Wednesday, June 30, 2010

reports from Vienna, # 3

My friend Georgia gave an introduction to this exhibition: young artist, renowned gallery, bad website, no images of current works on display ... I like Christoph Weber's  "loose concrete". You get the announced–it is what it is as Frank Stella once said–and there is more: loose concrete, shaped into blocks and "painted"with water, solid blocks of concrete, broken into two halves–spare your poetic yin-yang-associations, they look more like unfinished, earthquake-shaken construction works–and then also: clay; blocks of clay with images scratched into it, large sculptures with patches of clay thrown on a solid form and into a frame. It looks like clay-flowers on strange steles, grouped together, and again scratched images hidden in white boxes that the visitors have to open. Material, techniques are paradigmatic for sculpture and its history. but also like a reminder of how children use sand and clay (and less concrete I guess) to build things: make it wet, so it sticks together. then let it dry, paint patterns with water on it, and finally throw it at each other. but only when still wet, so it sticks better to shirts and pants.
aspects of playfulness? one way of interpretation without too much thinking what it is "about." Without asking if intertwined aesthetics and politics are acted out in these forms. Playfulness in terms of performativity and the processual signified through clay that still looks wet as well as images of wet concrete that will fade when having dried after a while. Unfortunately the images will be watered/sprayed again during the time of the exhibition, and, as a visitor incidentally destroys the corners of one of the loose concrete floor pieces at the opening, everyone is shocked. I think it is a really beautiful translation. What if not fading images and loose corners can translate the processual into the ephemeral that we as audience can relate to?

The horizontal sculptures of Carl Andre and of other minimalist/post-minimalist artists are said to criticize verticality  signifying a human/man centered Weltbild (Image of the world? world view? system? lame translations!) built around the Western European ideas of reason and enlightenment. The one-year old son of Judith and Georg, though able to stand up, still prefers to crawl around in their apartment. that means: sometimes he hits his head because the field of vision is a bit limited, and sometimes he tries the cat food, because the cat is his closest point of reference. "Anyone remembering the mirror stage? Up and coming," I say to Judith. The cat is not impressed. She is old and screams a lot to reassure herself that she is still part of this world.

Some of contemporary sculptures are not only signifying material and process, and non-mastery, and the history of the medium, but they are also NOT allusions, and allegories–or maybe they are allegories without even knowing? Chris Kraus writes, ironically I think, that artworks in the late 1990s, early 2000s are never about something and to ask this question is almost an insult. But these concrete sculptures in the gallery are about something, and about something else, they are not referential, they are not primarily signifying the content, but there is "content," and content and form are supposed to go together in an almost modernist tradition. Strange enough I don't want to know too much about the content. That there is a specific story linked to every sculpture, every image, that these images are about a certain political conflict. This one and not the other. This aspect of the artist's biography he doesn't want anyone to mention. It is not about this aspect, but it would point to the content. To the political conflict. And without it? A dilemma. too personal. not political anymore?

I am reading Chris Kraus' "Video Green" now, about the art/world and Kraus' time in Los Angeles, from the mid-1990s to about 2002 (???). It is fascinating how much changed, it is frightening how much stayed the same. Some CalArtian references here and there (was she a regular when Dick Hebdige was dean of critical studies? Is this a strange question?) ...  her approach is unpretentious, provocative, sometimes a bit too sarcastic; interweaving work/exhibition observations/descriptions with very personal stories; cultural criticism that finds too much fashionable theory-infused art talk boring. Point taken. I see some parallels and I have to remind myself that probably not every story is a true one. But again: who cares? I like her persona.

Image: LaaKronen/macaroons in Zitrone, Himbeer, Kaffee, Schokolade auf Couchtisch, Jesuspatschn' aus Griechenland.

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