Suradnici i prijatelji divnog časopisa Frieze biraju svijetle točke protekle godine.
Izbor vrijedi već zbog tvrdnje (izvrsnog) književnika Neda Beaumana da je Sean Carruth (autor filmova Primer i Upstream Color) jedan od nekoliko najvažnijih živih umjetnika koji su ikada živjeli. Amen.
Highlights 2013 - Declan Long
Jesse Jones, The Other North, 2013, film stillDeclan Long is co-director (with Francis Halsall) of the MA Art in the Contemporary World programme at the National College of Art & Design in Dublin, Ireland.
Quite a lot of art that mattered to me in 2013 was shown in Derry, during its UK City of Culture year. Exhibition programmes there were consistently ambitious and involving, often dealing with complex legacies of conflict in powerful, unexpected ways. Jesse Jones’s ‘The Other North’ at CCA Derry/Londonderry (a gallery until very recently led by the hyper-energetic curatorial duo of Aileen Burns and Johan Lundh) was an undoubted highlight. Jones took the transcript of an ‘encounter therapy’ group from 1970s Northern Ireland and transported it to South Korea, where local actors re-staged the conversation. The resulting film was a captivating, radically estranging account of ‘Troubles’ trauma. Santiago Sierra’s ‘Veterans and Psychophonies’ at Void Gallery was another jolting address to these histories. His response to the aftermath of violence in Northern Ireland was – guess what? – manipulative and provocative. But it was a forceful response to military force that kept some of us debating for days. Best of all though was Willie Doherty’s ‘Unseen’ at the newly created City Factory Gallery. This stunning survey of the Derry-native’s stark and unsettling photographs and films gathered key works from the past 30-or-so years, as well as presenting Doherty’s extraordinary recent film Remains for the first time in Ireland. The latter is a culmination and intensification of many of Doherty’s ongoing obsessions – it’s a masterpiece of anguished post-conflict storytelling.
Phil Collins, The Meaning of Style, 2011, 16mm film stillElsewhere in Ireland, Phil Collins’s exhibition at The Model in Sligo successfully stressed the uplifting qualities of this brilliantly mischievous artist’s work. In Dublin, there were quite a few solo projects of real depth and distinction. These included: standout, idiosyncratically intelligent shows at Mother’s Tankstation by Berlin-based Irishman *Fergus Feehily and Dublin-based Frenchman Aurélien Froment; evolving, open-ended conceptual scenarios at Project Arts Centre conceived by Mario García Torres and Céline Condorelli; strange and beautiful studies of curious, marginal characters by Ben Rivers and Francis Upritchard at the Douglas Hyde Gallery; and striking explorations of the meaning of things by Aleana Egan and Sam Keogh at Kerlin Gallery. It’s worth noting too that another string of exciting solos will be a feature of the 2014 programme at the recently re-opened Irish Museum of Modern Art: among them, I’m looking forward to shows by Hélio Oiticica, Sheela Gowda, Haroon Mirza, and Irish artists Duncan Campbell, Dorothy Cross and Isabel Nolan.
Sarah Lucas. ‘SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble’, 2013, installation view, Whitechapel Gallery, London; courtesy: Whitechapel Gallery, London; photograph: Stephen WhiteAn Irishman in London surely contributed a very early addition to many ‘best-of’ lists: Gerard Byrne’s exhibitions at The Whitechapel and Lisson gave a great sense of this marvellous artist’s range in re-presenting obscure historical material. He undoubtedly gained many new fans – let’s call them Team GB – from these terrific London shows. Closer to the end of the year, Sarah Lucas’s ‘SITUATION Absolute Beach Man Rubble’, again at the Whitechapel, was a dirty-minded delight: hilarious, disturbing and touching all at once. (I’m not sure, overall, I saw a better exhibition all year.) A related spirit reigned at ‘Mindfuck’, a selection of Bruce Nauman classics at Hauser & Wirth, which had the intended titular effect. While Blind, an amazing, eye-straining film by John Stezaker at The Approach almost made its title a subjectively experienced reality. Christopher Williams offered a more critically detached challenge to vision at David Zwirner, but it was no less engrossing for that. A major survey of his work at MoMA in 2014 (curated by Roxanna Marcoci) should be worth the price of a plane ticket. Other UK shows I loved this year included Becky Beasley’s ‘Spring Rain’ at Spike Island in Bristol: an intricate and suggestively intimate mixture of photography, sculpture and literary reference. And the sculptural conversation between Manfred Pernice and Martin Boyce at the two Modern Institute galleries in Glasgow (albeit a conversation held with a wide car park in between) was also a fascinating one.
Nikolay Bakharev, Relationship #73, 1994-97, gelatin silver print; courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York © the artistVenice favourites included everybody’s favourite Camille Henrot: despite the pressure and pace of needing to see everything while there, her film Gross Fatigue contained multitudes, meriting more than one viewing. Among others in ‘The Encyclopaedic Palace’ worth standing still for were Cathy Wilkes, Eva Kotátková (soon to show at Project in Dublin in 2014), Phyllida Barlow, Helen Marten, Joao Maria Gusmao and Pedro Paiva, Channa Horwitz, Jessica Jackson Hutchins and Maria Lassnig. Cindy Sherman’s photo-archive stood out with startling immediacy too. For some reason, lots of the photos in Massimiliano Gioni’s show were quietly compelling – Nikolay Bakharev’s Russian bathers, Vivian Sassen’s obscured African faces, Eliot Porter’s birds, Christopher Williams glass flowers – steadying contrasts, maybe, to some of the more wildly eccentric visions on display.
Among the alarmingly few books I made it through this year, two accounts by gifted literary stylists of the work of pioneering geniuses became summertime obsessions: T.J. Clark’s Picasso and Truth, and David Peace’s Red or Dead (on the life of paradigm-shifting Liverpool boss Bill Shankly). Newly published books of lectures and letters by, respectively, Borges and Calvino (Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature and Italo Calvino’s Letters, 1941–1985) will continue to be mined for insights for years to come. Similar value applies to Adam Phillips’s latest collection One Way and Another. Not all of these essays are new, but as he might well say himself, reading old essays by Adam Phillips is one of the ways that we find to discover what types of new essays we are really seeking… The too-sudden death of Seamus Heaney returned me and many people I know to his poetry – more complicated, uncertain and unsettling than the easy soundbites often suggest – but also to his essays. His wonderful analysis of Elizabeth Bishop in The Redress of Poetry is another ongoing touchstone.
Album cover of David Bowie’s The Next Day, 2013Lastly: a little music. The surprising returns of Bowie and My Bloody Valentine brought tears of joy – and relief at the glorious quality of their new work. For other new things I relied heavily on the wise counsel of The Quietus, surely the best, most challenging and entertaining, online music magazine. This year, the following records have been on repeat while I’ve been working (or pretending to work): Stellar Om Source, Joy One Mile; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; Laurel Halo, Chance of Rain; Holden, The Inheritors, Julia Holter Loud City Song; Forest Swords, Engravings; Bill Callahan, Dream River; and Juana Molina Wed 21. Maybe the single song I’ve wanted to hear on the radio more than any other was Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Coming Home’ – my experience and understanding of which was typically expanded by a predictably eye-opening review by the ever-trenchant Mark Fisher.
Highlights 2013: Sam Thorne
‘Manet: Return to Venice’, Palazzo Ducale, VeniceSam Thorne is an associate editor of frieze, the co-curator of ‘Schizophonia’ (currently on view at CAC Synagogue de Delme, France), and a co-founder of Open School East, an art school and community centre in London.
My highlights of 2013, in alphabetical order:
Artist-curated shows: they were everywhere! Trisha Donnelly’s picks at MoMA, Cindy Sherman’s uncanny collections at the Venice Biennale, Alex Katz’s selections from the Tate collection at Turner Contemporary, plus touring shows devised by Rosemarie Trockel (‘A Cosmos’, organized with Lynne Cooke), Mark Leckey (‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’) and Jeremy Deller (‘All That Is Solid Melts Into Air’).
Rosemarie Trockel, ‘A Cosmos’B
British architecture criticism: this year saw a garrulous essay collection from Jonathan Meades (Museum Without Walls); Owen Hatherley editing a new edition of Ian Nairn’s Britain’s Changing Towns (1967); Observer critic Rowan Moore’s book Why We Build; and plenty of smart writing from recently appointed Guardian critic (and occasional frieze contributor) Olly Wainwright.
Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland: in the summer I visited this pioneering Californian art organization – it works with adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities – for the first time. In a year when ‘Outsider Art’ was the subject of several large-scale exhibitions (as well as much handwringing), Creative Growth’s 40 years of work felt more crucial than ever.
Dean Blunt, The Redeemer: frazzled Gainsbourg, a curious and addictive concept album from one half of Hype Williams, who had an equally curious exhibition at SPACE, London, in March.
EPs: this was a good year for short-format releases. I came back over and over to things by FKA Twigs (EP2), DJ Rashad (Rollin’) and Nguzunguzu (Skycell).
FT: the newspaper’s long-running series of interviews, ‘Lunch with the FT’, is just about the only reason to buy it every weekend. My favourites from this year were lunches with Jeremy Deller, Kim Dotcom and education reformer Michelle Rhee.
Grizedale Arts, Lake District: my late-autumn visit was a head-clearing couple of days of honesty shops, Ruskin, home-cooking and an ill-prepared hike. To paraphrase the title of their 2009 book, Grizedale are continuing to add complexity to confusion (or should that be the other way around?) in the best possible way. Also check out their contribution to ‘Museum of Arte Útil’, currently at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.
Home Workspace Program, BeirutH
Home Workspace Program, Beirut: September saw the third year of Ashkal Alwan’s art school, an open curriculum organized by resident professors Anton Vidokle and Jalal Toufic, plus an Adam Curtis retrospective curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. As vibrant an art school as I saw this year.
Ibrahim Sonallah, That Smell: a new translation of the Egyptian writer’s coruscating novella from 1966, accompanied by his prison notes.
Jai Paul, leaked demo tapes: it was hard to get to the bottom of what went on here – a stolen laptop? A feud with the record label? Either way, hidden deep below unmixed queasiness, this was some great off-kilter R&B in a year that was awash with the stuff.
Koya: maybe the best udon in London?
Lofoten Islands: in September it took me three flights from London to get to this archipelago off the north-north coast of Norway, way up in the Arctic Circle. The nearby whirlpools were the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘A Descent into the Maelström’, while the islands themselves have hosted the teeny-tiny biennial LIAF since the early 1990s. A compact exhibition about crisis, on Europe’s furthest edge.
‘Manet: Return to Venice’, Palazzo Ducale, Venice: Olympia hung next to Titian’s Venus of Urbino? Makes the Giardini hard to remember.
Numbers titles: Jonathan Crary’s 24/7 and Ben Davis’s 9.5 Theses on Art and Class are both slim, urgent books about an increasingly standardized, commodified life, while in Madrid the Reina Sofía’s revelatory survey ‘1961’ gestured back to a time when the avant-garde still seemed to promise a way out.
Pierre Huyghe, Centre Pompidou, ParisP
Pierre Huyghe / Philippe Parreno, Pompidou / Palais de Tokyo, Paris: concurrent museum shows from two former collaborators, ex-Relational Aesthetics poster-boys, also provided two completely different ways of thinking about what a mid-career retrospective might look like. The flickering lights! Human the dog! The secret Merce–Cage show!
Queens Museum, New York: next year I can’t wait to visit the newly reopened Queens Museum, who are marking the way for how an arts institution thinks about community – not outreach, but organizing.
Renata Adler, Speedboat (1976): much of the best fiction I read in 2013 didn’t at all resemble fiction. Written by the onetime New Yorker staff writer, this novel in fragments – for which David Shields was a major cheerleader – was republished by New York Review Books, who have had a pretty much peerless year.
Sturtevant: the summer saw a smartly put-together show of mostly recent work at the Serpentine, a warm-up to Bruce Hainley’s dizzying, recursive biography-cum-essay-collection about this most difficult of artists, Under the Sign of [sic], published by Semiotext(e).
Tinashe, Black Water: a beautifully produced mixtape, the third from Tinashe, one of the best in that post-Weeknd / alt-R&B / what do you call it? scene.
Unknown artist: listening in the dark. So much in my iTunes library has no metadata, a lot of the time I find myself wondering not only who something is by, but where it’s from and when.
VIRGINS by Tim Hecker: yet more perfection from the Montreal-based musician.
‘Wenu Wenu’: the single from Omar Souleyman’s eponymous new album stretches out to seven minutes, and is as riotous as usual, but its precision and sheen – c/o production from Four Tet, a safe pair of hands – is new for Omar.
XLR8R podcasts: particularly Oneohtrix Point Never’s sprawling two-hour mix, which stumbles from classic house to Wu Tang and Meredith Monk, introducing me to early computer music guy Paul Lansky’s remarkable track ‘Notjustmoreidlechatter’ along the way.
Yosi Horikawa, Vapour: full of warmth, the debut LP from this Japanese producer shaped field recordings into gorgeous new shapes.
Anna Zemánkóvá: the Czech artist’s botanical drawings were some of the many wondrous things that were new to me in Massimilano Gioni’s Venice, an exhibition that – despite my misgivings, and I had a lot – was probably the year’s most important. With Okwui Enwezor at the helm in 2015, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for a format that in recent years has felt like it’s been running out of steam.
Highlights - Sarah McCrory
Stephen Sutcliffe, Outwork, 2013, installation view, Tramway, GlasgowSarah McCrory is the director of Glasgow International, a biennial festival of contemporary art. The next edition is 4 – 21 April 2014.
Lucy Skaer / Stephen Sutcliffe, Tramway, Glasgow
Lucy Skaer’s beautiful installation Exit, Voice and Loyalty at Tramway managed to instil a sense of delicacy into a behemoth of a space. Stephen Sutcliffe’s Outwork in the same gallery some months before saw his film about the framing devices of film framed by further films. Meta.
‘Interwoven Connections: The Stoddard Templeton Design Studio and Design Library, 1843–2005’, Glasgow School of Art
This exhibition includes books, samples, folios and designs produced by Stoddard Templeton from the mid-19th to early 21st century. Block- and screen-printed in luscious colours, these designs found their way into the White House and Glasgow Cathedral.
Isa Genzken, MoMA, New York
Undoubtedly joining the ranks of many on this year’s round-up lists, Genzken’s retrospective at MoMA is a delirious kind of alchemy. Employing an installation logic that, on paper, shouldn’t work, this beautifully overhung assault leaves you breathless – until you’ve caught your breath enough to go round again.
Concrete Invention, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection at Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, 2013‘Concrete Invention’, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
This collection exhibition of Latin American geometric abstraction included a body of work that, embarrassingly, I had a poor knowledge of. Curated around the location and year of production, the exhibition highlighted affinities and relationships between artists, and was a brilliant example of a collection with direction and commitment. There followed a trip to Brazil.
Jimmy Merris, Bloomberg SPACE, London, installation view, 2013Jimmy Merris, Bloomberg SPACE, London
Jimmy Merris’s film LONDON is a riotous rollick through his home city for ten days in a rented camper van, accompanied by Phillip, a German driver with no bedding or towel, and Paul Pieroni, the curator who organized this exhibition on behalf of SPACE. Following a timeline which takes in Rock Steady Eddie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Café, a Toby Carvery, the ICA and Hampstead Ponds, the trip documents occasional encounters and some of London’s oddities, but is firmly rooted in an underlying feeling of affection for both the city and the friends that become bit-part participants in the expedition. The film is a very narrow view of the city, but it is Merris’s view – and a funny and tender one at that.
‘Soma – Nao Zero’, Phosphorus + Jaqueline Martins, Sao Paulo
This group exhibition in Phosphorus, Sao Paulo, was a collaboration with Jaqueline Martins, a superb gallerist in Sao Paulo who is a pioneer of under-represented or overlooked Brazilian artists. Phosphorus is a converted house in downtown Sao Paulo, which hosts exhibitions and events, manned by Maria Montero. In the show I found two collages, and next to them the artist, Hudinilson Jr. He showed me three books crammed with collaged notes, pictures snipped from catalogues and newspapers. Further investigation revealed a huge archive of beautiful works, made with a certain economy of means but nonetheless wonderful for it. Hudinilson Jr sadly passed away in August. Hopefully posthumous recognition of the incredible body of work he left behind will come quickly.
Notable mentions include Ed Atkins at CCA Glasgow; Jonas Mekas at the Serpentine; Dorothy Iannone at Camden Arts Centre; Martin Creed at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York; Ad Reinhart at David Zwirner, New York; Nicholas Deshayes at S1 Artspace, Sheffield; Tom of Finland at MOCA, Los Angeles (OK, I confess I haven’t seen this, but its existence is still a highlight).
Poisonous Relationship – Men’s Feelings from Jamie Crewe on Vimeo.
Haim at the O2, Glasgow – GIRLS! Start a band!
The Breeders at The Forum, London – LADIES! Start a band!
Numbers – Glasgow’s resident club mavericks have been going for ten years, but they’re still raving like they’re 20.
Fade to Mind records – STILL.
Beyoncé – visual album, no PR, no hype. Genius. Although I could go for less writhing on the beach, it’s SO Mariah 1997.
Poisonous Relationship – after being played this in my office I set about finding what I thought was the LA-based Jamie Crewe, only to find he lives up the road and studies at Glasgow Art School. Somewhere between Azari & III and Hercules and Love Affair with some great performance thrown in. Hot stuff.
Ian White. He’ll be so sadly missed.
Obviously Glasgow International 2014. No apologies.
Scottish Independence Referendum. It’s going to be fascinating.
2014 Whitney Biennial. Grigely! Aran! Von Heyl! Durham! HUP HUP!
The Commonwealth Games Artistic Gymnastic finals for which I have tickets.
Highlights 2013 - Aoife Rosenmeyer
Willie Doherty Without Trace (2013) single channel HD video projection, installation view Galerie Peter Kilchmann, ZurichI awaited Willie Doherty’s solo show at Galerie Peter Kilchmann in March with a degree of nervousness, knowing that he was to reveal new work made in Zurich. Doherty’s impressive back catalogue is so informed by, and so intimately related to the place and people of Northern Ireland, that I had found his last departure from this specificity – the work at Documenta in 2012 – less successful. I was right to be nervous, but not for those reasons: Doherty’s film Without Trace is an unflinching portrait of this city’s peripheral zones. The narrative about a missing migrant worker speaks of snow and what it hides till spring, while hiding in plain sight are the tasteful but barren new constructions colonising marginal spaces.
Steve McQueen, installation view of Bear (1993) and Just Above My Head (1996) Schlauger, BaselThe Schaulager in Basel took full advantage of its scale and resources to stage a blockbuster show of the British filmmaker Steve McQueen. It’s what institutions of their ilk should do all the time.
Pablo Bronstein Pavilion (2013), installation view Lismore Castle ArtsAt Lismore Castle Arts in Ireland during the summer, Pablo Bronstein orchestrated the audience’s experience of his work like a virtuoso. Having left the gallery where the rest of the exhibition ‘Monuments’, curated by Mark Sladen, was to be found, I walked up the walled garden to find Bronstein’s work. The surroundings were exquisite, the weather perfect, but I was still aggrieved to find his work surrounded by scaffolding. Another case of landed gentry thinking they can put up shoddy art exhibitions, I thought, this installation hadn’t even lasted a month. And then I realised that the scaffold was the work; that it didn’t obscure a tower in the crenellated wall, but held up a tarpaulin to make the perfect, simplest Fata Morgana of one.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins Symposion, 2011Jessica Jackson Hutchins may now have departed European shores, but before she did she had an excellent show at the Centre Pasqu’Art in Biel which ran until September. The passage of rooms in the older section of the museum in particular allowed her sculptures space and a fitting environment to make meaty statements about changing bodies and renegotiated domesticity.
Haris Epaminonda Cyprus (2012) production still; photograph: Javier Folkenborn © Haris EpaminondaDamian Meade’s paintings at Scheublein + Bak in Zurich were a summer discovery, and it was a joy to be immersed in Haris Epaminonda’s ‘South of Sun’ at the Kunsthaus Zurich, not to mention Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan’s exhibition at the same institution later in the year.
Copyright © artdaily.org
Copyright © artdaily.org
Of the discussions I’ve been party to, one of the most memorable was prompted by an evening spent reading suicide notes within Andreas Golinski’s exhibition in Florian Christopher’s intimate off-space. And, finally, I was immensely proud of the participants in the Art + Argument debate I organized in October in Zurich. The motion was ‘art is a luxury’. It’s rather an absolute necessity, insisted the opposition – the only job creation scheme for the otherwise unemployable, the insane and the criminal.
Highlights 2013 - Carmen Winant
Bennett Simpson speaking at 'Blues For Smoke', the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, L.A.Carmen Winant is an artist and writer. She teaches at the University of Colorado. Her writing appears in Frieze, Art Papers and The Believer, among others. She is the co-editor of The Highlights Journal.
‘Blues for Smoke’
This Bennett Simpson-curated exhibition, which considered the ethos and aesthetics of blues music through the lens of contemporary art, did what so few other group shows venture: have a palpable thesis, however complicated and contradictory (the 48-artist exhibition opened with a monitor playing Richard Pryer’s 1979 Live in Concert; both the cutting racial jokes and the staccato delivery set the tone for the surrounding work). More group shows should follow this example, challenging the art and the viewers to confront, conform, reject, or otherwise be informed by an idea that stakes a real, if risky, claim in the world. The best artists have opinions and the best curators should too.
There has been a resurgence of interest in Doris Lessing occasioned by her death this year. I’m glad because she is vivid and skeptical and fearless.
Detail of the cover of Wayne Koestenbaum’s My 1980s & Other EssaysWayne Koestenbaum’s My 1980s (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2013)
In this collection of essays written over the past decade, Koestenbaum continues to stretch the limits of criticism. He deals in human subjects more than topics, and in this book they include Susan Sontag, Frank O’Hara, Lana Turner, Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, Roberto Bolaño and Debbie Harry, among others. Koestenbaum loves the concept of celebrity, though mostly as site through which to channel our simultaneous desires for attention, privacy and humiliation (a WK favorite). Even more importantly, Koestenbaum challenges the relationship between criticism and art − or, rather, the manner in which we so linearly use one to read the other − by bleeding together creative, esoteric, diaristic, and academic forms. (Zadie Smith is the only other essay writer that I can think of working in this elastic mode at the moment.) He takes big risks, and occasionally the center doesn’t hold. For the most part, Koestenbaum, who is also a painter, asks that his writing behave like visual art rather than describe it.
Janet Cardiff The Forty Part Motet, 2001, installation view, the Fuentidueña Chapel in the Cloisters, New YorkSome bigger names
I’m not breaking the mold here. Ad Reinhardt at David Zwirner, Ed Ruscha at Gagosian, John Divola at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Janet Cardiff at The Cloisters were all outstanding. Some were even moving.
Brock Enright, Copper Spit, 2013, copper, plastic spitSome younger artists
The work of several artists stayed with me this year. Each person really deserves their own category but I’ll collapse them here for the sake of space: Carey Denniston and Strauss Borque-LaFrance at KANSAS, Mike Womack at ZieherSmith, Becky Suss at Fleisher Ollman Gallery, Brock Enright at Kate Werble Gallery, Ander Mikalson at Temple Contemporary, Sarah Mattes at Bull & Ram, Chris Domenick, Milano Chow, Julia Bland and Michael Berryhill at Vox Populi, Ofer Wolberger at Printed Matter, Ryan Mrozowski at Pierogi, Zarouhie Abdalian at the MATRIX gallery in the Berkeley Art Museum.
‘Chances With Wolves’ on East Village Radio. Try it out when you’re all alone.
Highlights 2013 - Chris Wiley
Amie Siegel Provenance, 2013Chris Wiley is an artist and writer. He recently acted as an advisor and catalogue writer for ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’ at the 55th Venice Biennale. A show featuring his work will open at PS1 MoMA, New York, in March.
Amie Siegel Provenance, Simon Preston Gallery, New York
Amid the churn of New York’s largely market-driven landscape, where one can barely swing a dead cat without hitting another anodyne chuck of chicly distressed ‘50s and ‘60s redux art, Siegel’s cerebral show was a cool, clean kick in the head. The show focused almost exclusively on a single video work, which unspooled the lives of various pieces of furniture designed by Le Corbusier for his utopian city project in Chandigarh, India in something like reverse chronological order, from their tony confines in collectors’ homes (and on one mega yacht), through the auction houses that placed them there, the restorers who gussied them up for show, and, finally, the tumbledown city for which they were designed. From the pithy press material (and perhaps this description) the conceit sounds like a fairly dull one, which fits into the mold of countless hoary allegories of Modernist utopianism’s demise. However, the video itself proved unexpectedly poignant, using lush cinematography and careful pacing to embody the elegiac narrative, rather than simply illustrate it.
Mike Kelley, installation view, MoMA PS1, 2013 © MoMA PS1; photograph: Matthew SeptimusMike Kelley, MoMA PS1, New York
After being roundly disappointed by the iteration of Kelley’s posthumous retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, I found myself questioning the quality of his work as a whole, even against my better judgment. Thankfully, PS1’s epic, compendious exhibition set me right. Could there have been a better venue for this show, after all? For all the show’s triumphs, however, it remains crushingly sad that Kelley couldn’t stick around to see it.
Pierre Huyghe, Centre Pompidou
Unfortunately, I can’t say much about Huyghe’s mid-career retrospective, because I didn’t see it. But it’s certainly the only show this year that had me thinking that it might just be worth the trans-Atlantic flight to go see. Unluckily for me, but luckily for my bank account, reason won out in the end. Huyghe continues to daringly expand the boundaries of artistic possibility, and we are all the poorer in the US for not having a venue in which to watch him do it.
*Other Best Shows I Didn’t See: * *‘Speculations on Anonymous Materials’ Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel; ‘The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside’ Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. *
‘James Turrell: A Retrospective’, installation view LACMAJames Turrell, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Far superior to his showing at the Guggenheim, which felt like an Instagram-ready big top circus, Turrell’s survey at LACMA was thoughtful and thorough, and left me something of a believer. While you may not find me loitering around your friendly neighborhood Quaker meeting house any time soon, it was certainly a welcome relief to see an artist earnestly attempting to make spiritually inflected, affective work and managing to pull it off — most of the time — in a manner that made me gasp a little with wonderment, rather than cluck dismissively at its corniness.
New York’s Summer of Los Angeles: Paul McCarthy at the Park Avenue Amory, Robert Irwin at The Whitney Museum of American Art, James Turrell at the Guggenheim, Lynn Foulkes at the New Museum, Ken Price at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Though the shows varied vastly in quality, this summer’s storming of New York’s venerable institutions by artists either based in Los Angeles or, in Turrell’s case, inextricably intertwined with it, signaled that the much-maligned city of the terminal West has finally gained the respect it deserves. Now, perhaps its just the sun stroke talking, but as New York begins to feel more and more like a international playground for the obscenely wealthy, it might be time for artists — especially those who have already managed to gained a foothold in our cut throat industry — to start thinking about getting out of town. The studios are cheaper, there’s sun and sand, and the sushi, when not throbbing with Japanese radiation, is to die for. Sadly, you will have to learn to drive.
Lucas Blalock, Edge of Town (knife block), 2013, archival inkjet print; courtesy Ramiken Crucible, New YorkNew York’s Autumn of Photography: Lucas Blalock at Ramiken Crucible, Talia Chetrit at Leslie Fritz, Elad Lassry at 303 Gallery, Joshua Citerella at Higher Pictures, Torbjørn Rødland at Algus Greenspoon, David Gilbert at Klaus von Nichtssagend, Annette Kelm at Andrew Kreps, John Houck at On Stellar Rays, New Photography (Annette Kelm, Brendan Fowler, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Eileen Quinlan, Anna Ostoya), MoMA
This fall, as evidenced by the lengthy list above, was a huge one for photography in New York. To make matters even better, almost all of the shows were extremely strong. Among the best: Lucas Blalock’s carefully thought, modest show, whose pleasingly awkward exhibition architecture mimicked his purposely ham-fisted Photoshop manipulations and John Houk’s digitally layered still lives of resonant objects from his past that recall the work of late Jan Groover, updated for the digital age.
The Eric Andre Show, Season 2 Finale
A faux public access talk show beamed in from another dimension, The Eric Andre Show inevitably begins with the show’s namesake kamikazing his way through the set in an explosive of jolt self-destructive physical comedy that leaves you wondering how he avoids landing himself in the hospital. (Answer: he doesn’t.) Generally, when Andre’s Dervish act whirls to a halt, the ravaged set regenerates around him, leaving him huffing an exhausted, all of his efforts seemingly for naught. For the final episode of the show’s second season, however, he is allowed to go on a truly epic tear, which consumes the entirety of the show’s eleven minute run time. Spoiler alert: by the end, Andre winds up crumpled on rubble-strewn floor, having recently been pummeled by a bevy of professional wrestlers, surrounded by competing groups of Crips, Krumpers, and Samba dancers, a buttoned up professor delivering a TED talk, a viral YouTube star vomiting strawberry Quik, an old friend of his from high school who appears to have wandered bleary-eyed onto the set from out of his parent’s basement, and Kato Kaelin, the 1990s most infamous house guest, doing a stand up routine. If you can show me a more anarchic slice of television, I’ll eat my hat.
Laura Owens, ’12 Paintings’, 356 Mission, Los Angeles
Arguably the most important non-museum show mounted in Los Angeles this year, Laura Owens’ blockbuster, which featured 12 monumental new works that deftly mashed up painterly abstraction with Photoshop aesthetics and signaled a radical shift in the artist’s work, also inaugurated one of Los Angeles’ newest and most promising independent spaces. I have artist friends who pilgrimaged to the show perhaps a half dozen times during its lengthy run, finding it alternately quarrelsome (the paintings seemed somehow too ‘correct’, too ‘now’) and inspiring (the optical pop of her faux drop-shadows alone were enough to stand your hair on end), but never boring. I, on the other hand, didn’t make it to the show until the closing party, where I found myself disappointed that I couldn’t make a return trip.
Highlights 2013 - Helen Marten
Jana Euler, Try one in abstraction with manpower under control of aesthetic decisions, 2012, oil on canvas. Photograph: Mark BlowerHelen Marten is an artist who lives and works in London, UK. In 2013 she had solo shows at Chisenhale, London, CCS Bard, New York, and was included in the 55th Venice Biennale and the 12th Lyon Biennale. She will have a solo exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, London in January 2014.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, MoMA PS1, New York
This is work that demands hours: both to look at and to make. Assembled with painstaking deliberation, the surface detail coupled with rampantly appropriated and remixed iconography is astounding. Religious opulence arcs via shiny foils and hanging plastic into glittering homosexual fantasy. Pornography, saints, hilarious audio and tin-foil rats assemble themselves into pockets of installation that resemble tableaus or the staggered antechambers of a cathedral. But despite decorative exuberance, the implements of making are humble: glue, staples, trash, candy wrappers. It’s like Susan Sontag’s Notes on ‘Camp’ (1964) marched oiled and bare-chested into cruciform position, bending over to release a fabulous spray of homespun yet earnestly dedicated eroticism.
Rosemarie Trockel, New Museum, New York
This show made me weak with admiration. Very few artists can merge material touch, emotive tenderness, technological process and stylish heterogeneity into a language that is consistently acerbic, brilliant and frighteningly contemporary.
Jordan Wolfson, Raspberry Poser, 2013, film stillJordan Wolfson, REDCAT, Los Angeles (on show at Chisenhale, London, until February 2014)
I’d watched Jordan’s Raspberry Poser (2012) in progress sections on my tiny laptop screen before seeing it installed in full at REDCAT. If I’d loved it in fragmented miniature, then sitting there, my chest exploding from the booming vibrations of Beyoncé’s ‘Sweet Dreams’, was nothing short of apocalyptic. This is an amazing work. The elastic inventions of animation warp themselves around human darkness in a rhythmic gravitational swirl that levitates and sags with equal volatility. Sitting there in the most immaculately installed media environment I’ve ever seen, I felt alienated, in love, possessed with jealously, and all accelerated in a confusion of hieroglyphic approximations and linguistic shorthand only just in reach of my grasp. Jordan is a troublemaker and this video is parasitic and obsessive, but wonderfully, perversely, outrageously under the skin. (And it’s great at Chisenhale, too!)
Uri Aran, Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland
There is nothing more exciting than travelling to see a friend’s show and being knocked speechless with pleasure upon exploring it. Entering first into the square, semi-blacked-out space of a large-scale video was a formal move approximate to being dunked into a shower booth before entering a giddy laboratory of both graphic and laboriously human touch. The pleasure of the fingertip is so evident here, a place where pouring, cutting, splashing and measuring all collide into beautiful portions of repetition, logic and education. Grapes, varnish, plaster and cardboard have never looked so beautiful!
Manet, ‘Return to Venice’, Palazzo Ducale, Venice
I only had a chance to speed round this, so dashed in search of the asparagus and the masked ball. These two paintings are a gorgeously fleshy explosion of texture and bizarrely skewed proportion. There is the asparagus, languid and swollen with its terrible pinky fluorescence; it could burst or steam or roll over or puddle paint into rot before our eyes. If the title wasn’t so definitive, the asparagus could equally be a penis, a bloodied finger or some other atrocious appendage. I’m fascinated with this painting because its content is so silent, whilst the rainbow magnificence of paint suggests a more displaced vibrancy of animation. Masked ball intrigues for similar reasons. All that black! And the magnificent velvet sheen of the top hats – an enormous seething sea of them – sunk in what I imagine to be the heady din of a ballroom. But, like with the asparagus, expectations of movement and perspective are warped: these figures are curiously static, sound is absorbed, and there is not one body that is singular or fully depicted amidst the wallowing mass of shared blackness.
Paulin Olowska, Crochet coat, 2010, oil on canvasPaulina Olowska, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
A neatly joined, but simultaneously agitated combination with the Malevich survey, this installation was alive with political and personal enigma. Sharing its title – ‘Au Bonheur des Dames’ (‘The Ladies’ Delight’) – with a Zola novel, the exhibition similarly bundles works together in a zig-zagging oscillation between conflict and jubilation. Graffiti, neon and knitwear are theatrical to almost bombastic proportion, but maintain a coquettish honesty that sets just the right tone for alternative viewing of our contemporary worlds of designer ideology.
Jana Euler, Cubitt, London
Jamie Stevens is a brilliantly inventive curator, and Jana Euler’s works turn me rigid with jealousy! These are paintings that are infused with breath: the fouled, steaming-genie kind of breath of an opium den, alongside the fuzzy, minty-fresh aqua mouth of tangled muscles and cold blue water. ‘Under Abstraction’ felt like a shyly but rigorously calculated offering of narrative and optical focus (and un-focus), with each separation of the plastic-sheet-divided installation plotting vectors between a manically off-balance kind of realism. There was the masked and the un-masked, the backs turned and the bodies cropped, but always a set of quiet eyes or geographic coordinates unmistakably, lucidly, present to bear witness.
Juergen Teller, photograph from Eating at the Hotel Il PellicanoJuergen Teller + Antonio Guida, Eating at the Hotel Il Pellicano (Violette Editions)
When I imagine certain foods, my salivary glands burn with anticipation. In this publication – simultaneously cookbook, ecstatic bible of cuisine and celebratory documentation – my mouth is paralyzed with possibility. The colours are nothing but fabulous, the styling graphically but lightly exquisite and the photography saturated with an erogenous pleasure that is more right in front of you than on the page. I want to eat everything in this book, but there is a vampish baroque impulse that terrifies me too. Froth, broth and mousse have a devilish vibrancy. Things literally sprout, spew and fornicate underneath, between and alongside other things. There is so much here I can’t name with certainty. Food I imagined to be white is here black, eggs are impossibly sexy and meat is more alive than the animal from which it is hewn. One of my favorite images is the Saffron Risotto with Tuna Tartare, an exquisitely fun plate of graphically flirtatious dots on a meaty red bed of sauce. Of course I want to imagine that this is the surrealist outcome of a traffic light popping its dots in close-up over the bloody scene of a car wreck, but I also want to eat it, too.
Magali Reus, Parking (Window), 2013, mixed media. Photograph: Gert Jan van RooijMagali Reus, Fons Welters, Amsterdam
‘Highly Liquid’ was fantastically fraught with tension, with a kind of muscle-fibre confusion that leaves you wondering whether you are sprinting or moving in a jellied haze of slow motion. The detail of both the sculptural works and the video is obsessively sanitized, but animate with an attention to material surface and its way of suggesting a hotness of human presence that is only just beyond visibility. Sculptures painstakingly cast from polyester resin to resemble flip-down chairs hung around the peripheries, coloured with a kind of Japanese graphic elegance both sexy and hermetic in perfectly modular optical rhythm. This was an excellent linguistic anagram of all the things we think we can name with certainty, but here cannot.
George Saunders, Tenth of December: Stories (Bloomsbury)
SO MANY GORGEOUS WORDS! This collection of short stories is mind coagulating. Escape from Spiderhead is a ruthless and hilarious electrocution of the nerves that left me positively jangling with the possibilities of narrative.
Olivetti Showroom designed by Carlo Scarpa, Piazza San Marco, Venice
If contemporary Venice were ever looted, I would head directly here with various pneumatic implements and plunder from floor to ceiling.
Undeniable guilty pleasure
Mike Bouchet and Paul McCarthy, Portikus, Frankfurt
Camille Henrot, Chisenhale, London
Ed Atkins, Serpentine/Kunsthalle Zurich
Richard Hawkins, Tate Liverpool
Alina Szapocznikow, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Sarah Lucas, Tramway, Glasgow
Trisha Baga, Gio Marconi, Milan
Elizabeth Neel, Pilar Corrias, London
Rachel Harrison, Greene Naftali, New York
And, speculatively, a David Hammons retrospective that I hope might come to London…
Highlights 2013 - Isobel Harbison
Gerard Byrne, A man and a woman make love, 2012, film stillIsobel Harbison is a critic and curator based in London.
2013, in pictures:
– The British Library just consigned one million archive images as ‘free’ stock to Flickr (owned by Getty) but, ultimately, at what cost?
– Most highly paid photographer of 2013, Terry Richardson, or ‘Uncle Terry’ as he purportedly likes to be called by his young female subjects, frequently couches his lecherous photographs with highly contestable claims about ‘art’. Supermodel Rie Rasmussen went public about his exploitative behaviour in September. Brava.
– Singer to signer, Obama-mime-crime: from Beyoncé’s lip-synced anthem at the American president’s inauguration, to the South African sign-language interpreter, Thamsanqa Jantjie, mistranslating his speech at Mandela’s funeral, Obama must really be asking himself what the hell is going on. Why did these two extraordinarily confident performers choose to disregard the world’s gaze and legitimate expectations, and opt instead for mime-crime? Or were they hallucinating? This year politics was, quite literally, a charade and the charade, political. Thinking, The Truman Show yet, Obama?
– Too many front-page witch-hunts
– As impressive as Katniss Everdeen’s on-screen archery were Jennifer Lawrence’s quick-fire comebacks. See her riff with Jack Nicholson, post-Oscars 2013 (from 0:38):
– #SFbatkid. The best use of social media yet? (Obama, again.)
2013, in art:
I was impressed by a strong, well-timed retrospective of Gerard Byrne’s work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London; Anthony Huberman’s sensitively and intuitively curated group show ‘Detouched’ at Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Sophie Michael’s optical and cleverly made film Attica at Seventeen Gallery, London; Mark Leckey’s display-moxie in ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’ at Nottingham Contemporary (among other venues); Samara Scott’s unique sense of material inquisitiveness manifesting in deliciously eccentric sculpture at Rowing Gallery, London; in Venice, ‘Manet: Return to Venice’ at Palazzo Ducale, was so positively Venetian and, equally and opposite, the Lithuanian Pavilion seemed exquisitely lunar; Fergus Feehily’s carefulness in his solo show ‘Disappearance’ at mother’s tankstation, Dublin, was bewitching, as were the existential, theatrical and often funny sculptures of Michael Dean at Herald St, London; in London, the group show ‘The Slip’ at The Approach paired some fantastic and unexpectedly complimentary corporeal works; films from the ‘Centre for Visual Music’ mesmerized when projected at Tate Modern and Raven Row (in ‘Reflections For Damaged Life’); Aaron Angell’s ‘Model for Gallery Peacetime – Boat Burial’ was an aquarium attended by the creepiest four-legged-fish (or axolotls) I’ve ever seen, circulating around another of his fictional clay-scapes, a smart mise-en-abyme at the art fair Sunday; Clunie Reid’s piercing and unapologetic GIF-orgy, In Pursuit of the Liquid, incited and invigorated at MOT International; John Giorno’s poetry recital at Max Wigram was energetic, sharp and thoroughly entertaining; Rachel Reupke’s ‘Wine and Spirits’ at Cell Projects was suitably inebriating; Amalia Pica’s performance and installation at Herald St, A ∩ B ∩ C (Line), was a vivid example of her intellectually compelling and visually appealing forms; Reto Pulfer’s first solo show at Hollybush Gardens provided temporary escape, where, engulfed as we were in his lopsided linen tomb, confronted by his painterly apparitions, something changed.
Mike Kelley The Mobile Homestead in front of the abandoned Detroit Central Train Station, 2010; © Mike Kelley Estate, courtesy Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts; photograph: Corine VermuelenOutside of the gallery, Mike Kelley’s film Mobile Homestead (2010-11) was gratefully received in Hackney Picturehouse by this charmed local; and Lutz Bacher’s cloying question, ‘Do you Love me?’, redeemed itself through her inimitable and eponymous video at ICA’s cinema. Jordan Wolfson’s talk about the value of an artist’s intuition when composing and editing at the Chisenhale Gallery bowled me over with its brassiness.
Elsewhere, Open School East, a residency, school, artists’ studio, public programme [co-founded by associate director of frieze Sam Thorne], community centre and gallery, defied classification and I hope keeps going long into the future. I also appreciated the ambitious and energetic programming by various non-profit and/or curatorial enterprises, Akerman Daly, Arcadia Missa, Auto-Italia, Banner Repeater, Chewdays, Enclave, Flatness, and X Marks the Bökship, among others.
In 2014, I look forward to seeing Caroline Achaintre’s drawings at Arcade Gallery, Aaron Angell’s Troy Town Art Pottery at Open School East, David Robilliard’s ‘The Yes No Quality of Dreams’ at the ICA in April, Emily Wardill’s new film, When You Fall into a Trance? (premiering at the Sydney Biennial, and later touring the UK from the Collection Museum, Lincoln), LUX’s second Biennial of Moving Images, Ericka Beckman’s retrospective at Le Magasin, Grenoble, and Duncan Campbell’s first major solo exhibition at IMMA, Dublin.
And finally, a tribute to Ian White, the indelibly clever, creative, funny and wise man who this year, we lost forever. I am one of very many that will miss him.
Highlights 2013 - Jason Farago
Wentke (Coat) (detail), Netherlands, mid-18th century, included in 'Interwoven Globe', Metropolian Museum, New York, 2013Jason Farago is a columnist and critic based in New York. He is a regular contributor to The Guardian.
The most contemporary exhibition I saw this year was of art three or four centuries old. ‘Interwoven Globe’, the Met’s current show of trade textiles of the 17th and 18th centuries, is an Internet-age triumph without any screens, a landmark in the history of exhibitions that puts almost all other putatively ‘global’ enterprises to shame – and an unparalleled deployment of art to map a world in motion that every historian, critic, or curator of contemporary art should take as a model for practice. Sounds like hyperbole? That means you haven’t been yet, so call me! You have until 5 January, and lately I’ve taken to dragging my friends along on repeat viewings. On visit four or five I went with the initially skeptical director of a certain big Chelsea gallery, who broke down in tears.
Thinking about art in global terms is very hard, and not cheap either. But Amelia Peck, the curator who led a team drawn from nine (seriously, nine) of the Met’s departments, is far too serious to dress up a principally Western show with a few ‘exotic’ outliers or, worse, to dabble in the Google-and-FedEx dilettantism we see at too many supposedly global biennials and fairs. Instead, she insists that forms gain power not from what they look like or where they come from but from how they move. So a painted soldier’s jacket, with a Chinese collar but made in India for the Thai market, features on its back a fearsome goblin that fuses religious figures from across Asia. Or a furiously messy tapestry from the early 17th century, made in China to be sold in Portugal, depicts the abduction of Helen of Troy with lions and dragons and Manchurian waves. (Like much of the show, that tapestry is in the Met’s own collection, though its hybrid character means it usually sits in storage since neither the Asian nor European galleries will hang it. That’s the other virtue of ‘Interwoven Globe’: it’s a quiet attack on obsolete museum structures.) Most impressively, Peck never allows us to forget that art occupies aesthetic and economic planes at once. That’s especially clear in the brutal gallery devoted to the slave trade, in which textiles functioned both as an index of cruelty and a currency to barter for human beings. Admittedly easier to see with decorative arts, this double valence inheres in fine arts too: a number of paintings, not just by major artists such as Joshua Reynolds but by obscurer figures from Jamaica to Iran, testified to the workings of globalization centuries before the word was coined.
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue, 2013, film stillWhat would an exhibition of contemporary art look like if curators tried, with the sophistication and the ambition of ‘Interwoven Globe’, to think about how forms migrate, how they mutate while migrating, and how those mutated, migrated forms then inform new circumstances before migrating again? One rare attempt was Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack’s Documenta of 2007, though even that show shied away from anything as systematized as Peck’s network of forms in motion. What it would not look like, I can say, is this year’s* Venice Biennale*. I’m in the minority here, I realize, but I had big problems with Massimiliano Gioni’s exhibition, which I took to calling ‘the New Age biennale’ for its uncritical, ahistorical celebration – at a moment of genuine political and economic crisis in Italy and elsewhere – of mysticism, ritual, the occult, art brut, and straight-up kitsch. But in Camille Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue, shown in the Arsenale, the difficult global questions that Gioni’s biennale blocked out rushed at you, piling one on top of the next in an encyclopedic torrent of desktop videos. One of the things I like most about Henrot is her confident use of anthropology, with all its compromises and complicity, as a frame for understanding the present. In her art, unlike in the rest of Gioni’s show, there’s no getting away from war or violence or nastiness if you want to make sense of things. Elsewhere in Venice I appreciated Sharon Hayes’ recreation of Pasolini’s Comizi d’amore at a women’s college; the underrated and very ambitious South African Pavilion, curated by Brenton Maart and featuring the photographs of Zanele Muholi and a truth-and-reconciliation cantata from Philip Miller; and then of course there was Manet in the Palazzo Ducale, whose cancel-the-biennale pairing of Olympia and Titian’s Venus of Urbino was actually less exciting than his later seascapes, so modern as to be embarrassing.
Isa Genzken, Schauspieler (Actors) (detail). 2013. Mannequins, clothes, shoes, fabric, and paper, dimensions variable; courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin © Isa Genzken; photograph: Jens Ziehe, BerlinBack in New York, the best gallery show I saw in 2013 was from the go-for-broke painter Catherine Murphy, who had her first New York exhibition in five years at Peter Freeman’s new space in SoHo. Her wonkily scaled, camera-indifferent scenes of a curling garden hose or a paper snowflake taped to a window were not an apology for painting but a painting beyond apology. Some other highlights of the gallery season were Anne Truitt at Matthew Marks and Stephen Westfall at Lennon Weinberg, both of them rare figures whose abstraction still feels optimistic rather than market-devoured; ‘*…but the clouds…’, a smart and melancholy Beckett-themed group show at Room East*; and Sverre Bjertnes at James Fuentes, which featured an out-of-the-park film starring the artist’s girlfriend Hanna Maria Grønneberg that was at once music video and relationship counselling. MoMA had a very, very bad run (a weak exhibition of Japanese art, a willfully perverse Le Corbusier retrospective, a lazy sound art show, the Instagrammer’s fun house known as the ‘Rain Room,’ and a disgraceful pseudo-avant-garde swindle by none other than Tilda Swinton), but the museum finally got back on track this November with its retrospective of Isa Genzken – a victory lap for an artist whose influence goes deeper than any of us yet realize.
On the road: at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the exhibition ‘Carbon 14: Climate Is Culture’ took on the most important and least hopeful issue of our time through the art of Myfanwy MacLeod, Zacharias Kunuk, and others.* ‘Losing the Human Form’, at the Reina Sofia*, was a fantastic introduction to Latin American art and activism of the 1980s: under multiple dictatorships, the show argued, the difference between the two was negligible. Ida Ekblad, subject of an early retrospective at Oslo’s national gallery, is fearless. Also, I am not ashamed to say that I liked Andreas Mühe’s ‘A.M. – eine Deutschlandreise’, a Berlin exhibition of photographs of (ostensibly) Angela Merkel staring out of her government Audi at Friedrich-style landscapes of mountains and sea. The artist convinced several newspapers that he’d collaborated with the woman who shares his initials; the chancellery denies it.
Parsifal, directed by François Girard at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2013Speaking of the chancellor, 2013 was Wagnerjahr, the 200th birthday of the megalomaniac who, as architectural historian Juliet Koss has argued, skulks around modernism like a repressed nightmare. (In Venice, the city where he died, the Palazzo Fortuny held a substantial exhibition on Wagnerism in visual arts that stretched as far as Kiefer and Viola.) I didn’t make it to Bayreuth this summer and so had to rely on bootlegged footage of Frank Castorf’s gloriously incoherent bicentenary Ring, wherein Brünnhilde and Siegfried’s love duet was interrupted by rutting crocodiles. But I did see two different productions of Parsifal, Wagner’s inscrutable testament, that were each in their way transformative. In January, at the Teatro Real in Madrid, a fleet, almost Italian Parsifal, starring the elegant Korean bass Kwangchul Youn, stripped away the opera’s mythological bulk and found in Wagner’s last work something at once historical and present-tense. And in February the Metropolitan Opera junked its dull old horns-and-breastplates production and mounted a blood-soaked, eco-feminist Parsifal, directed by François Girard, that made you feel as if New York’s notoriously conservative performing arts scene was not all hopeless. ‘PARSIFAL ENTPOLITISIERT ALLES,’ Jonathan Meese once wrote (Parsifal depoliticizes everything) but in Girard’s hands, and with the help of video artist Peter Flaherty, Parsifal became a necessarily dour parable of climate change and the necessity of political and social redemption before any ecological salvation can take place. (A planned revival in 2014 has been cancelled; the Met, the largest performing arts organization in the United States, can’t afford it.)
The most important book I read in 2013 was Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, by the Scottish political economist Mark Blyth – an indictment of our age’s fiscal insanity that laid out how austerity does not just fail on its own longue-durée terms but doesn’t even work in the short run, except as a means to enrich those in power at everyone else’s expense. It’s essential art world reading, for as multiple economists have shown (and as Andrea Fraser has loudly reiterated) art is one of the few sectors to thrive in these sickening conditions, and there’s no divorcing the art world boom from a larger economic disaster that, more than five years after Lehman’s collapse, shows no signs of reversal. There was more hope, at least, to be gleaned from László Krasznahorkai’s novel Seiobo There Below, released in English this year, that is one of the most beguiling books on art I’ve ever read. The Hungarian author, in sentences that spiral for 20 pages or more, looks at both real and fictional artists wrestling with creation in their studios, as well as gallery-goers struggling to experience art while the world outside roars with such ferocity they can hardly concentrate. (I sympathize. One chapter takes place at Venice’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco, to which I escaped in May when the biennale got to be too much and where people kept texting me regardless.) I also dug deep into JM Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus, a head-scratching non-allegory of socialism and the afterlife, and his best book since Disgrace; as well as *Albert Camus’s newly translated Algerian Chronicles, which Claire Messud, herself the daughter of a pied-noir, beautifully dissected a few weeks ago in the 50th anniversary issue of the New York Review of Books. That publication’s birthday celebrations were a necessary reminder that for all my hometown’s Singapore-on-Hudson gilded lifelessness, sometimes New York still gets it right.
Things to look forward to in 2014? I am limbering up for* ‘Marcel Duchamp: la peinture, même’ at the Pompidou* – a deliberately paradoxical attempt to look at Marcel as a one-medium artist. Beyond that there’s Lygia Clark at MoMA, Camille Henrot at Chisenhale and the New Museum, Michael Snow at the Philadelphia Museum, the good folks of Triple Canopy in the Whitney Biennial, Stéphanie Moisdon’s exhibition ‘1984–1999’ at the Pompidou Metz (with scenography by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster), Sasha Waltz’s Tannhäuser at the Staatsoper, Olivier Py’s first season as head of the Festival d’Avignon, the promising Sydney Biennale under the direction of Juliana Engberg … and the inauguration of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York, whose only drawback is that my London friends will now be subjected to Michael Bloomberg at the Serpentine.
Highlights 2013 - Mark Prince
Merlin James Harbour (2011), acrylic on polyester with wood frame; courtesy: Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York and the artist © Merlin JamesMark Prince is an artist and writer based in Berlin.
Although diversity was the key note of Merlin James’s exhibition at Parasol Unit in London this Summer – it spanned three decades of work covering landscape, architectural, portrait and abstract modes – this was not postmodern relativism, but a demonstration that a personal painterly language can comprehend a complex context and changing circumstances. The narrative of a painting’s evolution, over years of non-linear decision-making, may supersede the pretext of its image, but the selection still combined into a singular vision of a lost world.
Franz West Where is My Eight? (2013), installation view, MMK, Frankfurt; photograph: Nils BremerThe Franz West retrospective at Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt in the Autumn chronicled West’s various metaphors for how we engage with art, and the social dimensions of that engagement. He portrays this interaction with a comprehensive range of tonalities – absurdity, comedy, opportunism, awe – restoring the gamut of subjectivity to sculpture by making its putative functionality a means of humanizing it. Despite the full force of his irony, these are earnest reappraisals of the possibility of ‘made’ sculptural form.
Joel Sternfeld Egg Harbor, New Jersey (1972); courtesy: the artistThe survey of Joel Sternfeld’s photography, at C/O Berlin at the beginning of the year, made his career seem both sui generis and a case study in the spectrum of guises art photography has assumed since the 1960s – from ‘on-the-fly’ documentary, to fictional tableaux, to photography as conceptual taxonomy, often in conjunction with text. But Sternfeld collapses the implied trajectory from image to idea. He interprets a conceptual trope in emotional terms. His increasing reliance on implication rather than denotation registers as loneliness and desolation.
Highlights 2013 - Morgan Quaintance
Jay Z and Marina AbramovicMorgan Quaintance is a writer, musician and curator; he is also the producer of the weekly broadcast radio program ‘Studio Visit’ on Resonance 104.4 FM.
For me 2013 was the year ‘performance art’ and pop music fused completely via the rubbery, botoxed visage of Marina Abramovic. Whether she was eye-shagging Jay Z during his ‘durational’ masterpiece ‘Picasso Baby’ (so intense), teaching Lady Gaga how to ‘find her centre’ or entering Kanye West’s dreams every night (I just made that up), Marina and performance art sort of became the new Kabbalah for this decade’s narcissistic and yet pathologically earnest top-tier celebs. Elsewhere, British comedy (perhaps a joke in itself) and critical theory got close via randy dandy and cultural studies undergrad Russell Brand. ‘It’s the narratives Jeremy’, he screeched on BBC2’s Newsnight. Oh, and what about Rob ‘I’ve got enough to eat at home’ Ford? That was an amazing media moment. Would you have believed anyone who told you this year a Canadian mayor would deny and then admit to smoking crack, knock down an elderly councilwoman and talk about ‘eating pussy’ on air? It’s about as improbable as Guggenheim Abu Dhabi opening with a General Idea retrospective. Actually, it’s about as improbable as Guggenheim Abu Dhabi ever opening. Anyway, here’s my cultural best-ofs for this year.
Glafira Rosales and her legal team leave court after she admits fraud, 2013AbExgate
Bonkers art dealer Glafira Rosales was exposed as a fraudster on a massive scale. Rosales admitted she’d sold a large multi-million dollar cache of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings to rich/dumb New Yorkers and Europeans.
The Nazi Hoard
A massive stash of modernist paintings, seized from their original owners during World War II, was found in a German apartment. Cornelius Gurlitt, the owner of the flat and nephew of Nazi art dealer Hilderbrand, was unrepentant and basically said ‘they’re mine I won’t give them back’. I’m still waiting for the inevitable Downfall reaction videos to surface.
Downfall memeTHE EXHIBITIONS
Dean Blunt – SPACE, London
While the UK Garage nostalgia trip ramped up a notch, Blunt’s criminally short-lived exhibition captured the darker, more disorientating side of late ’90s urban culture and the fake consumer-driven myths it pedaled.
Willie Doherty – Void, Derry~Londonderry
Northern Ireland’s premier psychogeographer, Doherty’s compelling retrospective of photographic and moving image works explored the unsettling resonances of Derry’s streets, alleys and green expanses.
Bob Parks – Grand Union, Birmingham
The first time I met Bob we were both stewards at the Royal Festival Hall in the early noughties. One night, between directing startled OAPs to their seats, I remember him telling me about the relative merits of using dildos in autoerotic performance. At Grand Union his retrospective was an ecstatic and at times heartwarming experience.
Sons of Kemet (l–r): Seb Rochford, Shabaka Hutchings, Tom Skinner and Oren MarshallSons of Kemet win MOBO for Best Jazz Act
All awards ceremonies are crap (unless you win), but the British Music of Black Origin awards is a particularly risible, borderline racist, backslapping procedure for commercial pop. That said, way back in 2006, me and a load of jazz musicians demonstrated outside the Royal Albert Hall and then went on Newsnight to protest against MOBO culling their ‘Best Jazz Act’ category. Surprisingly they kept the category and this year the incredible experimental group Sons of Kemet won. Plus, the group’s BBC Radio 3 live session last year is still one of the best things I’ve hear this year. Check it here.
Autechre – L Event
It was heartening to hear Authechre are still worlds away from the awful, clock-driven, Urban Outfitters deep house that drowned the blogosphere this year. L Event is an extraordinary exploration of abstraction and baroque digital signal processing.
Tao Lin – Taipei
This is absolutely not a glimpse into the reality of our modern, socially networked lives. Well not mine anyway. It’s a story filled with people interacting in a kind of painfully autistic, emotionally detached, hipster limbo. Kind of like Daria: The MFA Years. Still, some incredible writing going on here.
Dave Eggers – The Circle
This is a scarily good book from Dave. His story of a digital communications company/cult who demands its employees and the rest of the world expose themselves via social media is terrifyingly believable.
Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieChimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Americanah
America and Americans, despite protestations of a post-Obama, post-racial consciousness, are obsessed with race and the preservation of retrograde essentialisms through the thin veil of ‘respecting cultural difference’. At least that’s the vibe I got from reading Adichie’s amazing tale of a Nigerian in New Jersey. The withering social mores of hip, young Americans (of all races) are so keenly observed that you almost feel… like… so totally sorry for them?
John Lindsay – No Dope Here? Anti-Drugs Vigilantism in Northern Ireland
Lindsay’s spectacularly well-researched book delves into the lesser-known world of paramilitary punishment beatings and killings in Northern Ireland. There’s some striking imagery within its pages and the chapter on rave culture and ecstasy in the midst of the troubles is a real eye-opener.
Highlights 2013 - Orit Gat
Trevor Paglen, The Last Pictures, 2013Orit Gat is contributing editor for Rhizome. She writes about art for other places, too.
For me, 2013 is coming to a close with the announcement by New York Magazine that it will be scaling back print operations and the many pieces published in response to it, ranging from sentimental nostalgia for some heyday of print to a commitment to technology that almost reads as a Marinetti-like ‘print magazines, cemeteries!’ More than anything, I thought this letter from the publisher of Harper’s was brave, generous, and incredibly illuminating in its consideration of the relationship between the magazine, its readers, and advertisers: ‘Until recently, the rush to appear modern, the peer pressure to accept the inevitability of print’s demise, and the supposed virtues of writing for free have dominated what passes for a discussion.’
Screenshot of Art Papers websiteBut it’s been a great year in publishing. Lately, I admired 4,492,040, New Document’s reprint of the catalogues of Lucy Lippard’s ‘numbers shows’, which is a great object, a way of ensuring the documentation and dissemination of a crucial piece of curatorial history, and an expansion of the discussion of Lippard’s work that started with last year’s Brooklyn Museum show ‘Materializing Six Years’. Also, Curiosity and Method, the encyclopedia of Cabinet, which was issued in celebration of the magazine’s 10th anniversary provided me with countless excuses to get sidetracked and inspired. I waited for the November–December issue of Art Papers focusing on art magazines for many months, and was not disappointed; I think it’ll become a great resource for many future discussions about the current state of art publishing. In 2013 I also considered moving to London numerous times, based partly on my enthusiasm for projects such as The White Review, publisher Occasional Papers, and the publishing platform AND, who organized ‘Working in the edges: self publishing with print-on-demand’, a course at The Showroom this year, which promotes the kind of initiatives I’d be curious to see more of in the art context.
Only slightly less obsessed with publishing, ‘Ed Ruscha Books & Co.’ at Gagosian was by far my favorite exhibition this year. As much as I’m curious to see more artists’ e-books (shout out to the series of e-books Brian Droitcour curated/edited for Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery and to The People’s E-Book, which launched its beta version very recently), flipping through the numerous examples of works following Ruscha’s brilliant use of the book format made me feel hopeful.
Virginia Overton, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 2013Other exhibitions to note from a couple of transatlantic trips: the 55th Venice Biennale of course – with Tino Sehgal, Ed Atkins, Helen Marten, the beautiful presentation of Walter de Maria right at the end of the Arsenale, and so much more. The Prada Foundation’s interesting and weird and generative recreation of* ‘When Attitudes Become Forms’* in Venice. The traveling show ‘Curiosity’, organized by Brian Dillon, with its fantastic interposition of works by Nina Canell, Gerard Byrne, and Nina Katchadourian alongside a giant stuffed walrus. And, of course, Pierre Huyghe at Centre Pompidou. In New York, I can’t leave out Mark Dion’s engrossing show at Tanya Bonakdar; Anna Plesset’s project at Untitled has been echoing with me for months; Trevor Paglen’s ambitious ‘Last Pictures’ project, which was shown at Metro Pictures; Ben Schumacher’s intriguing exhibition at Bortolami, which I’m still not sure I totally understand; Chantal Ackerman at The Kitchen; Miroslaw Balka’s haunting installation at Gladstone; and Virginia Overton’s subtle presentation at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.
The best thing about 2013? It’s that it stretches into 2014. A number of the artists whose works I was interested in this year are presenting large-scale projects in New York in 2014 – Katrin Sigurdardottir is bringing Foundation (2013), her Venice Biennale piece to Sculpture Center; Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost, whose Before Before and After After (2013) were some of the highlights of the Lyon Biennale is showing at the New Museum in February; and Ragnar Kjartansson is also scheduled to have a solo exhibition at the New Museum. I’m particularly curious about that one because I thought The Visitors (2013), shown earlier this year at Luhring Augustine, was one of the most poetic and beautiful artworks I’ve seen in a long time. I’m also looking forward to seeing – or at least hearing about – the exhibition ‘Art Post-Internet’ that Karen Archey is curating at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, as well as Anne Collier’s show at the Hessel Museum in Bard College, and Manifesta 10 at the Hermitage, St Petersburg.
Highlights 2013 - Silas Martí
Centro Cultural São Paulo, one of the venues of the 10th Bienal de Arquitetura de São Paulo, 2013; photograph: Carlos RennóSilas Martí is a contributing-editor of frieze based in São Paulo, and staff visual arts, architecture and design writer at Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.
While this will be remembered forever as the year the crowds took to the streets of Brazil in the June uprisings, 2013 wasn’t the most memorable in the art scene here. But a few exhibitions gave it some lustre. Without the Bienal de São Paulo, the art circuit in the country’s biggest city becomes a little lazy, as museums and galleries prepare their blockbuster shows to coincide with the big exhibition next September, but some jewels could be found in the white cubes around town nonetheless.
Ending a cycle of lethargy, the Bienal de Arquitetura de São Paulo this year had its tenth outing – and what an outing. For the first time in its history, the show left the domains of Ibirapuera park to sweep across the city, occupying a range of venues, from the Centro Cultural São Paulo, a sprawling underground gallery nestled between two huge traffic corridors, and even a quaint little apartment with a view of the Minhocão, the overpass that some want to convert into a ‘Paulista’ version of New York’s High Line. The show, which centred on the discussion of urban mobility, was a major success, especially following the heated protests with concerns over the crisis in public transportation.
Sticking to architecture, the controversial edition of the Panorama da Arte Brasileira was another highlight. Curator Lisette Lagnado did away with the usual survey show of emerging artists to create instead a provocation disguised as an exhibition. She attacked the fact that the Museu de Arte Moderna, which hosts the show, has for the past 40 years occupied a building that was meant to be temporary by asking architects and artists to come up with projects for a new museum building, one capable of finally showing its entire collection, mostly invisible due to lack of space. And she got the point across by removing the building’s walls and changing the position of the entrance to reflect the original proposition by Lina Bo Bardi, the architect who refurbished the space three decades ago.
Sesc Pompeia, the venue for the 18th Festival de Arte Contemporânea Sesc Videobrasil, 2013At the Sesc Pompeia, a venue designed by Bo Bardi, the 18th edition of the Festival de Arte Contemporânea Sesc Videobrasil showed signs that it’s time to rethink video’s position in contemporary art, which has become much too hybrid to be classified in terms of medium or technique. The major strength of the show was to include paintings, installations and performances along with the traditional line-up of videos from the so-called global south, or spaces undergoing massive geopolitical transitions. It was a good show all around, but maybe what deserves special attention is the massive on-line catalogue that now allows one to search through the entire history of the festival linking contents from all editions all the way up to now, a major undertaking that shows just how much went on in this field ever since the festival began.
Maria Martins, O impossivel lll (1946); photograph: Vicente de MelloSome major solo shows also deserve to be remembered. Maria Martins, the Brazilian surrealist sculptor, had a generous review of her entire oeuvre on show at São Paulo’s Museu de Arte Moderna. Beautiful, to put it simply.
Two other historical figures were also remembered. Waldemar Cordeiro and Geraldo de Barros, the masterminds of concrete art in São Paulo, had simultaneous exhibitions. While Cordeiro had his biggest retrospective to date at Itaú Cultural, Barros had his classic 1980s ‘Jogos de Dados’ series displayed in its entirety: 55 works hanging back to back, at Sesc Vila Mariana.
Waldemar Cordeiro, Valentine’s Day, 1973Closer to the year’s end, the I*nstituto Moreira Salles* unveiled a major retrospective of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri’s work. Little known in Brazil and in much need of remembrance worldwide, Ghirri’s shots of post-modern Italy and the sheer ugliness of postwar readymade urban design are delightful to see in their full body and colour.
Another show that opened recently is as cerebral as it is enchanting. The Centro Universitário Maria Antonia commissioned a new work by Cildo Meireles. At first glance, it’s an empty room, but once inside one starts to notice the floor isn’t quite flat and the corners of the room are slightly twisted, giving the impression the entire space is being crumpled up. The installation sits between two other shows. One is a retrospective of modernist architect Gregori Warchavchik’s oeuvre and the other is made up of photographs by Mauro Restiffe of the Cícero Prado, one of Warchavchik’s biggest apartment buildings in downtown São Paulo. It’s Brazilian modern architecture rehashed in a single, powerful blow.
And let’s not forget Rio. The Museu de Arte do Rio, which opened this year as the first in a wave of museum inaugurations that will take over the city in the coming years as a countdown to the World Cup and the Olympic Games, has staged some noteworthy shows already. Solo exhibitions by Yuri Firmeza and Berna Reale were both breathtaking, the first for opening a new stage in this artist’s restless research into architecture and performance, and the second for giving this newcomer from Belém a major show in the country’s former capital.
Also at MAR, a massive show narrating the development of experimental art in the northeastern state of Pernambuco (‘Pernambuco Experimental’) is one of the most amazing experiences of the year in Rio. In a sense, this seems to be the moment for Pernambuco to shine, not only in the visual arts but also in film.
Hilton Lacerda, Tatuagem, 2013, film stillHilton Lacerda’s debut as director with Tatuagem, a movie about an experimental theatre troupe during the heaviest period of the country’s dictatorship has shaken the Brazilian film scene with one of the most powerful pictures since the re-establishment of the country’s film industry in the 1990s, coming just one year after Kleber Mendonça’s O Som ao Redor, a powerful investigation of Recife’s new middle class.
So what am I looking forward to next year? For one thing, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for whatever next comes out of Pernambuco. Second, the Bienal de São Paulo, curated by Charles Esche, promises to be the next big thing on the horizon here.
Highlights 2013 - Timotheus Vermeulen
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity, 2013Timotheus Vermeulen is Assistant Professor in Cultural Theory at 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.
Tomás Saraceno, installation view K21 Ständehaus, Dusseldorf, 2013
Ever since I moved to Dusseldorf last year, there have been a number of exciting shows: Thomas Saraceno at K21 Ständehaus, Ed Atkins and Frances Stark at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Rob Voerman at the Weltkunstzimmer, Daiga Grantina at Max Mayer (all in Dusseldorf), as well as Christian Falsnaes at Raum Drei in Cologne, and Timur Si-Qin at Bonner Kunstverein. Also good was the group exhibition Drawing a Universe at Dusseldorf’s KAI 10. Elsewhere, I really enjoyed Arnout Mik’s solo show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. One other show that left its mark was Andy Holden’s exceptional exhibition MIMS! at the Zabludowicz Collection in London, a moving exploration both of youthful idealism and contemporary uncertainty and irony. It is a rare thing, at least for me, to be moved to tears at a contemporary art show, but this one did the trick.
Adam Thirlwell’s 2012 novel Kapow
I am always late to the literary scene, so technically I am cheating when I say Adam Thirlwell’s 2012 novel Kapow is the absolute highlight of 2013, but I will say it anyways. It is an amazing little book, which I recommend to everyone. The rediscovery of John Edward Williams’ Stoner (1965) was a nice surprise, though the novel is certainly not as fantastic as some critics make it out to be. Slavoj Zizek’s latest, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, is very clever, albeit clearly hurried. I loved Joris Luyendijk’s analyses of the banking system in The Guardian. As far as criticism goes, I very much enjoyed reading Emily Nussbaum’s TV reviews in The New Yorker.
Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and an anonymous co-director, The Act of Killing, 2013
Gravity was a highlight, obviously; but otherwise, it has been a bleak year for cinema I feel (especially in comparison with 2012, which saw the premieres of brilliant docs like The Act of Killing and The Invisible War). It may be, however, that I watch the wrong films. A sucker for over the top slapstick comedies, I cannot wait for Anchorman 2 to come out here in Germany, for instance. Not a joke: I really can’t wait.
Jane Campion, Top of the Lake, 2013
This year wasn’t as good a year for TV as last year, but there were some pretty wonderful moments. Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake was amazing, for one. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree was very sweet, touching and funny. Mad Men was great again. The Good Wife is having a very decent season. Arrested Development, though not as hilarious as I would have hoped, definitely worthwhile. Veep was very OK. Non-fiction highlight: Russel Brand’s appearance on Newsnight. He received a lot of slack, but I thought he was brilliant, the embodiment of politics 2.0: just because we don’t know what the alternative looks like does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Highlights 2013 - Ana Teixeira Pinto
Yakov Khalip, Mayan Language Unraveled. Punch Cards (1962), included in the Bergen Assembly 2013Ana Teixeira Pinto is a writer from Lisbon, currently living in Berlin. She is finishing her PhD at Humboldt University, and is a regular contributor to the art magazines von100 and Mousse, among others.
After being asked to write this list it slowly started to dawn on me none of the films I enjoyed this year were released in 2013 and the two books I most wanted to recommend – Oxana Timofeeva’s History of Animals: An Essay on Negativity, Immanence and Freedom (Jan van Eyck Academie) and Hito Steyerl’s The Wretched of the Screen (Sternberg Press) – both turned out to have been published in 2012. So there, I just smuggled them in anyway, but promise I will stick to the rules from now on …
Eleanor Antin Merrit from California Lives (1969/98); courtesy: Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New YorkI have been following the programme of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin with great interest, especially the projects ‘Former West’ (2008–14) and ‘After Year Zero’ (2013). But if I have to single out one exhibition however I would pick ‘The Whole Earth’, curated by Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke in the Summer – an amazing treasure trove of historical idiosyncrasies.
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zespół Czarnych Form Organicznych (Team Black Organische Form / Group of Black Organic Forms) (1974); photograph: Achim KukuliesAnother important show was ‘TEXTILES: OPEN LETTER’ curated by Rike Frank and Grant Watson for the Museum Abteiberg – a very well thought-out exhibition, which explores the often unacknowledged role textiles played in the development of visual abstraction and serial composition – from modernism to contemporary art.
In the absence of a new season of Game of Thrones, and after I lost my local video rental store to Prenzlauerberg gentrification, I’ve taken to following Vdrome, an online platform curated by Edoardo Bonaspetti, Jens Hoffmann, Andrea Lissoni and Filipa Ramos. Every film is introduced with a short q&a and stays online for a brief period only –an exhibition format that meets the distribution potential of digital video without compromising the artists’ income. Yes I know what you are probably thinking, but I am not a hi-res fetishist, and the project allowed me to discover the work of Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc and Marcus Coates, which I probably wouldn’t have came across otherwise.
Leonor Antunes a linha é tão fina que o olho, apesar de armado com uma lupa, imagina-a ao invés de vê-la (2013) installation view Kunsthalle LissabonFrom the viewpoint of the visitor, biennials might always prove a somewhat frustrating experience. Yet, as the Bergen Assembly 2013 – ‘Monday Begins on Saturday’ curated by Ekaterina Degot and David Riff – made manifest, biennials also allow for alternative discourse networks to emerge, else all you have left is market consensus.
Jutta Koether, installation view PRAXES, Berlin, 2013It might seem odd to recommend Leonor Antunes’ ‘a linha é tão fina que o olho, apesar de armado com uma lupa, imagina-a ao invés de vê-la’ at the Kunsthalle Lissabon when the artist had a much more substantial exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel this autumn, but I simply didn’t see the latter –and the Kunsthalle Lissabon is in my hometown.
Karl Holmqvist Untitled (Checkerboard Painting Black)Painting might endure forever but Jutta Koether’s cycle of shows at Praxes is the only painting exhibition I want to see now. I was also fond of Aleksandra Domanovic’s ‘The Future Was at Her Fingertips’ at Tanya Leighton – her take on how history slipped between her fingers; and Karl Holmqvist’s double exhibition ‘EQ UI LI BR IU M’ at Galerie Neu and MD72 for his doctrine of word egalitarianism; Anna Boghiguian’s ‘Unstructured Diary for an Autobiography’ at the Daad Galerie; and Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato’s ‘The Life Of Particles’, at the Berlinale’s Forum Expanded about the unfathomable relation between psychology and geography.
(2013) vinyl on wood
(2013) vinyl on wood
Jaron Lanier Who Owns the Future, 2013In terms of books, Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future (Simon & Schuster) was the first sensible account I read about what the internet really means to the world’s economy. Similarly, I am indebted to Martha Rosler’s Culture Class (Sternberg Press) for pointing out how the history of abstract expressionism is intertwined with the history of transnational capital flows. Last but not least, I just began reading T. J. Demos’ The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis, published by Duke University Press.
Highlights 2013 - Sean O’Toole
Launch of Ruth Sacks’s group exhibition and intervention 'Regions A-G', held at the Johannesburg Public Library; photograph: Sean O’TooleSean O’Toole is a regular frieze columnist, and co-editor of CityScapes, a critical journal for urban enquiry. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
Rambling through my 2013
Raúl Cárdenas Osuna outside the Germiston Civic Centre; photograph: Sean O’TooleLet’s go for a walk with some friends and strangers. Raúl Cárdenas Osuna is artist from the Mexican border town of Tijuana. In 1995 Cárdenas Osuna, who studied architecture at Tijuana’s Universidad Iberoamericana, founded Torolab, a multidisciplinary artist collective, with his wife Marcela Guadiana Cardenas. This past November I saw this greying, moustached man with Elvis Costello glasses address a meeting of town planners in a conference centre inside Germiston’s brick city hall. It was a strange place to encounter an artist, but then again not.
Ekurhuleni, the larger municipality of which Germiston forms a part, has the second-highest number of informal settlements in South Africa after Cape Town. Addressing the need for housing and social justice in this spatially fragmented country starts in Ekurhuleni settlements like Gabon and Freedom Square, provisional settlements not at all dissimilar Tijuana’s impoverished slums. ‘No-one is from Tijuana,’ remarked Cárdenas Osuna, who was born in the Atlantic city of Mazatlan. A data-interested, solution-driven artist, his Torolab collective radically extends Joseph Beuys’s twee notion of social sculpture.
Mandarins would probably pigeonhole Torolab’s activities, which extend to social landscaping and food growing schemes, as engagé art. Whatever. ‘The time for protest has ended; the time for proposal has begun’, Cárdenas Osuna told the LA Times in 2001. Not that protest is irrelevant to this talkative artist: ‘Part of our work is diagnostics, and protest is a diagnosis of something,’ he told me.
While wandering along Germiston’s main street one day I encountered a mural by Cecily Sash. Trained under Henry Moore, Sash was a key part of Johannesburg’s artistic avant-garde in the 1960s and ’70s. Her strong opinions, sexual choices and ethical values – she emigrated to the UK in 1974, where she continues to paint in Wales – saw her being nicknamed ‘the Tarantula’ by heterosexual female students. In a 1968 interview Sash remarked on how South African artists were failingly engaging the emergent urban attitudes of the recently rural white republic. ‘[O]ur urban society has a particular flavour,’ she remarked, adding that it was a ‘curious compound of freedom and straight-lacedness’. It bears noting that real only freedom came in 1994.
Pieter Hugo, Hillbrow, 2013, c-type print; courtesy: Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town/JohannesburgAmongst the random things that intrigued me this year, which usually means exhibitions, books, projects and the like that made it onto my Facebook wall, most were somehow concerned with the urban. Not just in depicting it, which is now rote strategy for photographers, but in puncturing that ‘curious compound of freedom and straight-lacedness’ that still defines South African art. Photographer Pieter Hugo’s solo exhibition ‘Kin’ did that. Motivated by his white ambivalence at the ‘fractured, schizophrenic, wounded and problematic’ nature of his home society, Kin was argumentative and angry, dispassionate too; fundamentally, though, it was also reconciled. This is home, Hugo’s photos sighed.
Hugo’s show included a photograph of Hillbrow, an agitated epicentre of cosmopolitan manners explicitly name checked by Sash in 1968. Built on a northern ridge overlooking Johannesburg’s CBD, Hillbrow was in the 1960s likened to the Latin Quarter in Paris and New York’s West Village; it’s a bit more ramshackle these days. Jazz photographer Basil Breakey memorably recorded the brief residency of the mixed-race Blue Notes jazz sextet here in 1963, before its members – like Sash a decade later – emigrated to London.
Keeping Time: 1964 – 1974 The Photographs and Cape Town Jazz Recordings of Ian Bruce Huntley, published by Electric JiveFor a long time Breakey’s 1997 book, Beyond the Blues, was the only real picture archive of Johannesburg’s jazz underground, a scene whose legacy remains deeply implicated in contemporary urban sounds. This omission has now been corrected with the publication of Keeping Time, a hardbound book collecting the work of Ian Bruce Huntley. It includes fabulous vintage photographs of Blue Notes members Chris McGregor, Nick Moyake and Louis Moholo jamming and being hep. Documentary photographer Cedric Nunn, winner of the 2011 FNB Art Price winner, did restoration work on the photos, while Siemon Allen, a conceptual artist and music archivist, did the layout.
Another notable new photobook is Transition, which compiles the work six South African and six French photographers. Hugo worked with French photographer Raphael Dallaporta. He choose to make a formal landscape study of a sulphurous yellow mine dump in Ekurhuleni, while Dallaporta preferred to float a camera over a bunch of them using a remote-controlled helicopter and then digitally suture the results together. ‘You pretty much feel you are on another kind of planet,’ says Dallaporta of his surreal but true composite studies.
For the most part, it has been social theorists, architects and urban planners – not curators – who have tried to fathom and visually explain Johannesburg’s idiosyncratic character. In 2007 the Tate Modern hosted ‘Global Cities’, which included Guy Tillim’s striking essay on inner-city neglect and anxious domesticity. In June, La maison rouge, a private contemporary art museum in Paris, hosted ‘My Joburg’. Given the lack of precedents, the outcome fairly represented the sprawling, apparently borderless city it set out to survey. Standout works included a new wall drawing by Kemang Wa Lehulere. Joint winner of the 15th Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in June, Wa Lehulere’s early practice was shaped by his ongoing manner of working collectively – like Cárdenas Osuna, just differently. Ruth Sacks, a Johannesburg artist associated with the recently defunct Parking Gallery, also works collaboratively. In November, at the same time Cárdenas Osuna was in town, Sacks launched her adaptation of Jules Verne’s evergreen classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Seas. In the manner of Rodney Graham and others, Sacks makes books.
Ruth Sacks, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Seas (Garamond Press, 2013)Her new novel (which has been designed to work as an interlocking sculpture) reconciles contradictory translations of Verne’s original. Rewritten word for word, the book renames key characters and embellishes on design details of the Nautilus. Originally launched at the Verne museum in Amiens, France, for her Johannesburg launch, held at the central library, Sacks invited a group of young artists to participate. They included Frances Burger, Rangoato Hlasane and Anne Historical, aka curator and artist Bettina Malcomess. Working with her partner, painter Dorothee Kreutzfeldt, Malcomess co-authored Not No Place, an information-rich cult book in the making. ‘Johannesburg,’ they write, ‘is a city defined by a nostalgia less for the past than the future.’ My guess is that if we keep walking that long road to freedom, to corrupt a famous man’s words, we’ll find it soon enough.
Highlights 2013 - Tyler Coburn
Kristin Sue Lucas performing a reading of Refresh (2007) at 'Visions of the Now' festival, Stockholm, 2013. Photograph: Märta ThisnerTyler Coburn is an artist and writer based in New York. His current project, NaturallySpeaking, will be included in ‘La Voix Humaine’ (Kunstverein Munich, 2014) and published in You Are Here: Looking at After the Internet (Cornerhouse Books, 2014).
On Saturday, 25 May 2013, Kristin Sue Lucas performed a cold read of Refresh (2007), her successful petition to change her name to Kristin Sue Lucas. Facing the audience of the Visions of the Now festival in Stockholm, the artist recited her appeal to the Supreme Court of California, and (rather appropriately) Robert Whitman phoned in the judge’s replies. The cold read offers a reminder of the prescience of the petition, as Lucas’s submission to legal process for the purpose of self-renewal not only reflects a desire consigned to speak in the voice of a juridical subject, but a desire already delimited by the parameters of the online world. Writing about the project in Fillip, Chris Fitzpatrick and Post Brothers read Refresh as a parasitical work, noting that ‘in its noisy obstruction, the parasite reinvents the host, becoming an integral part in the system by forcing it to reorient whatever message the host transmits.’
This argument effectively captures Lucas’s engagement with statutory procedure; making a case for her parasitism vis-à-vis the Internet, however, requires a redrafting of our conception of the host. If the critical dissonance of the parasite stems from its status as an uninvited guest, for example, then what relevance does this figure hold for a field in which we are always invited, necessarily welcome: when the very sustenance of the host depends upon our inclusion?
Lucas’s piece thus provides a helpful ground to consider recent attempts by artists to render themselves uninvited, unwelcome – to assume a mode of relation that, via Fitzpatrick & Post, might ‘reveal the system’s dependency on logics of exclusion.’ This claim by no mean presupposes a standard tactic, though overinvestment and obfuscation have been among those recently discussed. Erica Scourti’s Life in Adwords (2012-13) pursues the former: over the course of nearly a year, the artist e-mailed daily diary entries to her Gmail account, later making webcam recitations of the suggested keywords that each entry generated. Scourti’s flat performance reiterates the affectless operations of the Google AdWords algorithm, even as periodic mention of stress, anxiety and romantic ails allude to an ever-more tenuous subjectivity.
Human Readable Type, developed by Julieta Aranda, Fia Backström and R. Lyon as part of the exhibition ‘尸Γσ₠§§㏌⅁’, ‘The Ends of the Library’ series, Goethe-Institut Library, New YorkAn exemplary case of obfuscation can be found in the Human Readable Type (2013), conceived by Julieta Aranda, Fia Backström and R. Lyon and available for download at www.humanreadabletype.com. Substituting roman letters for homoglyphs, this keyboard layout renders text illegible to automatic search processes. Humans may also have some reading difficulties: the type looks like the result of a chance encounter of Wing Dings and the Fluxkit – to striking effect. For the exhibition ‘尸Γσ₠§§㏌⅁’, as part of ‘The Ends of the Library’ series at New York’s Goethe-Institut Library, the artists deployed the type in a love letter, as well as a list of trigger words for NSA’s Echelon programme. Responding to this diptych on Rhizome, Brian Droitcour wrote, ‘[l]ove and affects are a kind of non-information […] opaque to a search algorithm.’ Parasitically interfering on the plane of machinic legibility, then, also allows the other facets of human communication to pass undetected: no signal and all noise.
Erik Wysocan, (By whom will these keepers be kept?), 2013, installation view at Laurel Gitlen, New YorkThere were other highlights from the year that don’t figure cleanly into the above discussion, but nonetheless deserve mention: from investigations of the ancient and neoliberal re-makings of value, respectively, in Erik Wycosan’s Paris Spleen at Laurel Gitlen, New York, and Pedro Neves Marques and Mariana Silva’s Environments at e-flux; to Amie Siegel’s latest film, Provenance (2013), which bears a methodological affinity to recent works by Lucy Raven and Maryam Jafri, reminding that the objects of the world (whatever their present philosophical redetermination) produce both economic and cultural effects in their long routes from manufacture to consumption. Following his authoritative history of Californian Ideology, Fred Turner has recently published a new book, The Democratic Surround, which endeavors to revise trenchant accounts of American liberalism in the early Cold War years. Turner has a great sensitivity to the entailment of technology, culture and politics; looking ahead, Lance Wakeling’s film project Field Visits for Chelsea Manning, as well as The Otolith Group’s sequels to Medium Earth, promise to bring this sensitivity into practice.
Highlights 2013: Ned Beauman
The Last of Us (2013), video game stillNed Beauman is a British novelist based in New York, USA.
The Last of Us
So frustrating – this was the most moving experience of narrative art I had all year, and yet it was both impossible for me to debate it with anyone and pointless for me to recommend it to anyone, because you can’t play it unless you own a Playstation 3. Well, just trust me: The Last of Us is the best video game ever made and, God willing, the start of a new era for the medium. Games have always had a unique potential to plug in to your emotions, because the longer you hold the controller in your hands the more you begin to identify with the protagonist at the level of your sinews. But I don’t think that potential had ever been adequately realized until it was married for the first time to such superlative scripting, plotting, voice acting and music: a hackneyed premise (somewhere between The Road, The Walking Dead and Children of Men) elevated into a 12-hour masterpiece.
Shane Carruth, Upstream Color (2013), film stillUpstream Color
Having set fire to my critical credibility by praising a video game so highly, I’m now going to make a claim which would seem like empty hyperbole even in the best of circumstances, which is that on the strength of only two films Shane Carruth is one of the most important living artists working in any medium. Fuck it, though – I really think he is. 2004’s Primer was like no film I’ve ever seen, and Upstream Color is also like no film I’ve ever seen, but in a completely different way. (Primer, for instance, is exceptionally wordy, whereas Upstream Color has no dialogue at all for its final third.) Carruth is a true avant-gardist, seemingly intent on (and capable of) rebuilding cinema from scratch, and yet his films are also suspenseful and intimate, which is a miraculous combination. What’s it about? Pigs, mind control, sound art, love.
Highlights 2013: Quinn Latimer
Pierre Huyghe, installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2013Quinn Latimer is an American poet and critic based in Basel, Switzerland. Her latest book, Describe This Distance (Mousse Publishing, 2013), about the work of Sarah Lucas, was published this year.
My artistic and literary crushes this year were numerous, and despite being exhausted by best of lists by early December, here are a few things that blew my mind/heart/etc. in 2013:
Pierre Huyghe, Pierre Huyghe, Pierre Huyghe currently at Centre Pompidou, Paris. I went for the bees and hot-pink-streaked dog, I stayed for the orgy scene. I fell in love in between.
Lutz Bacher, Snow, installation view, Kunsthalle Zurich, 2013; © Stefan Altenburger Photography ZurichThe current surveys of Lutz Bacher, at Kunsthalle Zurich, and Mira Schendel, at Tate Modern, London, are both language-strewn, and bracingly Catholic in their tastes and concerns, albeit in departing ways. Their expert, alienating use of sign and image made my heart hurt, and my brain feel untenable, in the best way possible. Also: Bacher’s ‘Detour’ wallpaper featuring an austere, degraded black-and-white grid of Guy Debord film stills and text fragments now covers the walls of my imaginary dream house.
Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue, 2013, film stillLikewise, the essay films of Camille Henrot and Akram Zaatari at the 55th Venice Biennale – with their moving confluence of voice-over and subtitle with moving images – captured my attention. The creation tale of Henrot’s Grosse Fatigue (2013) at the Arsenale, has stayed with me since I saw it last summer, as has Zaatari’s Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013), nodding to Camus, at the Lebanese Pavilion. Both placed the idea of literature and its disparate forms (the oral creation story, the philosophical missive) within the swiftly moving frames of film.
Isabelle Cornaro, installation view, Kunsthalle Bern, 2013Within strictly Swiss borders, the fictive temperatures of Mandla Reuter’s solo at Kunsthalle Basel – it featured Kafkaesque letters addressed to ‘No Such Address’ – and the ‘God Boxes’ of Isabelle Cornaro, at Kunsthalle Bern, were cooling. Marrying poetry to sound and shape, ‘Henri Chopin und die Revue OU: Internationale Poesie Sonore / Experimentelle Dichtung / Konkrete Kunst 1964–1974’ a collaboration between off-spaces OSLO10, New Jerseyy, and 1m3, in Lausanne, was brilliant.
In the Heart of the Country, installation view, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2013In Poland for a reading, I fell for ‘In the Heart of the Country’, the first presentation of its nascent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw. What does it mean to begin assembling a permanent collection of a museum of ‘modern art’ in the early 21st century? This show, with its many works by contemporary women artists, gives an idea of how this strange, speculative, and totally necessary project might go forward, and how our contemporary history might be written for the future. And despite the exhaustingly familiar male milieu of ‘Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the show was also excellent.
The books that spent the most time in my bag this year were Emmanuel Hocquard’s The Invention of Glass (Canarium); Chris Kraus’s Summer of Hate (Semiotexte); Anne Carson’s red doc > (Knopf); and Lisa Robertson’s R’s Boat (University of California Press). Also exemplary is castillo/corrales’s ‘The Social Life of the Book’ pamphlet series, particularly Louis Lüthi’s Infant A (Paraguay Press), which uses a Wallace Stevens poem to frame an imaginary conversation with conceptual artist, writer, and bookseller Ulises Carrión (1941–1989). In terms of critical writing, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie’s criticism for Artforum and Frieze made me hopeful of the field’s continuing possibility as a space of literature, feminism, style, and aesthetics.
Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe, 2013My listening lately has been dominated by the feuding Solange Knowles and Devonté Hynes, each of whom just released amazing albums. The Knowles-produced compilation Saint Heron features her excellent ‘Cash In’ and the best new Cassie song since ‘Me & U’. Hyne’s Cupid Deluxe (Domino Records), his second album as Blood Orange, meanwhile, is addictive in the extreme. Also: the eighties-rock-anthem-entranced Jewish sisters from LA, Haim, and the many Euro remixes of ‘Don’t Save Me’. Besides all this pop, Stephen O’Malley’s droning guitar performance for ‘Within the Horizon of the Object’, at Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel, was totally transporting, and Paolo Thorsen-Nagel’s live, ‘improvised film score for an unfilmed film’ in front of the Grand Hotel Locarno, for ‘The State of Things’, at La Rada, Locarno (a collaboration with Annette Amberg), was everything.
Online, I was super happy with the bag of deftly curated film programmes streaming through my laptop this year: the Agnes Varda retrospective at Doc Alliance Films, (dafilms.com), in February; the estimable monthly short film programme www.Vdrome.org, curated by Filipa Ramos; and Jennifer West’s Warm Bodies in a Room: A Derive/Drift Through 80 Films that I saw on http://vimeo.com/jenniferwest in November. Also fantastic: the online Interview with Chantal Akerman, by Ricky D’Ambrose, from November, in which the seminal filmmaker talks revealingly about her early film, News From Home (1978), a personal favorite, and wears a shirt held together by exactly one button, as someone adroitly pointed out on Twitter.
Hagar Schmidhalter, 197, 2013, inkjet print; courtesy the artistFinally, a photograph by the Paris-based Swiss artist Hagar Schmidhalter, 197 (2013), became a talisman, of sorts, for me in 2013, as it seemed to encapsulate the privacy and politics of the ever-spectral and yet material maker, looking up from her style (to borrow a spectacular turn of phrase from poet Lisa Robertson).