Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Some (delayed) notes on

the March-April issue of Art Papers:

Speechless Grey Horse by Berlinde de Bruyckere
(From "Views of Pain" at the Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin)

Sylvie Fortin devotes a couple paragraphs in her masthead introduction to the tornado that hit Atlanta in March:
It was too early for tornado season, said meteorologists who, bolstered by statistics, added to the confusion. And so, despite their first-hand experience and the spectacle broadcast on television, victims and viewers had to await confirmation from the authorities. It seemed they were the ones empowered to define what many had experienced... Too early for tornadoes, too late for snow - so much meteorological excess in two days.
She then used the weather-talk to segue into a brief discussion of global warming and, as per usual, allusions to the apparently ubiquitous "sweeping discursive shifts" in visual culture.

Ah, yes. See 'em every day.

Although I've failed to locate a reference on the internet, there was a curious sign posted at the Art Papers Auction back in February. It read something like this:
ART PAPERS - From Cairo to Cabbagetown.
I shook my head, "That'll never happen!" But now it's April, and here's Sylvie, proving me wrong. Writing about a local issue, she addressed an event that actually had something to do with Cabbagetown and other Atlanta neighborhoods, although an event that had destructive consequences. I was amazed.

(At the same time, I wondered if we would've gotten so much press if there wasn't a basketball game that night. "Oh no - God just tore a hole in the Georgia Dome...!" Yahweh always did have a strange sense of humor.)

So, what I'm trying to say is that I really liked this issue of Art Papers. Below, I posted a few images from shows discussed in the magazine, including reviews of Jiha Moon, an Atlanta artist, and The American War exhibition that toured at the Atlanta Contemporary.

Although it wasn't exactly a flashy show, The American War was still pretty fascinating. The artist, Harrell Fletcher, completely re-appropriated images that were originally on display at a Vietnamese exhibit at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum's original name was the Museum of American War Crimes. (In Vietnam, they refer to the conflict as "The American War;" I don't think anyone there would understand why some Americans just call it "'Nam.") The new display was, essentially, an exhibit of an exhibit, leaving the Vietnamese picture captions and somewhat naive English translations intact.

The image above, on the other hand, comes from the Schmerz/Pain exhibition in Berlin. The show was split up into thematic sections: "Views of Pain," "The Ecstacy of Pain," "The Time of Pain," and "The Expression of Pain." At this point it's impossible to avoid redundancy; you've probably intuited that "schmerz" is the German word for "pain." But it's more than a concept. The curators made some bold decisions as to installation and juxtaposition of various art objects.

The somewhat horrifying Speechless Grey Horse, a "sculpture" that incorporates real horse skin, is placed in the same room as Francis Bacon's Crucifixion (you can see the bastard in the far background) along with a shelved display of medical instruments and jarred specimens. They played Bach's St. Matthew Passion as background music. (I have no idea what that sounds like, but right now I'm imagining an orchestral horror movie soundtrack. ...Some help from you music people?)

But in terms of writing, I was really surprised by Gean Moreno's review of Kader Attia's installation project out in Boston. It's not easy to see at a glance, but this is very clever, negative review. I don't have the energy to really explain it fully at the moment. Here's a basic summary: just because a body of artwork 1) claims inspiration from Chinese philosophy, 2) is inspired also by the poor, difficult conditions of immigrant life, and 3) is executed by an artist from Paris, does not make it good art. It's a much more condensed, and perhaps more crudely iconoclastic, argument than Moreno, but I think it works.

Here are his words:
The installation reeks of the symbolic orphanage, the teen-movie set for the repressed, that suburbia has always been.
He's essentially saying that, in the pursuit of egalitarianism and urbane "diversity," the folks over there in Boston have almost completely erased what authentic content the exhibition could have had. Just look at this thing. WTF?!


So, good reading in general. Although the train hasn't quite made it to Cabbagetown all the way from Cairo, we are making progress. Art Papers is forum for trading ideas. It's just that, for me, the emphasis is a bit heavy on importation. I want to think about the future: production, dissemination, and, ultimately, exportation.

And if you allow me to paraphrase a statement by a certain writer for Creative Loafing: Art Papers looks like it was written by English professors for reading by other English professors. (Just don't quote me. Or her.) I don't exactly agree with that statement; the writing is extremely academic, but it's not universally dry, or bad, for that matter. I like it.

I mean, they let one of their reviewers get away with this opening sentence: "Much art is funny, though rarely LOL." Seriously, that's the first line!

Again, WTF!?



Jonathan said...

thanks for this post - I may actually have to pick up that copy of Art Papers. Maybe it's not "dry" reading, but to be a magazine on the visual arts, it lacks visual stimuli. I'm a huge fan of Berlinde de Bruyckere's work. Her sculptures are universally devastating and beautiful.
But I find it odd Fortin would write about such a local issue as the tornados when the magazine is not aiming to be a local publication, or serve as a platform for the Atlanta art scene.

Jeremy said...

Exactly - it was strange for her to write about that. I've heard it pitched as an "international" art publication with a "slightly Southeastern" focus. Who knows?

I'm not really complaining about the mission of the magazine. I just like to make fun of Art Papers. I'm a subscriber, and I go to most of their events, so it's just fun to laugh at myself really (although at their expense, admittedly). But I'm pleased with them overall.