Magazine article Artforum International

Paul Chan: GREENE NAFTALI

Magazine article Artforum International

Paul Chan: GREENE NAFTALI

Article excerpt

The orgy was already in full swing when I arrived at "Sade for Sade's sake," a predictably serious-minded if surprisingly dry survey of recent work by Paul Chan inspired by the eighteenth-century libertine author and philosopher. Elements of Chan's project--a sprawling exploration, grounded in the Marquis de Sade's work and routed through contemporary sociopolitics, of sexuality, violence, and liberty; of the relation of the body to language and the individual to the law--have been shown at the Venice Biennale and Chicago's Renaissance Society. But this show, Chan's second solo at Greene Naftali, found the artist in summary mode, and included a whole constellation of approaches orbiting around the marquis: more than fifty works on paper executed in ink and in pencil (some further adapted within sculptural scenarios), an ancillary typographic component, and, anchoring it all, the digital projection from which the exhibition took its name, a five-hour-and-forty-five-minute marathon of debauched shadow play.

Like Chan's 2005-2007 installation The 7 Lights, Sade for Sade's sake, 2009, was projected onto "real" space, here a backdrop of shuttered windowpanes, pipes, and radiators, an idiosyncratic native architectural environment that allowed for the kind of dialogue the artist regularly courts between the physical facts of a given place and the spectral elements that appear in his projections. Other than marionette-style "actors," in Sade ... these also include passages of free-floating rectangles, like a disassembled Josef Albers, that afford occasional relief from the frantic humping (as well as the work's only moments of color), and a variety of more familiar architectural silhouettes whose contours suggest at once a devotional environment and the confines of the marquis's infamous chateau, a welcome bit of spatio-narrative context for the video projection's otherwise interchangeable, affect-less characters. Trembling as they frantically go about their business over and over and over again, the anonymous naked figures--all bellies and breasts and twitching cocks--seem suspended somewhere between ecstasy and terror, their movements equally evocative of libidinous quivering and cowering dread while they couple and recouple, often in the presence of gesticulating figures that regularly intervene, as narrators or perhaps givers of laws, in the queasily erotic landscape. …

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