Magazine article Artforum International

Sam Pulitzer: Artists Space

Magazine article Artforum International

Sam Pulitzer: Artists Space

Article excerpt

The number of parts that Sam Pulitzer piled into his first US institutional exhibition, "A Colony for 'Them," is so massive that it might take a book to account for them all, never mind the vast amount of text that appeared across the show's walls. One might go so far as to say, in fact, that this glut of signifiers could be read as a demand that the exhibition not be reviewed, that it would prefer, to borrow a phrase from the critic Dick Hebdige, to continue "hiding in the light." Hebdige has long written about various subcultures, from mods to punks to skinheads, and Pulitzer himself trades heavily in similar "underground" associations while updating them to correspond with today's Net-dependent microcultures. I have to admit that I know next to nothing about the groups from which Pulitzer draws, which embrace everything from black metal to fantasy literature--they are too great in number and too complex. So I can only understand this exhibition, on a certain level, as a Wunderkammer stuffed with an immense number of references to obscure interest groups. But was this exhibition made to be understood?

One entered the show the normal way--through Artists Space's terrifying elevator--but once one arrived on the third floor, it was no longer clear which way to turn. A number of white walls sourced from earlier exhibition architectures conducted the visitor every which way, though a mock-introductory metallic sign posted close to the elevator pointed to the journey's beginning. While clearly nodding to certain precedents of institutional critique (one might think, for example, of Michael Asher's late work at the Santa Monica Museum of Art), the exhibition architecture, I'm told, was meant to translate the logic of MUD (multiuser dungeon), an early form of online textual gaming, into actual space, and in this sense it continued at least one aspect of Asher's practice: that of rendering systems visible. Serving as the show's defining factor, this armature doubled as a display device as well, fleshed out as it was by full-bleed images of pagan symbols and mystic hands (popular among some metalheads) that were matted on the walls like big, sticky subway ads. The work of a host of Pulitzer's collaborators--a litany of young, largely unknown artists whose names were printed on remote corners of the exhibition literature, with the inimitable Bill Hayden given pride of place--these additions had little impact as works in themselves despite their apocalyptic nature and having been granted such prime frontage. The labyrinthine exhibition was far more interesting in terms of form than in terms of content. …

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