Hand in (Invisible) Hand: An Editorial
If the late 1990s saw economic globalization and travel expand at an accelerated rate, it did so hand-in-hand with the retro, late modernist iconography of plane travel. This was a symbolic universe that sloshed through the sleek desktop wave tanks of late twentieth century art, design, music, and fashion like so much gorgeously consumed jet fuel. The storyboard is familiar enough: the allure of airport carry-ons, ubiquitous logo silhouettes of 747s, and ecstatic music videos set on international tarmac. Along with the tragic and spectacular course of events that were about to ensue came the fracturing of this visual world in the twinkling of the new century. Over time, the fragments of this period would be dredged-up from media memories. The bits would be tagged, numbered, and safely stored for deferred reconsideration in the hangars of people’s minds.
Some artists, such as the Amsterdam-based Carlos Amorales, have tried to rehabilitate—or at least recalibrate—this vector-based golden age. In Liz Bruchet’s review of Amorales’ recent Buenos Aires exhibition, she describes how the deceptive reworking of his “liquid archive” of Mexico City combines “pattern making and chaos, morality and pleasure” in the hope of achieving what the artist describes as the unconscious liberation of the carnivalesque. In contrast, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in his interview with Robert Eikmeyer, would prefer that people dispense with their faith in the carnivalesque. For Žižek, it is the “day after” that is of more importance. The interview considers biopolitics, the multitude, the legacy of Marx, Hollywood, and liberal communism, among other subjects.
And if Amorales prefers to mine the language of graphic design, still others dig holes into more conceptually oriented geographies. Aaron Peck questions the adoption of utopian architectural rhetoric and practice within the recent wave of activist and artistic practices featured in the book Did Someone Say Participate? (2006). Peck is skeptical as to whether this book of “spatial practices” ever really “mobilize(s) a disruptive ‘cultural front’.” Rather, he wonders instead if these practices merely trot out an array of already existing “art/architectural” flora and fauna. For Nate Lippens, too, the recent architectural turn in contemporary art offers little stimulus. For him, the gallery-based works by Seattle architect Alex Schweder presents a more palpable solution through “intimacy and disorientation” and a doubling of bodies.
If the dialectic between centre and periphery is central to Did Someone Say Participate?, it is also a tension that anchors other events and exhibitions under scrutiny in this issue of Fillip. Kathleen Ritter, for one, identifies this dialectic in her appraisal of the conference “Regimes of Representation,” recently convened in Bucharest, investigating a repurposed notion of the frontier and its newfound use by Western Europeans in relation to the topos of their Eastern cousins. This gathering attempted to probe the fallout of the recent refurbishing of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu’s public purse-busting Casa Poporului into the new “Palace of Parliament.” Ritter asks: what is to be gleaned from the “white cube” of the new National Museum of Contemporary Art’s recent “insert[ion] into the backside” of the state’s main government offices?
Attending the Romanian conference were the curatorial troika of René Block, Nicolas Bourriaud, and Ami Barak. Christian L. Frock’s essay angles its vision upward at the Orion’s Belt-like constellations of this new brand of art curator. For Frock, these itinerant figures manage their various multinational enterprises not through some inherent superhuman genius (though smart they may be), but rather through a fistful of communications technology, cemented institutional relationships, and a team of far-flung helpers—that is, through a panopoly of rarely profiled collaborators.
It is perhaps fitting then that beneath the glow of this interstellar retinue is Pontus Hulten, whose recent passing, Patrik Andersson reminds us, is an opportunity to reconsider earlier curatorial models of collaboration and itinerancy. Evoking a time prior to the sneaker-clad curatorial impresario and the laboratorial turn in multi-staged exhibitions, Hulten always kept a phone line open to innovative and kinetic art exhibitions and a foot in the international grillwork.
One need not travel to be moved, but movement can be a catalyst for transport. For Every Jetliner Used in an Artwork... (2006), an exhibition by Geoffrey Farmer, catalyzes transport and compels Colleen Brown to muse on anthropomorphic objects and the “metaphysical conundrum” made present by the expansive growth and displacements of an abandoned airplane hull. For Brown, Farmer’s art is a smattering of small gestures, or “distant, worldly particulars.” The notion of the particular, with its “opposition to the idea,” can be read in relation to Jean-Luc Nancy’s formulation of the distinct— “a force of separation, demarcated what is set aside.” Cheryl Meszaros peers through the View-Master of Nancy’s two most recent English translations in her appraisal of Hiding, Ruth Beer’s twin video projection. Beer’s work points to a series of performative withdrawals—effacements of the figure establishing “breaks in the flow of institutionalized meaning,” and making the artist’s “presence distinct.”
This presence—and the degree to which it is foregrounded or effaced—is a key problematic that arises in the pages of this issue. The notion of authorship surfaces in Michael Eddy’s appraisal of the exhibition Anonym (2006–07) as well as in Joseph Mosconi’s review of Aurie Ramirez and Sara Mameni’s writing on Kristin Lucas. Similarly, collaboration is an important undercurrent addressed in Nicholas Brown and Jesse Birch’s review of Jeremy Deller and Clint Burnham’s discussion of the video work of Erik Van Lieshout.
In the loose gathering of writing that makes up Fillip 5, the twin dialectics of centre versus periphery and authorship versus collaboration surface in complimentary and conflicting ways. These dialectics represent multiple contact points and contradictions that have emerged following the golden age at the end of the last century and its crash plume of euphoric iconography. If, as Žižek argues, the truth of globalization is that the more commodities circulate, the more populations will be prevented from doing so, then new forms of collaboration will become even more important. Artists are addressing these complexities in increasingly sophisticated ways. It is criticism’s role to track these creative lines of flight outside of single-issue frameworks and limiting thematics.
About the Author
Jordan Strom is a curator and writer based in Vancouver. He is Founding Editor of Fillip. He currently works as Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Surrey Art Gallery.