Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda

By Diehl, Travis | Artforum International, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda


Diehl, Travis, Artforum International


REDCAT

Who are Jay & Q? And what have they been doing these past ten years? Nylon flags decorated the walls, each featuring a drawing of two horse heads sporting matching hats, and bearing the same rough script--10 YEARS OF JAY & Q. The gallery floor was comparatively empty, punctuated by three monitors on pedestals and the gallery's two preexisting structural columns. Via the few artworks physically present, we were encouraged to interpret the show through the artists' biography, which has spanned so far from their first collaboration (begun in 2002, while they were still students at the Stadelschule in Frankfurt) to this, their latest exhibition, staged this past summer at REDCAT. But this celebration was reflexively absurd, tempered by its own mock ambitions (the pedestals carried televisions, while the columns supported a Frank Gehry concert hall). Ready-made strategies, textual appropriations, and post-Conceptual deflections abounded; even elements as prosaic as the gallery's fluorescent lights seemed part of some dark joke.

The most traditional, most referential piece offered a starting point: Untitled, 2012, a video in three parts featuring a man who is neither Jay Chung nor Q Takeki Maeda but an actor whom they have directed to channel a timeless Conceptual-art patriarch--a metareference by which the two artists position themselves at the tail end of an art-historical lineage. As the monologist sits in a rustic courtyard, hair parted down the middle, he paraphrases statements by the likes of Duchamp, Mike Kelley, and Christopher Williams--"dads" effectively scolding younger artists for aping the style but conveniently forgoing the rigor of their predecessors. In this, Jay & Q accuse themselves of lazy Conceptualism. But the master has a point: Mere appropriation and endless reference no longer challenge established ideas of art. Undeterred, Jay & Q simply exploited the exhaustion of "newness" or "radicality," performing underwhelming versions of the strategies typical of the particular context that REDCAT might signal (a noncommercial gallery tied to the California Institute of the Arts, breeding ground of West Coast Conceptualists). And so, as in Modus Tollens, 2003, a work in which the duo collaboratively didn't board an airplane, their REDCAT exhibition deferred the expectation of a career-making critical tour de force, instead delivering a pointedly lackadaisical critique of their own premature self-canonization. …

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