Magazine article Artforum International

"Imagine Action": Lisson Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

"Imagine Action": Lisson Gallery

Article excerpt

The Lisson Gallery turned forty this year, and in celebration its summer show explored the work of a new generation of (mostly European) artists whose practices are rooted in the Conceptual work that the gallery helped pioneer. Curated by Emily Pethick (director of Casco, Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht), "Imagine Action" was billed as a "look at the space between the individual and the social"--a phrase that raises various teasing problems. Given the inseparability of constructions of individual identity and collective social formations, this "space" might be nonexistent. And yet if the individual case is stripped of its particularity and represented as just another category, it is effectively negated. Reflecting the paradox, many of the show's exhibits both revisited, yet seemed subtly to ironize, Conceptualism's tendency to present social relationships through abstract schemata rather than via representations that particularize and concretize subjective social experience.

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The single piece representing the Lisson of the '70s was a work grounded in the models and experimental practices of '60s psychology, sociology, and anthropology: Dan Graham's Performer/Audience/Mirror, recorded on video at De Appel, Amsterdam, in 1977. (Graham also repeated the performance live at the gallery during the course of the exhibition.) the artist's audience, seated before a mirrored wall, is treated to a running commentary on the minutiae of its, and Graham's own, appearance and actions. At an abstracted, structural level, the piece is absolutely reflexive: The physical relation of performer and audience provides the work's explicit subject matter. As regards institutional relations, however, the work's mechanism is very different. The youthful (student?) audience greets Graham's banal chatter about his belt loops, elbow positioning, and lack of dandruff with fidgeting, polite smiles, and respectful silence; the artist's right to monologue goes unchallenged. If Graham's performance of quasi-pedagogical authority is reflexively self-critical, then that reflexivity is premised solely on factors of context and interpretation, not the "letter of the text. …

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