Magazine article Artforum International

"Repetition": Fondation Boghossian-Villa Empain

Magazine article Artforum International

"Repetition": Fondation Boghossian-Villa Empain

Article excerpt




Some exhibitions of contemporary art aspire to abstraction in their location, such that what is presented in New York might be seen without sensible alteration in Paris or Mexico City. Other shows speak more immediately of their times and to their places, and this category includes Nicola Lees and Asad Raza's "Repetition." It could hardly be otherwise, given that it was hosted by an institution--the Fondation Boghossian-Villa Empain--dedicated to fostering a dialogue between the Middle East and the West through art, and that the show opened in Brussels a mere two months after the attacks on the city.

To the ear of its Francophone audience the show's title meant two things: repetition, in the general sens e shared with English, as well as rehearsal. But what was being repeated and rehearsed? At least to begin with, accidents. Repetition, for many artists in the show, is a way of inviting accident. The show's inspiration, and its most iconic work, was Accident, 1963, a lithograph by Robert Rauschenberg. It was given this name because the stone with which the artist was working cracked in the process of its making. Yet the first work encountered by visitors to the foundation's elegant home in the Villa Empain was an even more visceral expression of this theme: Mariana Telleria's Before Our Birth, 2016, is made from the twisted wreckage of countless automobile accidents, gathered and transformed by the artist into a work that occupies the space heavily, like a frozen catastrophe. Beyond was a stack of newspapers prepared by Rirkrit Tiravanija in which the news is not good. Against the backdrop of the Belgian daily Le Soir is printed in bold letters: the days of this society is numbered. The message seems clear enough, until one notices its grammatical error. Is this to say that those who announce the end of things, those who see imminent collapse, are ignorant? And why printed over Le Soir? Because of its collaboration with the Nazis (when it was they who lived and worked in the Villa Empain)? The notification tends to confuse, if only because the point of getting it wrong is so hard to get right. Perhaps it was an accident.

The most intensely rehearsed repetition in the show was a hugely engaging dance piece by Andros Zins-Browne titled Already Unmade, 2016. …

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