Magazine article Artforum International

Carsten Holler: Musee d'Art Contemporain, Marseille

Magazine article Artforum International

Carsten Holler: Musee d'Art Contemporain, Marseille

Article excerpt

Carsten Holler has come up with a novel approach: more of the same. For his current exhibition at MAC, Holler has simply duplicated a selection of his own works from the last decade, from Moving Image, 1994-2004, to Hotel Room, 2004, and placed both editions on view. These twin sets transform the museum into an architectural Rorschach blot, as each pair is separated and installed in parallel spaces at opposite ends of the building. The axial "fold" includes--what else?--a hall of mirrors, Sliding Doors, 2003, which extends Alice's step through the looking glass: Five sets of mirrored doors open and close automatically around viewers, who are briefly trapped by their own reflections as they make their way through the passage.

Despite its retrospective and reflexive structure, Holler's "Une exposition a Marseille" is less a career survey than a continuation of the artist's recent experiments in self-reproduction. These all started humbly enough, with the letter K at the "4Free" exhibition at Berlin's BuroFriedrich in 2001: For that show, Holler submitted nothing more than an alternate spelling of his name to be added to the list of participating artists (Karsten Holler, 2001). The homonym doesn't hide much as a nom de plume but works well as an orthographic virus, simulating the artist's real title while increasing the possibility of spelling errors. In September 2003, Holler's doubling technique crystallized into a full-scale exhibition, "One Day One Day," at Stockholm's Fargfabriken. The show was announced as one event but featured two press releases, two websites, two invitations, two openings, and even two artworks--The Fargfabriken Light Wall and The Fargfabriken Phi Wall (both 2003)--which were alternately shown and hidden every other day. For a January 2004 interview with the Italian station Radio Arte Mobile, Holler gave both live and prerecorded answers, discrete yet hardly distinguishable from one another: "I often wonder what is hidden behind reality"; "I wonder what is behind reality." And Artforum readers may have wondered about the reality behind two copycat ads in the May issue: one announcing an exhibition by Carsten Holler, the other, a show by Karsten Holler--both taking place over the same dates in May and June at Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York.

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In light of these interventions, the mirrored show at MAC may initially appear to be just another playful take on the real and the fake. Yet in confusing such distinctions, Holler also challenges the certainty of the exhibition as event, from its marketing to its installation--and even its duration (as this review went to print, the MAC show was extended by the length of its original run). Whatever Holler duplicates, his doubles are about doubt, not deceit; they question the finality of reception, not the truth of representation. By reproducing his identity and his oeuvre here and in other shows. Holler has effectively fused his earlier critical works on sexual reproduction with his roaming Laboratory of Doubt, 1999, a Mercedes sedan equipped with two loudspeakers designed to make public announcements about the artist's various uncertainties. His copies might also be compared to Felix Gonzalez-Torres's user-friendly multiples, whether take-away posters or ready-to-eat candies. In the case of both artists, it makes no sense to inquire after the original--though that did not prevent people from asking which opening party for "One Day One Day" was the "real" one, once word got around that there were two slightly different invitation cards. Ultimately Holler offered not posters or candies but two distinct experiences, which, as visitors disputed what they saw at what they thought was the "same" event, gradually transformed the exhibition into hearsay.

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In Marseille, Holler has used multiples to disseminate doubt not in a collective oral realm but within the body of the individual viewer. …

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