lundi 17 mars 2008

la Biennale du Whitney 2008 (4)

Phoebe Washburn, While Enhancing a Diminishing Deep Down Thirst, the Juice Broke Loose (the Birth of a Soda Shop) (2008)

Dernier retour critique sur la Biennale du Whitney avec l'avis tranchant du très influent critique Jerry Saltz, titré "When Cool Turns Cold", soulignant qu'elle a le défaut d'être "trop intelligente".

"The Art School Biennial. Not because the art in the new Biennial is immature or because the artists all went to art school—although I bet they did—but because it centers on a very narrow slice of highly educated artistic activity and features a lot of very thought-out, extremely self-conscious, carefully pieced-together installations, sculpture, and earnestly political art.

These works often resemble architectural fragments, customized found objects, ersatz modernist monuments, Home Depot displays, graphic design, or magazine layouts, and the resultant assemblage-college aesthetic, while compelling in the hands of some, is completely beholden to ideas taught in hip academies. It’s the style du jour right now. (It also promises to become really annoying in the not too distant future.)"

"Like many young curators, Huldisch and Momin are more cerebral than they are visual, and this show feels very, very controlled. The art and its presentation are orderly and methodical. Viewed over time and on repeated visits, the works develop interesting interrelated cross-conversations. But the circumspectness and consistency mean there are few moments that stop you in your tracks, confuse, delight, set your nerves on end, or provide moments of “What is this?” There’s little that’s overtly sexual, shocking, angry, colorful, traditionally beautiful or decorative, almost no madness or chaos. The show doesn’t alchemically add up to more than the sum of its parts.

Huldisch and Momin assert that current art is exploring what Samuel Beckett called “lessness,” and that it’s in a “do-over” phase. Huldisch writes that artists are working in modes of “anti-spectacle” and “ephemerality,” and employing “modest, found, or scavenged materials.” Momin adds that the do-over “creates an unfixed arena of past possibilities,” and that artists “think viral, act viral.” I’m not sure what that means, but it may be her curatorspeak way of saying that artists are working together and off one another, and that they’re making use of the open-source systems, self-replicating strategies, and decentralized networks of our YouTube-MySpace world. These things are changing the look of art, and of cattle calls like the Biennial. Or they’re starting to, anyway.

It’s clear the curators only have eyes for installation, sculpture, and video. There are 81 artists in this show, only seven of them painters by my count. Four of them—Olivier Mosset, Robert Bechtle, Mary Heilmann, and Karen Kilimnik—have been lauded for years. The youngest painter, Joe Bradley, 32, contributes three works that are boring, puckered versions of Ellsworth Kelly. These curators seem to think that painting is incapable of addressing the issues of our time or that it’s passé. I suspect Momin and Huldisch didn’t want to include painting at all. Although that kind of academic orthodoxy is moth-eaten—a medium has potential until the ideas it addresses are exhausted—it’s a shame they didn’t go all the way with that notion. A No Paintings Biennial would’ve at least made everyone hysterical.

On the upside, Momin and Huldisch should be congratulated for mounting a thoughtful show that, while academic, is neither dogmatic (painting/photography dis notwithstanding) nor sprawling (recent biennials have been crammed with over 100 artists) nor sexist (about 40 percent of the artists are women, which may be a Biennial record).

Critics have already called this show both pro-market and anti-market. It’s neither, and it takes the position that most artists take: The market isn’t the point. Given that the consistency of the show means that the art tends to blend together, the things that stand out do so because of qualities like color, scale, or outright oddness, rather than for their preapproved art-world signifiers."

Il choisit de mettre en avant les oeuvres de Mika Rottenberg ("something like an animal language of images. You don’t know whether to think"), Phoebe Washburn ("sprawling sculpture/termite tower/ greenhouse"), Cheney Thompson, et Jedediah Caesar, pour leur qualité à se rendre indéfinissables. "Their art throws viewers “don’t ask” visual curveballs. (...) It’s a welcome change to be lowered into the trapdoors of perception this way."

"That kind of engaging strangeness is at work in the best films and videos on view."
ex.: Omer Fast ("outstanding"), Natalia Almada ("the sadness turns outlaw"), Amie Siegel ("a subtler rupture").

"The three most effective films in the show are the craziest. In them you sense humanity tugging on the bit, mired in uncontrolled emotions."
-Coco Fusco’s indoctrination into the interrogation techniques of the U.S. military;
-Olaf Breuning’s treatise on hapless American ecotourism;
-Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn’s wild woman walking around L.A. with Viking horns on her head and a hunk of fake cheese under her arm.

Pour échapper à "l'esprit de sérieux d'école d'art" qui domine la Biennale, il conseille de commencer par les performances et installations proposées au Armory:
"I’ve seen outstanding performances by the legendary “loser” Michael Smith in which he dressed in a baby diaper and interacted with audience members, Gang Gang Dance playing a twenty-minute set of tribalistic trance music from behind a huge mirror, and, best of all, Marina Rosenfeld’s Teenage Lontano, in which she had 40 teenagers from New York public schools stand in a long line as they sang the vocal section of György Ligeti’s 1967 Lontano, a piece of modernist music from the 2001: A Space Odyssey era. Watching this piece, I felt the opening of a portal between a failed utopian past and the possibility that the more real present is already something to love. I was transported."

"This show comes at a restless, discontented moment. Institutional critique has become an institutional style, and the socioartistic movement known as “relational aesthetics”—that is, art that’s all about your own relationship to being in public with it—has gone mainstream. Most in the art world want more than that. They’re longing for art to be more than just a commodity or a comment on art history. They yearn for a less quantifiable, more vulnerable essence, perhaps what Lawrence Weiner called, “the eternal little surprise of Well, is it art?” I still have faith in Momin and Huldisch, but while some of the art in their biennial has this essence, much of it simply looks like what art looks like these days."

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