frieze blog

  1. How Institutions Think

    By Max Andrews

    How Institutions Think

    LUMA Arles is located in the former railway yards of Arles and includes a new building designed by Frank Gehry and the renovation of the industrial buildings on the Parc des Ateliers by Selldorf Architects. All photographs: Max Andrews / Mariana Cánepa Luna

    A report from the symposium in Arles, France

    Co-presented by the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College with the LUMA Foundation, the four-day symposium ‘How Institutions Think’ met to reconsider the habits and rhetorics of contemporary art institutions and curatorial practice. The event, held at the Parc des Ateliers, Arles, from 24–27 February, was developed in partnership with a long list of collaborators (Valand Academy of Arts, Gothenburg, Sweden; Afterall Books and the Exhibition Histories programme at Saint Martins, London, UK; Goldsmiths, London; the V-A-C Foundation, Moscow; and de Appel art centre, Amsterdam).

    Taking its title from the 1986 book by British anthropologist Mary Douglas, the symposium played out on the site of the future LUMA Arles, a 20-acre former railway yard that includes a new building designed by Frank Gehry scheduled to open in summer 2018 as exhibitions spaces, archives, residency and study facilities, as well as a restaurant, hotel and park. Introduced by CCS Bard’s Paul O’Neill and LUMA founder Maja Hoffmann, the presentations were hosted in the recently-restored L’Atelier des Forges spaces in the middle of this construction site. O’Neill took the work-in-progress status outside as an invitation for the more than 30 speakers and around 150 delegates to debate not only what the future of art institutions in general might be, but more immediately, how new ways of operating could underpin this nascent institution in the south of France.

    How Institutions Think

    Model of the Gehry building in the information centre buildings at the Parc des Ateliers

    Yet what transpired was something far more pervasive. An amplification of the noun ‘institution’ and the verb ‘instituting’ soon engulfed not only a discussion of art and academic establishments, but law, governance, and the psyche of the French state, post-November 2015 Paris attacks. The grim predicament of a Europe in the depths of the refugee crisis – as the symposium took place, at the other end of the country, Calais’s ‘Jungle’ camp was being dismantled – became the lens for considering nothing less than the spectral institution that is Western European colonial imperialism. In the first evening’s fragmented keynote by Zahia Rahmani, the writer and historian gave an account of the ‘Made in Algeria’ exhibition of colonial cartography she has curated for the MuCEM museum in Marseilles. She argued that we cannot plausibly think about the future of any institution without confronting the terrible failures and opprobrious injustices of the past, most glaringly what she characterised as the ‘toxicity’ of Western Europe’s colonial system.

    ‘Is institution building still desirable?’ wondered artist Céline Condorelli in her presentation the following day as she evoked All our tomorrows (2015), her installation that humbly corralled the symposium’s setting, comprised a large hanging curtain inspired by the ‘poor architecture’ of Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompéia, the social and cultural centre established in São Paulo.

    How Institutions Think

    Clémentine Deliss, Independent Curator and Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg).

    Reflecting on his own transformative experiences made while directing the 2014 edition of the São Paulo Biennial, Charles Esche – Director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands – astutely articulated both the decisiveness of Western Imperialism’s poisonous effect on the rest of the world, and the nervousness about whether anyone can even venture to be hopeful about the future. Esche persuasively argued that Western museums must make decolonialisation fundamental to their missions and no longer a marginal issue by analysing the entrails of neoliberalism’s ‘dogged persistence’ and, soothsayer-like, intuitively sensing the ‘weak signals’ of a more just politics.

    Sociologists Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre spoke of France’s deep investment in what they termed the ‘economy of enrichment’ in observations that were particularly prickly given the art-destination place-making unfolding on the very site of the symposium. They submitted that the luxury brands that dominate the image of the country abroad enjoy a close but officially-unacknowledged complicity with heritage and culture. They argue that this compound myth of the French art de vivre accounts for the country consistently being the globe’s most visited tourist destination, yet also that, less innocuously, France’s defiance of normative economic rules about price and value make it both a haven for inequality as well as unusually susceptible to instability. Put candidly, the presence of refugee and terrorists is not conducive to tourism and handbag sales. Later, speaking about ‘turbo-fascism’ and a transition to ‘necropolitics’ (a term coined by philosopher Achille Mbembe regarding the politics of sovereignty over life and death), philosopher Marina Gržinić contended that we are living in a time of war in which our institutions battle to preserve this ‘good life’ at any cost.

    How Institutions Think

    Céline Condorelli, Artist, Professor at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, Milan, and Founding Co-Director Eastside Projects, in conversation with Helena Reckitt, Senior Lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London.

    Turning more specifically to art’s institutions, independent curator and editor Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez argued that they are so often so deeply implicated in an economy of precarity that they spawn new toothless art forms of ‘safe participation’ and ‘soft interactivity’. ‘Stubborn’ institutions thus appeared to be both the problem and the solution. Accordingly, Clémentine Deliss – recently dismissed as the Director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt – delivered a scorching critique of the racism and intransigence persisting in ethnographic museums founded in the 19th century, particularly in Germany and France. She characterised how the hundreds of thousands of objects ‘salvaged’ from the frontline of the colonial project are now trapped in a legislative embargo, reduced to little more than dormant entries on databases. Access to these hoards of material culture and their restitution is critical she asserted, yet young curators are too afraid to deal with them – contemporary art offers an easier ride.

    In the context her work directing the SBG Gallery in Montréal, Canada, curator Pip Day discussed Canada’s settler-colonialist legacy, the evasions allowed by conceiving of decolonization as merely a metaphor, and her advocacy of the work of First Nation artists such as Maria Hupfield. Bassam El Baroni, an independent curator based in Alexandria, Egypt, later presented a paper that threaded a bewilderingly dense route through a tangle of cognitive philosophy and ‘prometheanism’. Yet Day’s case studies, as well as those discussed by Mélaine Bouteloup, curator of Paris’s Bétonsalon, regarding the recently opened Villa Vassilieff which is now the second site of that institution, helped to link such abstraction to more practical curatorial and artistic thinking-in-action that addresses the past while creating new knowledge.

    How Institutions Think

    Gehry’s LUMA building will comprise presentation and exhibition spaces, archive, library, offices, seminar rooms, artist-in-residence facilities, café-restaurant and hotel and is due to open in summer 2018.

    Yet it was through the presentations by writer Dave Beech and especially architect Keller Easterling that the symposium actually approached something resembling a strategy to address what had been almost uniformly painted as the shameful, broken state of the contemporary institution. According to both Beech and Easterling, we should be paying keener attention to infrastructure rather than institution per se. Following her book Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (2014) Easterling’s bruising and exhilarating contention was that an enveloping urban medium (including preposterous towers, mall sprawl, special-trade-zone legal lacunae) defies consideration as a thing and is better thought of as a global operating system, a ‘disposition’ that thrives on saying one thing and doing quite another.

    At the start of the symposium artist Liam Gillick – one of LUMA’s luminary consultants alongside Tom Eccles, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno and Beatrix Ruf – had asked somewhat rhetorically, ‘can an institution be thought collectively on this scale?’ It was clearly not only Charles Esche who looked out at the spine of what will be a 24,000 square metre Frank Gehry-designed tower and noticed that the institution’s die was cast already – and thanks to an architect long synonymous with the art museum as an importunate form of trophy. Following Keller’s strategic spatial repertoire of ‘counterbalances’, ‘interplays’, ‘toggles’, ‘incentives’ and ‘ratchets’, as well as her talk of heeding the dynamics of joke-telling or dough-tending, she implied that if we are going to formulate a resilient future for art institutions, we had better start feeling our way – and get a whole lot more canny.

  2. Critic’s Guide: New York

    By Amy Zion

    Critic’s Guide: New York

    Ana Mendieta, Sweating Blood,1973, super-8mm film. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Lelong

    In an ongoing series, frieze asks a critic to select the best shows currently on view in their city. A new show will be posted each day this week.

    Ana Mendieta ‘Experimental and Interactive Films’
    Galerie Lelong
    5 Feb – 26 March

    This exhibition runs concurrent with ‘Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta’ at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderale, with both shows presenting works recently discovered by the gallery and the artist’s estate. As the first gallery exhibition of the late artist’s films in New York, it features 15 films as well as sound works and archival material dating back to 1971, when the artist was just 22.

    Politically inflected from the beginning, the works testify to the range of Mendieta’s technical experimentation, but although only one of the 15 films that are shown side-by-side has sound, her work begs for a more intimate installation. Truthfully, I wish I could have been perched on a small bench, watching the films in succession, instead of standing and darting from one to another, as many works consist of long shots in which movement or change is barely perceptible. That said, this is undeniably a rare opportunity to experience such a wealth of previously unseen footage and gain a deeper insight into this important artist’s work.

    Critic’s Guide: New York

    Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, ca.1980, ink and graphite on paper, 27 × 34 cm. Collection of Dossal Family (Mariam Panjwani, Zeenat Sadikot, Laila Khalid)

    Nasreen Mohamedi
    The Met Breuer
    18 March – 5 June

    One of two inaugural exhibitions at the Met Breuer, this retrospective of the late Indian Modernist Nasreen Mohamedi, who passed away in 1990 at the age of 53, follows a smaller presentation of drawings and photographs at the nearby Drawing Center in 2005.

    The show traces the chronological development of Mohamedi’s drawings as they transform from vaguely figurative ink and graphite compositions to highly abstract, grid-like compositions. Presented alongside are countless photographs and notebooks littered with concrete poetry and small abstract compositions, both keys to understanding the drawings and works in their own right.

    While offering the obligatory biographical notes about the artist’s travels and her shifting influences, the accompanying wall text also makes reference to Mohamedi’s battle with Huntington’s disease. The condition increasingly affected her motor control towards the end of her career, in inverse proportion to how controlled and deftly precise her works eventually became.

    Critic’s Guide: New York

    David Hammons, Orange Is The New Black, 2014, glass, wood, nails, acrylic, 64 × 41 × 33 cm. Courtesy Mnuchin Gallery

    David Hammons, ‘Five Decades’
    Mnuchin Gallery
    15 March – 27 May

    Formerly L&M Arts, the Upper East Side Mnuchin Gallery staged several solo exhibitions with the notoriously illusive and selective David Hammons before deciding to present this relatively small yet powerful retrospective – the first of its kind since MoMA PS1 mounted ‘Rousing the Rubble’ in 1990.

    The exhibition positions more recognizable works like In The Hood (1993), Smoke Screen (1990-5) and Spade (Power for the Spade) (1969), alongside photographs from the artist’s personal collection, shown publicly here for the first time and set to a soundtrack of traditional Japanese court music. The poignant selections are installed in an eccentric manner that doesn’t aim to totalize or over-define Hammons, whose Untitled paintings and sculptures from the last three years are evidence that, almost half a century after the likes of Spade were realized, there is no sign of waning creativity.

  3. Bunny Rogers: Portfolio Part 3

    By Bunny Rogers

    Bunny Rogers: Portfolio Part 3

    Looney Tunes, ‘A Witch's Tangled Hare’, 1959. Courtesy the artist

    As part of an ongoing series, Bunny Rogers presents a series of images that are important to her. A new image will be posted every day this week.

    The Bugs Bunny soup trope

    Bugs Bunny is a highly sought after and presumably delicious animal. He has a great personality, can make light of any situation, is lean and supple, and knows when to show vulnerability.

    One of the most popular ways in which predators attempt to catch Bugs is to trick him into thinking he’s taking a bath, when he is actually in a hot soup-pot. The whole process of Bugs testing the water, sinking into the ‘tub’, enjoying himself, sometimes washing himself, slowly realizing the water is getting hotter and hotter and then taking in the appetizing smell is the closest we come to seeing him get fucked on screen.

    Episodes in which Bugs Bunny gets in a soup pot:

    ‘Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt’ (1941)
    ‘Wackiki Wabbit’ (1943)
    ‘What’s Cookin’ Doc?’ (1943)
    ‘Hare Tonic’ (1945)
    ‘Which is Witch?’ (1949)
    ‘French Rarebit’ (1951)
    ‘Bewitched Bunny’ (1954)
    ‘Bedevilled Rabbit’ (1957)
    ‘A Witch’s Tangled Hare’ (1959)
    ‘Shishkabugs’ (1962)
    ‘Bill of Hare’ (1962)

    (Side note: in My Little Pony, season 3, episode 13, ‘Magical Mystery Cure’, Rainbow Dash is tied up and put into a cauldron for stew.)

    Bunny Rogers: Portfolio Part 3

    Peter Pan, 1953

    A seagull lands on Hook’s hot-toweled face as if to roost. Mr. Smee accidentally prepares and shaves the seagull’s bottom instead of Hook’s face. The seagull appears mortified and tries to hide its nakedness as it flies away.

    Bunny Rogers: Portfolio Part 3

    Felicity pulls a magic ribbon from her bracelet to replace Lisa’s broken shoelace

    Wee Sing in the Big Rock Candy Mountains, 1991

    The ‘Big Rock Candy Mountains’ are the fully realized dreamscape of a fourth-grader named Lisa. The gatekeepers are interactive, living stuffed toys (plushies) who direct Lisa to keep doing what she’s doing, only different.

    Not through the power of believing ‘hard enough’, but through activating internally understood secret codes does Lisa find an escape route from her stationary backyard playset to something much more elaborate. The mountains are a physical backdrop befitting all of her best friends and all of her favourite things: a land where ‘you never change your socks’. It is Lisa’s self-reflexive world, nourished by self-replenishing bushes and endless sun.

    Big Rock’s Lisa (‘Sad Lisa’; ‘Lisa Bright and Dark’) proves that private domains and imaginary friends are indistinguishable from their real world counterparts, and can be visited with the slight twist of a dial.

  4. Briefing

    By frieze


    The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons; photograph: Hans Peter Schaefer

    Team Gallery closes its Wooster Street space, Tate Modern’s visitor figures drop and Galerie Perrotin plans a new branch: a round-up of the latest art news

    • London’s Tate Modern has registered its lowest visitor figures in ten years, with a drop of around 18% – down from 5.8 million visitors in 2014 to 4.7 million in 2015. The British Museum tops the capital’s museum figures with 6.82 million visitors, a slight rise from 6.7 million. Tate anticipates better numbers this year following the opening of its long-awaited extension in the summer.
    • French art dealer Emmanuel Perrotin will open a new branch of Galerie Perrotin in Seoul, South Korea, next month, in the city’s Jongno-gu district – home to Kukje, Hyundai and a number of other local galleries. Galerie Perrotin currently has spaces in Hong Kong, Paris and New York.
    • Artist David Hockney and director Mike Leigh are amongst the 80 leading cultural figures to speak out against the proposed transfer of more than 400,000 objects from the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK,
      to London.
    • After five years, Team Gallery in SoHo, New York, is set to close its space at 47 Wooster Street due to a recent rent hike. The final exhibition will feature the work of long-standing Team artist, Cory Arcangel.
    • Sculptor Phyllida Barlow will represent Britain at the 2017 Venice Biennale. In addition to receiving an Order of the British Empire in December of last year, London-based Barlow has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Lokremise, Switzerland.
  5. Web Browser

    By Pablo Helguera

    Web Browser

    A new illustration from Pablo Helguera