Magazine article Artforum International

Haim Steinbach

Magazine article Artforum International

Haim Steinbach

Article excerpt

TANYA BONAKDAR GALLERY

In an interview published in Art forum's April 2003 issue, Him Steinbach discussed what he saw as the ideal system for pricing what he made: "I devised a formula by which there would be a price for the work--plus the price of the objects. Let's say a shelf has three cornflakes boxes and six ceramic ghosts on it. If the ceramic ghosts arc $ 10 apiece, that's $60; the boxes, at $2 each, would make $6, bringing the total of the objects to $66. So if the price of a given work is $12,000, that's $ 12,066."

The artist's mode of reaching a price point is worth remarking on, because it lays the foundation for an ontological question. If, as Steinbach has it, the price of "the work" is distinct from that of "the objects" that largely comprise that work, just where, we might ask, does the art begin and end? More specifically, were one to subtract the (rather paltry, at least in value) objects from the work, what would be left, exactly? To this end, Steinbach's method calls to mind the way Lacan breaks down the difficult concept of desire. Resorting to a kind of arithmetic, he states, "Desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second." In other words, desire is a supplement, a thing left over, or, put differently, an effect irreducible to the very conditions that produced it.

During the 1980s, Steinbach was shoehorned over and over into discussions of commodity fetishism, simulation, and neo-geo abstraction; but many early critics, in celebrations and denunciations of his work alike, seemed to overlook a key element of what he actually does, which is to assemble groupings of things. These groupings are not, as he has pointed out, representations of objects but presentations of them, and in so being, they may conjure conversations regarding the readymade and its relationship to appropriation, say, or repetition via mass production, but such discussions are only tangential to the brute material fact of what's actually there. …

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