vendredi 11 juillet 2008
Fia Backström (White Columns, New York)
That social space between speaking and meaning
A preemptive war of evacuated words and unlawful combatants, it's more than we can take. Luring language reigns rampant and generic, while iconoclastic moves on the image abound. I can't smoke you out, because smoking indoors is not permitted. In with the good air out with the bad. This carpet of slipping senses, handy words to twist meanings for cunning and calculated usage - a visceral occupation of territory set up for US to inhabit. So Words, Don't Fail Me Now!
These are the bankrupt words of the undermined rhetoric no longer yours:
a for agency
f for freedom
r for resistance
exceptions made for CO-rporations or your CO-operative spirit turning them into secret mantras for soulful enlightenment or entertainment - a for Parisian model agence or f as in F U Calvin Klein far out signification. r as in rotten rhubarb pie, somehow anti-slogans enters the ads. Language development from think tank to focus group, market research into politics, finding selling words for a movement of merchan-dizing ideas. Resonating words which obscure the issue; ethnic marketing as site specificity, then criticality, a little whipping à la S/M... the right name is everything for enhancing policy sales. Rhetoric matters!
Looking for CO-ntemporary text (caption, tagline, keyword) in this list-headlines culture. A tailored message for you and you and you, that iconic place in your heart. The critical review, our only public chance to interact with the system in a registered way, a bit like voting in a democracy. Circular logic of the art text, for what is independent discourse if we are all part of one literary community... exchange as in affirmative description. Endless lists of names decorating the ubiquitous ads in the Art magazines, apparently you can build mystery as long as you believe in the story. The axis of art: t$xt–cli$nt–obj$ct. What is at stake, if anything at all? It is not an easy task to grasp a frontier. So don't forget sometimes words are more than enough, or not sufficient at all.
The illusory split between the siamese twins image-logo and text-slogan, a CO-dependant duality dancing the dung around. Currently China totals 85 million illiterate people, mark my words! but then again who needs ABC for logo reading or to visualize a tag line. The collapse of letters with visual culture; to read to think to see... decorative conceptualism turned plain CO-mmercial jargon. A CO-mmunist shared paper situation and a marketplace consumer experience, a public forum, a piazza - a poetry club. A testing ground for language and words that work. A place for reading gone awry, that inter-public feeling beyond ideology and inundating data flow. Writing a grey zone of who is what, where in which position; sliding articulation for another formation shift. A CO-authored environment, an evolving letter, a background where language's communal bead of labored meaning is continually altered. A public discussion and a personal address of merging tongues so that Poetry must be made by everyone or not be made at all.
Walking billboards and word peddlers! A ripped chain of signification for a shifted audience interpretation. I am. I war I write, my life, I misunderstand therefore I am, to Mean, to Do, to Use, to Score, chart upon chart, value more value. A worthless rupture, without meaning or speed, an un-sanitary structure where I and I together make mass of confusion and eruption. For you, for now, for ever!
The project continues Backström’s ongoing investigations into “corporate address and political rhetoric.” The installation – which acts as a counter-point to radical modernist proposals such as El Lissitzky's “pressa” exhibitions and Herbert Bayer's Road to Victory - is an environment without any "images" that takes the form of a discussion club: a space to be socialized through informal and formal meetings, gatherings and readings. Traces of these conversations, either in the form of audio recordings or written transcripts will subsequently be posted into the space. The installation includes Backström’s own works and texts (including wall paper designs), alongside works and texts of other artists and writers (including Julieta Aranda, Julie Ault, Roe Ethridge, Claire Fontaine, Wade Guyton, Matt Keegan, Sister Corita Kent, Jutta Koether, Sean Landers, Olivier Mosset, Bob Nickas, Jack Pierson, Seth Price, and Alexandre Singh amongst others) as well as “found” objects such as the traveling frame for a Jasper Johns painting or the Sculpture’s Center’s “donor panel.” The project will culminate after the exhibition’s closing with a six hour “Poetry Club” – beginning at midnight – with readings from participating artists and guests.
Fia Backstrom, a New York-based Swedish artist known for producing exhibitions, events, posters, magazine ads and conversations mostly as art, or close to it, is having her most substantial solo show in New York to date. Like many artists, Ms. Backstrom favors collage. As with Barbara Kruger and Lawrence Weiner, her main subject and material is language, which she reconfigures and layers together in ways that collapse mental, social and aesthetic notions of space. At White Columns she layers most of the walls with printed matter of some kind, either designed or appropriated, including wallpaper using the words of Ralph Nader or clusters of keywords from the image-retrieval system at Getty Pictures. There are wry letters and statements from the artist — who is adept at conflating linguistic conventions — as well as fresh printouts of conversations that Ms. Backstrom is having in and about the show itself. “Tablecloths for Commercial Galleries” is paper printed with geometric designs using the names of Chelsea galleries and available on rolls like butcher’s paper. Deviations from art-world norms dominate one wall: multiple copies of a Frieze magazine review by the artist Sean Landers of his own work, and unusually clever gallery press releases, mostly for hip group shows. A thoughtful review of one show is appropriated by the artist Jesse Ash and handsomely reprinted and framed. This wall is topped off by an incoherent word painting by Mr. Landers titled “Shut Up and Paint.” Ms. Backstrom has also appropriated works by Sister Corita Kent, Wade Guyton, Olivier Mosset and Roe Etheridge for the occasion; they use language or involve forms that can be construed as letters. A series of sculptures reminiscent of Manfred Pernice provide basic punctuation. Ms. Backstrom reveals the prison house of language in which we all exist to be a soft, inescapable web, ever available for repurposing and revelation.
Fia Backström’s texts and performances employ mind-bending—and sometimes mind-numbing—conceptual conceits and word associations to critique the glut of information that floods our daily lives. Her exhibition at White Columns is replete with dense if often witty writings that skewer such usual targets as fashion, art criticism and advertising. Along with her own pieces, Backström includes and contextualizes works by artists like Roe Etheridge, Seth Price and Wade Guyton—all of whom likewise explore the slippery relationship of image and meaning. An “open letter” at the entrance cites the prevalence of “walking billboards and word peddlers.” A glass panel nearby juxtaposes the names of football players with those of New York Times writers and editors; another lists donors to Queens’ SculptureCenter. Taken together, they seem to suggest that art, news and big-league sports are all equally scripted forms of entertainment. But the artist is interested in more than just exposing the manipulation of information: She’s also intent on creating a sort of mental space for independent thinking. Her installation, equipped with stools and tables of her own design, functions as a reading room while her press release promises planned formal discussions. What she’s encouraging is a form of social interaction beyond the commercially determined exchanges created by marketing. Solo viewing, then, is a bit beside the point. Leaving aside, for the moment, the obviousness of including names like Guyton and Price, Backström’s proposed public programs should add a touch of fun to a show that can sometimes seem overdetermined, albeit completely dead on.