Magazine article Artforum International

Forcible Remove: Annie Ochmanek on Christopher D'Arcangelo

Magazine article Artforum International

Forcible Remove: Annie Ochmanek on Christopher D'Arcangelo

Article excerpt

In an attempt to find alternatives to "curatorial control" I am making the following proposal to you the reader:

A. You will find that the following page of this journal has been left blank. That page is yours.

B. You can remove that page from this journal and do anything you want on it.

C. You can then install the page anyplace in the viewing space of LAICA, at any time and in anyway you want.

I am aware of the fact that this proposal is a product of "curatorial control." In any case it is my hope that, through these kinds of activities from inside and outside the art world, we may find alternatives to the systems that control our lives.

THE BLANK SPREAD that appeared in a 1977 issue of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art's Journal was a characteristic contribution from Christopher D'Arcangelo--an open invitation and an instrument of exposure that delineates its own boundaries. Maneuvering among the structures of the art world, D'Arcangelo worked within certain blind spots where inside and outside meet, or where distinctions are erected between the art institution and its larger social and economic context. "It is not the paradox but the space between the two parts of the paradox that is important," D'Arcangelo wrote in a 1975 notebook, and it is these spaces to which he committed himself. Building walls and refurbishing loft spaces and calling these jobs "functional constructions," he and fellow artist Peter Nadin conflated manual and artistic labor, noting in their contracts that this was done "as a means of surviving in a capitalist economy." And in solo actions and demonstrations, D'Arcangelo inserted uninvited material into exhibition spaces while employing tactics of surrender and self-arrest, in order to put latent apparatuses of control on view. An assistant to Daniel Buren and a pupil of Ian Wilson, D'Arcangelo enlisted Conceptual art's established strategies of language-based production and dematerialization for acts of vandalism and direct confrontation. If by then performance work and the event score had allowed for a propitiously open-ended instruction, and if Lawrence Weiner had established that the piece need not even be built, D'Arcangelo would shackle any such liberatory propositions to their institutional capitulation. His was a mode of resistance that attempted to shift the relationships governing our existence, even while acknowledging that his hands were tied.

Within a span of five years, ending abruptly when he committed suicide in 1979 at the age of twenty-four, D'Arcangelo staged unannounced interventions in six different museums. At the Whitney Museum of American Art, during the Biennial of 1975, he chained his wrists to the front doors' handles, causing traffic to build up on either side of the institution's point of entry. The following statement was stenciled on his bare back: WHEN I STATE THAT I AM AN ANARCHIST, I MUST ALSO STATE THAT I AM NOT AN ANARCHIST, TO BE IN KEEPING WITH THE (_ _ _ _) TDEA OF ANARCHISM/ANARCHISM LIVE LONG. The sentences would accompany all of his actions and most of his correspondence from then on. Presented here in its full complexity, like an object being viewed from all sides, anarchism was introduced like a foreign body to an ecosystem, bringing with it an awareness of the possibilities kept out by the museum's doors.

In the rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum later that year, D'Arcangelo lay facedown with this statement printed across his back, his hands and feet cuffed, leaving the keys in an envelope nearby. With the help of a frantic docent, the quizzical cops discovered the parcel and freed his hands--an unusual reversal about which the artist was reportedly thrilled. In 1978, he "reinstalled" a Gainsborough painting at the Louvre, unhinging it, resting it on the floor, and pasting a text in its place that asked, when you look at a painting, where do you LOOK AT THAT PAINTING? …

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