All art is contemporary when it’s made, a concept the artworld’s infrastructure has enthusiastically echoed over the last decade, whether via modern museums abandoning timelines, the Metropolitan Museum tilting towards contemporary art or fairs juxtaposing the antiquated and box-fresh. So Tim van Laere’s time-traversing group show Take care, amigo
, whose theme otherwise appears to be ‘figuration’, is very much an artefact of its time; nevertheless, we’re stoked to see Otto Dix hanging next to Armen Eloyan (excited to see Dix anywhere, actually); the latterly reclusive A. R. Penck, industrious Romanian Adrian Ghenie and, perhaps unsurprisingly, works by three of the gallery’s Belgian artists: Peter Rogiers’s sculptural phantasmagorias, Ben Sledsens’s brightly domestic paintings and Rinus Van de Velde’s elaborate black-and-white episodes from the life of an imaginary artist. Meanwhile, who knows what Take care, amigo
refers to: last line of dialogue in a Mexican arthouse epic, Spanish edition of a Drake album? We’re not asking. We’re joining forces with the unknown.
And those last five words, by total coincidence, are the English translation of Faisons de l’Inconnu un Allié
. Part of the four-year lead-up to the Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette’s reopening in a Rem Koolhaas/OMA-renovated building in 2017, this 15-practitioner group show – in a temporary Marais bolthole – mingles art, design, fashion: artists such as Camille Blatrix, Yngve Holen, Tyler Coburn and Cally Spooner, Icelandic designers/creatives Studio Brynjar and Veronika, and Australian fashion designers Perks And Mini. Anyone who thinks these worlds are incompatible needs to peruse more galleries (or fashion, or design), but here they’re gathered under ‘a commitment to change, whether social or cultural, tangible or symbolic’, and an interest in production processes. Which meshes neatly, natch, with the foundation developing a new space. Call this a red carpet spun from cross-cultural practices.
Artists who tunnel into a single medium are exceptions these days. Witness, in the UK, and allied to the fact that we are all writing (online) more of late, the latter-day rise of loquacious artist/writer centaurs such as Ed Atkins and Bedwyr Williams. Atkins, enough of a scribe that Fitzcarraldo Editions has just published a book of his writings, A Primer for Cadavers
, takes five rooms of the Castello di Rivoli to demonstrate, using new works and earlier ones from 2013 onwards, his prodigious entwining of digital video and abundant language. In these, lately accompanied by sculptural elements, his glowering near-human avatars spill emotions in a testing of how feelings might persist – or be lost, or misread – within the intensities and simulations of technology. Williams, meanwhile, offers countermanding humour (Atkins does humour too, only of a pitch-black variety). In previous works, frequently projecting into absurd futures, the Welshman either referred mordantly back to his own biography (a piece from 2006, Walk a Mile in My Shoes
, involved multiple iterations of his size-13 footwear) or played characters including a one-eyed preacher, the Grim Reaper and, in Century Egg
(2015), an uncovered fossil – in this case, sitting in the ground while a juxtaposed cocktail party is imagined as the site of a future archaeological dig. At the Barbican, in The Gulch
, a succession of surreal and theatrically staged scenes that guides us along the stretch of the venue’s Curve gallery, we’re promised more footwear in the shape of a pair of singing running shoes, a depressed hypnotist and a talking goat.
The career of Wim T. Schippers encompasses art, absurdist radio and TV shows, and a stint as voice actor for Ernie, Kermit et al in the Dutch version of Sesame Street
. He occasioned the first nudity on Netherlands TV (not, we might note, as part of the aforementioned kids programme, but cue joke about nether regions) and has also been a composer, playwright and director. The whole thing, Bonner Kunstverein director Michelle Cotton avers, could be seen as a parody-laced Fluxus project, though Schippers equally has roots in Pop. Calling on loans for what is his first retrospective in nearly 20 years and apparently Schippers’s first ever solo outside the Netherlands (where he’s a celebrity), the institution brings together the various angles, from examples of his TV work to artworks including his most famous piece, Peanut Butter Floor
(1969), a sculpture made from 750kg of peanut butter, and, standing outside the gallery from the beginning of autumn, the fully decorated Indian Summer Christmas Tree
(1969). That year, the Guggenheim Museum invited him to do a show; Schippers apparently never responded. Now seventy-four, international recognition might beckon – if he wants it.
From Bonners to Bonniers: there’ll be a test on this later, don’t snooze. Don’t snooze anyway, because Bonniers Konsthall is currently kicking the covers off Insomnia
, a group exhibition curated by institution director and ArtReview
contributor Sara Arrhenius, and dedicated to that eponymous syndrome. Or rather, sleeplessness and how sleep itself has mutated in recent times, due to interrelated shifts in technology and ideology. (We didn’t, for example, use to sleep eight hours a night; we had a couple of shorter sleeps and got up in the middle. Now many of us sleep with our smartphones on our pillows, always available. Maybe it’s not better.) Anyway, following a 12-hour opening on 24 September, expect to encounter Carsten Höller’s roaming, mechanised beds – in which one can spend an uneasy night – alongside new works by Leif Elggren, Kate Cooper and Rafaël Rozendaal (whose billboard project extends into the surrounding area), and historical somnolence-related art by Mladen Stilinovic ́, Maya Deren and Andy Warhol.
From his work crypto-authored by fictional collective the Atlas Group between 1989 and 2004 to his ‘own’ projects, Walid Raad’s art has dealt with the possibility of veracity: initially in regard to his native Lebanon and particularly the impossibility of reproducing the truth of its civil wars between 1975 and 1991 from archival materials, but increasingly with reference to the changing art scene in the Middle East as a whole. In his cornerstone project since, Scratching on things I could disavow
(2007), Raad uses freestanding walls incised with holes where the shadows of absent artworks would be: a poetic suggestion of how these venues interfere with the larger histories behind the works they show, how their ‘shadows’ might be symbolically erased. As the infrastructure of the Middle East artworld evolves and expands, evidently, Raad is going to track and query it: in part via his directly activist work as part of Gulf Labor, in part via artworks. Either way, as this 25-year survey (his first retrospective in Latin America) of photography, video, sculpture and the intermittent lecture-performance Walk through
ought to demonstrate, the Atlas Group clearly won’t overshadow him.
Montreal! Most populous city in Quebec, home of the Just for Laughs festival! And a big jazz festival! ‘Canada’s Cultural Capital’ according to Monocle
magazine! (Closes Wikipedia.) It also, since 1998, hosts La Biennale de Montréal. This time the event is subtitled The Grand Balcony
, after Jean Genet’s play Le Balcon
(1955), in which the titular place is a brothel, a house-of-mirrors for perverse acts and the acting out of power, while a revolution takes place in the city outside. The venue, in Philippe Pirotte’s show, will apparently become a metaphoric staging ground to rethink issues such as the ruined ecology, ‘the accelerating dematerialisation of the economy and the evolution towards a global prophetic community turned against itself’. Whatever that last bit means, there’s a professed gravitation towards image-driven art and the sensual, with some fashionable and upscale galleries getting their lists filleted along the way. Artists include Moyra Davey, Luc Tuymans, Anne Imhof, Frances Stark and Thomas Bayrle, and later in his statement Pirotte invokes the Marquis de Sade. So if this isn’t the first sadistic biennale ever mounted – and we have the scars to prove it – it might be the first self-confessed one.
This article was first published in the October 2016 issue of ArtReview