Cornford & Cross. (Reviews: London)

By Withers, Rachel | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Cornford & Cross. (Reviews: London)


Withers, Rachel, Artforum International


NYLON

In the past, Matthew Cornford and David Cross have ironized their corporate-sounding nom de guerre by using a business card that reads "Cornford & Cross: Problems Solved." "Problems Generated" would be nearer the mark, and their first London solo show (an overdue event, given the scope and ingenuity of their work since 1996) featured eight project proposals their prospective patrons judged too problematic to realize. They include plans to deposit a severed chunk of oil pipeline somewhere in Afghanistan (The Treason of Images, 2001/2002); to erect a section of highway overpass in London's Green Park (This England, 1998/2002); to half-sink an industrial chimney in a Midlands reservoir (Coming up for air, 2001); to ferry Liverpool Biennial visitors around that city inside the contemporary, privatized equivalent of a Black Maria (The End of Art Theory, 2001/2002); and to fly the flags of three nations ostracized by UK diplomacy--Taiwan, Bhutan, and, of course, Iraq--from the dignified roof of Liverpool's Cunard b uilding (The Ambassadors, 2001/2002).

These thumbnail descriptions suggest a practice founded on the supposedly obsolete avant-garde strategies of provocation and transgression. Via their completed projects, Cornford & Cross have indeed earned their share of spluttering news headlines, and it's easy to imagine, say, the 2002 Liverpool Biennial selectors quailing at having to go through the public-relations acrobatics the civic display of an Iraqi flag would have demanded. But if this is a nostalgia trip, it's an entirely self-conscious one. For example, the artists summarize Avant Garde, 1997/2002--a proposal to reproduce a 1964 photo of overheated mods and rockers mistreating deck chairs as a giant billboard on the Brighton seafront--as "an official commission which aestheticizes youthful rebellion" and "an example of recuperation, the process by which the social order is maintained." The term avant-garde, their proposal intones owlishly, "became widely used to describe anything fashionable... [then] reached exhaustion and fell Out of contempora ry use. …

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