Magazine article Artforum International

"Theanyspacewhatever": Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Magazine article Artforum International

"Theanyspacewhatever": Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Article excerpt

MAYBE WE'VE FINALLY GIVEN UP on the "old realism of places," as Gilles Deleuze put it. In his book Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1983), he used the term espace quelconque--"whatever-space" or "any-space-whatever"--to describe the cinematic image of undone space that, however shattered or blurred it may be, is also a space of pure potential. It could be a wasted urban void or a shaky zoom into the luminous screen of a Macintosh. It is a postwar feeling of lost coordinates, a certain anonymous emptiness. It is a space that could be "extracted" from the familiar state of things embodied in a place like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, leaving us even more floating and detached than before in the great rotunda. It is both ruined and fresh.

The discourse that supports the work of the ten artists included in "theanyspacewhatever"--Angela Bulloch, Maurizio Cattelan, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Holler, Pierre Huyghe, Jorge Pardo, Philippe Parreno, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, artists who were routinely grouped together in exhibitions in Europe throughout the 1990s but had never before been collectively presented in an American museum--links their practices to notions of promiscuous collaboration, conviviality, "relational aesthetics," open-endedness, and the exhibition as medium. While such claims are typically inflected with a radical if not utopian promise that sounds even less credible today than it did ten years ago, it should be said that, in their own statements, the artists themselves have been more ambivalent about the emancipatory possibilities of contemporary creative networks and exhibitions that emulate pubs, kitchens, laboratories, island holidays, or open-plan offices rather than product showrooms. Still, a long decade of effort by the artists and curators who populate this exhibition and its catalogue went into producing the feeling of a legitimate, international, hyperactive, jet-set avant-garde for these times--one that put the dream of the self-organized community back at the center of its project. It spread everywhere, seeped into institutions (from which it sometimes seemed to lose any distinction), and spiraled calmly down the drain of the Guggenheim. At the bottom, Cattelan's Pinocchio floated facedown in a pool of water (Daddy Daddy, 2008), a Disneyfied version of a hard-core neorealist ending to this collective story--a false ending that greets you upon entering the show.

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It's usually at the very moment when an idea like "community" is on the verge of extinction that it becomes so obsessively evoked, even fetishized, in the art world. Echoing historical models such as Fluxus, but more sedately, and responding to contemporary influences such as institutional critique, but with a softer and more with-it attitude, the artistic strategies championed by curators such as Nicolas Bourriaud, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Maria Lind de-emphasize the finished product in favor of discursive situations, whether these be Plexiglas "discussion platforms," shared meals, semi-fictional texts, participatory "scenarios," or films based on conversations. Such scenarization and programming of social intercourse within art projects and institutions has brought frequent accusations of formalism, if not cynicism, against certain of these artists (see October 110 [2004]). And it's true that in the whatever world, discourse goes hand in hand with design and decor. In the Guggenheim, for example, one encountered Gillick's floating powder-coated steel texts (INFORMATION HERE, A CONTINUATION, etc.), which attempted to have some Broodthaersian fun with the fact that the museum is also a system of signs and commands (theanyspacewhatever signage system, 2008). Gordon contributed stick-on fragments of banal verbiage (NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME) around the rotunda, viral advertising style (pretty mucheverywordwritten, spoken, heard, over heard from 1989 . …

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