The past three months have been quite a rush; they encompassed the end of the fall semester, a move to a new apartment, the holidays, another move to Germany for the first half of my Spring 2016 fellowship at the Bauhaus, a few completed articles (on information infrastructures, infrastructural aesthetics, and index cards), several public talks (on media furnishings, epistemological design, sensing infrastructure, and library design), lots of advising, and a completed book manuscript. Still, I managed to squeeze in a few hours in galleries:
First, to celebrate the submission of fall grades, I stopped by Little Sister (Is Watching You, Too), curated by my colleague Christiane Paul, @ Pratt Manhattan Gallery:
Augustine Kofie’s “Inventory” — office-supply assemblages and Charles-Sheeler-meets-the-Constructivists media-archaeological collages — @ Jonathan Levine:
Walid Raad — deconstructions of the exhibitionary complex, anti-archives, Baldessari-meets-Forensic-Architecture bullet-hole mappings, etc.– @ MoMA:
Some great “aesthetics of administration” stuff, especially from John Houck (whom I’d seen before at On Stellar Rays) and David Hartt, in MoMA’s “Oceans of Images” photography show:
Also in December: “Alternative Unknowns” (Elliott Montgomery + Chris Woebken) @ Apex Art:
Then in Berlin, in February: Anette Rose’s fantastic “Captured Motion” — the mechanical and human gestures of automated manufacturing — @ Haus am Lützowplatz:
Back in New York in February: Hiroki Tsukuda’s “Enter the O” @ Petzel:
Tauba Auerbach’s brilliant “Projective Instrument” — featuring a lovely assemblage of glass tools — @ Paula Cooper:
Lari Pittman’s “Nuevos Caprichos” @ Gladstone:
Penelope Umbrico’s excellent “Silvery Light” — which highlights both the indexical relationship between light and photography, and the derivative nature of iconic photos-of-light — at Bruce Silverstein:
Mark Dion’s “Library for the Birds of New York” @ Tanya Bonakdar:
The symbolism is quite obvious, but still charming. The gallery explains:
Central to the installation is an 11 foot high white oak, referencing a range of important philosophical and scientific constructs: the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, and the evolutionary tree, which serves to illuminate the phylogenic system created by man to understand the structure of the biological world. “The Library for the Birds of New York” also includes artifacts of capture such as bird cages and traps, referencing hunting for the exotic bird trade. Other imagery is symbolic of death, extinction, and the classification of birds as pests or vermin. These historical categorizations position man atop an implied hierarchy, and are juxtaposed with a subtle insistence that birds possess knowledge outside of the human experience, rendering them fundamentally unknowable by man. The birds are uninterested in these objects; thus underscoring the absurdity of a manmade library for birds, which purports to school them in subjects such as geography, navigation, and the natural world, of which they inherently have full command.
Finally, Taryn Simon’s “Paperwork and the Will of Capital” — photos of the floral centerpieces at tables of monumental negotiations and signings-of-business-deals-and-international-agreements — @ Gagosian. I love this idea of the “floral witness.”
In Paperwork and the Will of Capital, Simon examines accords, treaties, and decrees drafted to influence systems of governance and economics, from nuclear armament to oil deals and diamond trading. All involve the countries present at the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, which addressed the globalization of economics after World War II, leading to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. In images of the signings of these documents, powerful men flank floral centerpieces designed to underscore the importance of the parties present. Simon’s photographs of the recreated centerpieces from these signings, together with their stories, underscore how the stagecraft of political and economic power is created, performed, marketed, and maintained.
Each of Simon’s recreations of these floral arrangements represents an “impossible bouquet”—a concept that emerged in Dutch still-life painting parallel to the country’s seventeenth-century economic boom, which ushered in the development of modern capitalism. Then, the impossible bouquet was an artificial fantasy of flowers that could never bloom naturally in the same season and geographic location. Now the fantasy is made possible—both in the original signings and in Simon’s photographs—by the global consumer market.
Yet I have to wonder: how much did it cost, and how much energy was expended, to source all those flowers?!