieles’s _Dreamy Awards _was undoubtedly my most mind-boggling artistic experience of the year, or perhaps ever. Having gotten lost earlier in Kensington Gardens (protip: don’t let your phone die if you’re a tourist used to parks with over-the-top signage, or gridded American roads), I don’t think I actually ever figured out where I was going or what I was doing that evening. Fornieles had constructed a fictional award ceremony attended by hundreds of fictive and semi-fictive characters with scripted interactions, lubricated by the Serpentine’s open bar. That evening I was Helen Starkey, a character loosely (and embarrassingly) based on an amalgamation of myself and director-screenwriter Lena Dunham. As per my script prompt, I awkwardly pitched a new show to a millionaire investment banker on camera—something I would never normally think of doing in fear of a major ego bruise. Here Fornieles constructs a participatory environment in which the everyman’s relationship with social networking, including her vulnerabilities and base desires, are laid bare in physical reality, cultivating a collective sense of shared empathy.
Further, the Dreamy Awards exemplifies a shift toward participatory performance-based works in the vein of Kaprow’s Happenings that took root in London this year, propagated by artists such as Matthew Drage, Ben Vickers, and Jesse Darling, among others.
Andrea Fraser, ‘There’s No Place Like Home’, Whitney Biennial, New York and ‘L’1%, C’est Moi’, published in Texte zur Kunst no. 83
Andrea Fraser’s essays, ‘There’s no place like home’ and ‘L’1%, C’est Moi’ are game-changing reports for any market-wary artist, critic, or curator. Largely abandoning research in art and cultural theory in favor of sociology, psychoanalysis, and economic research, Fraser explicitly delineates how growing global income inequality has aided the art market and other luxury trades while devastating the rest of the world. It is only when the rich become richer, and have greater expendable income that we see a surge in art prices, she finds. Fraser introduces us to hardline, indispensible, streamlined research such as this excerpt from the 2010 Yale School of Management paper Art and Money, “A one percentage point increase in the share of total income earned by the top 0.1 percent triggers an increase in art prices of 14 percent.” The artist also evinces the problematic growing purchasing power of the 0.1%, citing the 2011 scenario in which billionaire German businessman Reinhold Würth outbid Frankfurt am Main’s Städelschule Kunstinstitut on Hans Holbein the Younger’s Virgin of Mercy, though it had been on display at the Kunstinstitut since 2003. The roughly $70 million sale also became the highest price ever paid for an artwork in Germany.
Fraser positions the ethical quandary as thus: “Any claim that we represent a progressive social force while our activities are directly subsidized by the engines of inequality can only contribute to the justification of that inequality…the only “alternative” today is to recognize our participation in that economy and confront it in a direct and immediate way…” While some may crave a clear-cut answer or course of action to combat much of what Fraser proffers here, the artist wisely offers no simple solution to this inherently complex problem.
In recent months, we’ve seen the dormancy of Occupy-related projects, to include Occupy Museums, while in November Sotheby’s and Christie’s have each set new sales records on the auction floor. When I moved to New York in 2008 amidst a very depressed art market, I wondered what the high-octane, bloated art world of years past would feel like. We’re apparently here now, and I can’t help but wonder if the trickling of capital back into the art world, and subsequent creation of new jobs, has some influence on the relative lack of public displays of frustration with the art world, or if Occupy’s time has simply diminished into obscurity. Whatever the answer, I find hope in Fraser’s consciousness-raising, as I find hope in the innovation of Fornieles and his London compatriots, Klara Liden’s poeticism and openness, and the unflinching, longstanding dedication of artists such as Joan Jonas in challenging and reinventing their medium and artistic practices. There’s hope in identifying the positive and negative attributes of our current moment, and banding together to carve the world into a shape we see fit, no matter how herculean the task.
Simon Rees is the head of curatorial development at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art [MAK] in Vienna.
Heimo Zobernig, Untitled, 2007, acrylic on canvas,1 × 1m
Best of 2012
Jacques Kallis, the South African cricketer who, at age 37, keeps-on-keeping-on. Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar have fallen. Jacques stands indomitable.
In Eastern Europe: Warsaw does a real gallery weekend. And Poland discovers micro-brewed beer. (Not much of a palliative against the dearth of Eastern European artists in dOCUMENTA (13). The continuing-rise of Poland is proof that Moscow doesn’t hold all the cards.
Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I want to be Thomas Cromwell, or, at least, Hilary Mantel.
The expansion of Palais de Tokyo, to buttress the all-encompassing influence of Tate, and remind us of the power of the dishabille architecture that we all worked within 20-30 years ago (but lost to the white cube).
In Vienna: Heimo Zobernig at the Reina Sofia (Madrid). Shoa Eskol and Sharon Lockhart at TBA21 – the best presentation of this project (formerly at Art Basel and LACMA) so far. Marcel Odenbach Schutzräum at the Friedrichshof: whoever said that group therapy was dead? Scary new double projection cut from the Otto Muehl archive spliced with footage of kids at play in Freud’s office in London (now the Freud Museum).
Missing the Olympics because for not owning a television and finding all the Internet coverage to be ISP-sensitive and blocked.
Finally discovering Breaking Bad. Middle classes be damned.
787 Boeing Dreamliner. Business Class, Seat 2D. Don’t ask. Hope someone invites me back again in 2013.
Looking forward to 2013
Richard Wagner’s bicentennial (born 1813) and all the great programming and music that entails.
Isa Genzken at MoMA starting in November.
The next Hilary Mantel and Thomas Cromwell (we hope). Poor Tom will die—and it’s sure to hurt.
In Vienna: Mathias Poledna at Secession in Vienna and the Austrian Pavilion at Venice.
In Eastern Europe: Finding out what Raimundas Malasauskas dreams for the Lithuanian Pavilion at Venice.