Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Leckey: MoMA PS1, New York

Magazine article Artforum International

Mark Leckey: MoMA PS1, New York

Article excerpt

HERE'S THE BAIT AND SWITCH: Each new technology that further isolates individuals first promises to connect them. It was film's potential to organize collective perception that so excited Walter Benjamin: "The ancient truth expressed by Heraclitus, that those who are awake have a world in common while each sleeper has a world of his own, has been invalidated by film," he wrote, "and less by depicting the dream world itself than by creating figures of collective dream, such as the globe-encircling Mickey Mouse." Alone together in the darkened theater, the proletariat would commune with new totems.

Had Benjamin lived long enough to observe the rise of television, he might have switched out Mickey for Felix the Cat, whose image was the first ever broadcast electronically, at the NBC studios in 1928. Mark Leckey has long been fascinated with this origin story, perhaps because it so uncannily prefigures the present-day apotheosis of Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, and other "globe-encircling" feline memes. In his lecture-performance In the Long Tail, 2009, Leckey hails Felix as a quasi-divine force--an angel, agent, and allegory for the internet's atomization of mainstream culture into ever more precise demographics of desire. Felix's likeness appears throughout "Containers and Their Drivers," Leckey's retrospective at MoMA PS1, most prominently as a giant inflatable, crammed into a corner gallery. Between Felix's bulging legs lies a platter laden with coins and trinkets: offerings to the deity.

The work of Mark Leckey is both wildly original and unmistakably British. At their headiest, his installations of cardboard cutouts, LED screens, video projections, and 3-D-printed replicas conjure the serendipitous sublime of infinite open tabs on a web browser. Simultaneously, they recall the Independent Group's iconic genre-scrambling kiosks of mid-1950s mass media. A retrospective of Leckey's prodigious output is thus more an exhibition of exhibitions--a characteristic that MoMA PS1's idiosyncratic architecture emphasizes. Following a precedent established by the last major monographic show mounted in the building, "Mike Kelley" (2013-14), curators Peter Eleey and Stuart Comer have placed each body of work in the space best suited to displaying it, rather than in any order that traces a theme, constructs an argument, or follows a progression. On the third floor, Leckey's breakout video Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, 1999, plays across the hall from his most recent project, Dream English Kid, 2016. Downstairs, a row of smaller rooms features several videos and lecture-performances made in the interim, including Cinema-in-the-Round, 2006-2008, Concrete Vache, 2010, and Pearl Vision, 2012, and another suite of galleries showcases a version of "The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things," a multifaceted experiment in curating, digital distribution, and on-site production that Leckey staged across several venues (including a project in Artforum) over a six-year period. Any visitor who consults wall labels to understand Leckey's chronology will be stymied by date listings such as 1996-2014 (for Are You Waitings') or 1999-2002-2010 (for Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore with Sound System). If most retrospectives adhere to the linear logic of a printed book, then "Containers and Their Drivers" approximates the sprawling structure of an unevenly updated website. …

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