Eat to the Beat

London
10.10.05

Left: A live performance of Plat du Jour at the Sonar festival, 2005. Right: Matthew Herbert.


I expect to be offered psychoactive drugs and scalped tickets outside a concert. But an apple? Then again, the Barbican Centre’s concert hall is used by classical musicians, and this is a Monday night Matthew Herbert gig—or, more specifically, a performance of the British electronica boffin’s recent eco-friendly platter, Plat du Jour. Someone has already pressed a complimentary copy of The Ecologist magazine into my hand, and the audience (gaunt metropolitan girls for whom the apple might be a little fattening and who say “dude” without a hint of irony, guys who work for hip-hop labels like Stone’s Throw and dish about “folktronica”) is plumped out by lots of clear-skinned kids sporting brown corduroy and white dreads. The apple, meanwhile, is guaranteed English—unlike pretty much all the apples you get in English supermarkets, as the bandleader points out onstage—and pesticide-free. When Herbert, mid-concert, exhorts everyone in the audience to take a bite at once, they make a big crunchy noise that he samples for future use. Most of the people in the audience have done this for him before: “Now it’s apple time,” he says. “Woo woo,” says the audience. Herbert stamps his white Wellies and congratulates us on our percussive skills while the two aproned chefs cooking stage right gaze out happily. Welcome to the Rocky Horror Ecology Show.

Herbert (no relation, so far as I know) is, along with San Francisco-based Matmos, electronic music’s premier materialist. On previous records he’s sampled the sounds made by household implements, the human body, and books by Chomsky and Michael Moore. Plat du Jour’s clattering polyrhythms and wandering chromatic melodies were built up from samples of foodstuffs implicated in the worldwide decline in nutritional standards allied to the pursuit of the corporate buck: Broiler chickens, Coke bottles, sugar- and salt-laced snacks endorsed by celebrities, etc. Its sonic structures correspond to statistics about excess and starvation: “These Branded Waters,” a track employing manipulated mineral water, is 5 minutes 30 seconds long because, says Herbert, “sanitation coverage is fifty-three-percent in Bangladesh.”

All very clever, but as the band—including a percussionist playing Pyrex jugs, Coke bottles, and raw eggs, and three people, the classically trained Herbert among them, manning samplers—runs through the album for the final time on this tour, precious few heads are nodding to the beats, which makes you wonder whether the self-imposed constrictions have resulted in a dearth of thrills. (Herbert himself is jerking as if he’s being electrocuted.) Then again, it’s a seated audience and there’s a spectacle to be viewed on stage. The aforementioned chefs are continually preparing food, some of it to be sampled—not meaning “eaten”—and a fan—not meaning “a person”—wafts the scents out into the audience. (In previous performances they sampled everything; but, laments Herbert, “that took too long, and it didn’t always sound very good either.”) The scent of toast takes a long time to go away, as Scatman Crothers pointed out in The Shining. There’s also some grisly footage of supermarket chickens and microwave meals scrolling past on a screen above their heads. The best use of this is for the penultimate track, “Nigella, George, Tony, and Me,” in which the meal Nigella Lawson cooked for Tony Blair and George Bush during a state visit is run over by a Chieftain tank manned by a crazed-looking Herbert.

The audience goes nuts for that one, but they’re clearly expecting it: The whole affair has the feel of a self-congratulatory rite, the £20 ticket price a tithe dropped in the collection box for the privilege of reminding oneself how impeccably socially aware one is. That self-confirmation happens at all gigs, though. If, thanks to Plat du Jour, one goateed English hip-hop dude foregoes the burger-chain feedbag in favor of healthier fare—as I did on the night train home—Herbert might fairly say it was worth it.

Martin Herbert

Stealing the Show

Marfa
10.08.05

Left: Prada Marfa at night. Right: Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen. (Photos: Lucas Michael)


Marfa, Texas, home of the Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd’s sprawling museum, sits squarely next to nothing at all, a town of 2,500 residents that is accessible by rather spectacular desert highways and, more directly, by Lear jet. Recently, the town itself has proven to be almost as much of a tourist attraction as Chinati, enjoying a burgeoning reputation as an austerely chic, exclusive little contemporary art mecca. Craig Rember, the Judd Foundation registrar, put it well when he told me that Marfa is now a town where you can find Goethe at the local bookshop, drop $50,000 on some art, and spend $300 on supper but where it’s difficult to get a haircut or batteries. It’s also something of a surprise to discover a real estate feeding frenzy, where modest land parcels are being snapped up—sight unseen—for immodest money.

My wife and I rolled into town at about eight on Saturday evening, just in time for the opening reception we were scheduled to attend forty miles up the road—a walk to the deli by West Texas standards. After checking into our hotel, we floored it through pitch-black night to Valentine (estimated population: 160). We arrived to find an incongruous glowing box perched on the side of the road—a small structure about the size of a taco stand. Behind its shatterproof, plate-glass windows were posh-looking high heels and handbags. There amidst the tumbleweeds, in the very landscape where Giant was shot, was a boutique displaying accessories from Miuccia Prada’s fall 2005 collection. Was this the inevitable apotheosis of Judd-effect gentrification? Not exactly—it was Prada Marfa, Elmgreen & Dragset’s new, permanent sculpture, produced by local nonprofit Ballroom Marfa and New York-based Art Production Fund (co-founded by Doreen Remen and art maven/fashion enthusiast Yvonne Force Villareal). It’s more or less a perfect, if small, replica of a typical Prada emporium—except it will always be closed.

About fifty people were kicking up some dust under a crystal-clear canopy of stars. Orbiting Villareal, who warmly welcomed us, was a varied collection of confused locals and New York artists poncing about, Chelsea style. A couple of bejeweled, well-heeled ladies, trumped up in safari gear, were overheard declaring their disappointment that some of the sexy stilettos were out of stock back in Manhattan. At the bar, Ronald Rael (who designed the structure along with Viriginia San Fratelli) pointed to a floodlight that had attracted a swarm of moths and exclaimed, “Look, Prada Mothda!” San Fratelli mentioned that the structure, though consistent with Prada’s sleek image, was made from adobe. Somehow, this humble material (which Elmgreen told me is used in sixty percent of the world’s dwellings) failed to give the structure a common touch. The Berlin-based artists have a knack for stashing things where you wouldn’t expect to find them—they recently installed an ‘80s-era subway station in the basement of the Bohen Foundation in New York’s meatpacking district. One can only wonder what undocumented immigrants, who regularly cross the border nearby, will think when they stumble across Prada Marfa dehydrated and frightened. It’s a kind of perversely weird welcome mat.

Cruising out of town the following afternoon, we decided to have a second look at the thing in daylight. Another informal reception seemed to be in full swing. Out of the back of a pick-up truck, cocktails were being served to some fancy-looking cowboys and a few people we’d seen at a charming party hosted by Ballroom Marfa’s, Fairfax Dorn the night before. Someone was passing around a bottle of absinthe as I chatted with Boyd Elder (the sometime rancher who used to supply The Eagles with “inspiration” and generously donated his land for this project). “Everything was running smoothly until the Texas Railroad Commission told me that the awnings were trespassing on their land,” Boyd told me. “But we figured it out eventually.” Elmgreen and Dragset looked mischievous hanging out by a local’s customized shit-kicker wagon/hearse adorned with an impressive set of bullhorns. It was a less-than-subtle reminder of where I was—a desolate patch of land in a state whose motto seems to make belligerence a point of pride. Someone, at any rate, apparently felt that Elmgreen & Dragset had messed with Texas. In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the sculpture was vandalized: The words “Dumb” and “DumDum” were spray-painted on two of its outside walls, and six purses and fourteen right-foot pumps were stolen.

Adam E. Mendelsohn

Left: A view of Tom Friedman's exhibition at Feature. Right: A scene from artist Lee Walton's “life theater.”


Legendary Feature Inc. director Hudson describes the “more inspired . . . larger jumps” in Tom Friedman's latest work as a function of “maturing, expanding one's consciousness, expanding one's thinking.” The delicate, precious (yet conceptually rigorous) new works crowding the modest space precluded the possibility of an opening party, and on the first day of the show connoisseurs and the curious alike were admitted by appointment only. Continuing his Wittgensteinian explorations into the nature of experience (with an Einsteinian bent), Friedman tinkers in paper, paint, Styrofoam, and stuffing, fashioning a universe of phenomenological phenomena. In contrast to earlier explorations (or experiments, as he would describe them), Friedman now combines a variety of his signature materials within single works.

My 4:30 appointment left time before Chelsea openings, so I downed a quick egg cream at neighborhood standby Empire Diner and then caught the C train downtown to see the shows at Art in General. Arriving just after six, I found the art-seeking crowds already beginning to file in to see the new exhibitions. In the ground level window space, artist Lee Walton had installed a “life theater,” where guests could sit on particle-board bleachers and watch the show unfold on Walker Street (the real spectacle, of course, was the guests themselves). Beyond its rather didactic interrogation of the spectator-spectacle relationship, the piece soon realized its potential as a “chill room,” though the mothers and babies and murmuring couples had to share their quiet time with some even more antisocial characters. (A thin man in an NFL baseball cap with an NYPD patch sewn on the back came in and muttered something about “stealing your souls” to an instantly wary audience before staggering out). Upstairs, artist-in-residence Chemi Rosado Seijo produced a skate map of New York (with young scenesters gathering cross-legged in semicircles around the 411-style videos), and on the sixth floor, artists Sharon Hayes and Melissa Martin showed their newly commissioned works. Martin's crafty Pop-meets-Renaissance science portrait of her father as an (anatomically correct) array of cross-sectioned, shrink-wrapped butcher-counter meats, arranged in a faux refrigerator—made, all 300 pounds of it, entirely of chewing gum—might signify any number of outré Freudian conflicts. Martin notes that she had to chew all the “fat” herself to achieve the proper consistency. “I stepped into the role of the father,” she explained. “My spit became like sperm.” Throughout this exegesis her actual father stood beaming by her side, his arm around her shoulders. In the adjoining room, Hayes's exploded multi-screen video installation (with four projectors and a central tower of monitors) featured on-the-street interviews (in the tradition of Chronicle of a Summer) shot during the month or so between the Republican National Convention and mid-October 2004.

Left: Artist Melissa Martin with her father. Right: Mark Borthwick.


Hailing a cab back up to Chelsea, I got off at West Twentieth for the closing of Feigen Contemporary's “Carry On.” Fashion photographer (and musician, artist, and filmmaker) Mark Borthwick had taken over the gallery for the evening, draping a wall of his own photographs with multicolored streamers and spreading figs, red grapes, and wild apples on stiff kale leaves across the gallery floor amid pots of black-eyed susans, bundles of mint, and eucalyptus leaves. (Needless to say, the air was heavy with the scent of another ancient herb.) I arrived just as the crowd passed around some crumbling, green tea-infused chocolate. Borthwick was sitting inside a teepee frame—replete with windchimes—cradling a guitar as he breathed lines about love, interspersed with Sigur Ros-like yodels, into a microphone. Also needless to say, there was a bongo accompaniment, provided by artist David Aron. Sitting on the floor on a felt mat and stuffing bits of dried fruit in my mouth, I found myself wondering what the Ray Johnson bunnies peering out of their collages amid assorted mandalas and third-eye paintings (the press release terms the show “a gentle psychedelia”) were making of it all.

Up the street, John Connelly Presents was showing Nick Lowe's compulsively rendered drawings including “heads with cornrows vomiting into toilets, feeding flip-haired, hand-holding bodybuilders” all atop, of course, the ubiquitous pile of skulls. The hour of eight had come and gone, but I managed to slip inside Yinka Shonibare's opening across the street at James Cohan just before they shut the doors. The show, titled “Mobility,” was based on Sir Henry Raeburn's portrait of the Reverend Robert Walker ice skating. Skipping ahead a century in foot-powered technology, Shonibare's signature caramel-skinned, headless dandies in batik couture now perch atop nineteenth-century-style unicycles. Only the eclectically patterned guests rivaled Shonibare's richly patterned textiles (which included a bicycle batik): I saw bindis, Japanese scarves, peacock feathers in hair, and a woman wrapped in a Near Eastern print with a slit carefully cut for a peek of cleavage. (Happily I had chosen plaid-on-plaid for the evening.) Always one for the switcharoo, the artist himself stood apart from his admirers in a sharp black suit—perhaps a sartorial homage to his Reverend muse. In a room drafty with the crosswinds of postcolonialism, Shonibare's unicyclists were up to more than one tough balancing act.

Michael Wang

Deaf Jam

Los Angeles
10.06.05

Left: Terry Riley. (Photo: Lenny Gonzalez) Right: Acid Mothers Temple.


“Excuse me, do you—is this—do I find the earplugs here?” “I’m sorry—exc—I’m so sorry, do you have the earplug box?” “Hi, hey, yeah, do you—you don’t happen to know—where they put the box with the earplugs?” It’s around 10:30 on Saturday night in the lobby of Royce Hall, UCLA’s home for the performing arts, a dour, doughty, Lombardian fortress erected in imitation of Milan’s Church of San Ambrogio. This is the kind of place you go to for an evening of John Cale burbles, or maybe some Laurie Anderson found-word poems, or perhaps a deadpan morsel of Tom Waits or Lou Reed. You know, the boomer avant-garde as seen in the BAM Next Wave brochure, that annual lineup of well-into-their-fifties, once-edgy cats, as predictable, really, as Marty Allen following Jack Carter and Shelley Berman at Caesar’s Palace back in the day. What you most assuredly do not typically find at Royce Hall is a rush of well-heeled West Side minimalist-music aficionados tear-assing into the lobby to raid the cardboard box of earplugs. But the concluding performers of the night, the Japanese trippy/metallic noisemongers Acid Mothers Temple, are cranked so high their amps are belching Spinal Tap-ian clouds of purplish smoke.

It’s Terry Riley’s latest seventieth-birthday bash. At the start of the festivities—oh, about three and a half hours ago—UCLA Live’s impresario, the effusive David Sefton, informed us that Riley’s birthday was actually in June, and that he has had several shindigs since then, though ours has the distinction of being “the last of the celebrations.” It was clear that Sefton, an excitable Brit, had an agenda. This wasn’t going to be some fuddy-dud, Ph.D.-in-composition, grit-your-teeth evening of “new music” appreciation. No, this was UCLA Live, remember? And so the curator decided to sacrifice the sensibilities of his largely bobo, very academic subscriber base on the altar of Prolonged Sustainable Hipness. Sefton decreed that, after performances by electronic duo Matmos and Riley himself, a bunch of eardrum-searing Japanese neo-hippie hipsters would round out the evening with a rendition of Riley’s landmark keyboard composition “In C.”

As an oldster with fragile ears, I stand in the hallway just outside the auditorium, enjoying the rolling eyes of Vanessa Verdoodt, a Dutch-Belgian UCLA undergrad who can’t believe the wussiness of L.A.’s faux-edgy audiences: “Where I come from, if you come out of the club and your ears are not ringing so you cannot hear, they didn’t do a good job!” I can’t begin to describe the depths of wussiness to which I feel I’ve descended as the sonic onslaught drives me through the Royce lobby to the lounge, where, in a bizarre culture clash, the reward for the evening’s aesthetic rigors is a plastic cup of Bud Light on draft. Of course, even here, a good 200 feet from the big doors to the main hall, you can feel Acid Mothers Temple in your kneebones and the fillings in your teeth. Still, it seems craven not to endure the “permanent damage” Sefton promised, up close and first hand . . . until I notice the gentleman to the right of me in the ersatz VIP lounge. Long white beard, Father Christmas smile, eyes closed in chuckling beneficence . . . who is this dude greeting a gaggle of random well-wishers? An aging biker? A Boyle Heights car-wash owner? No, wait . . . good Lord, it’s Terry Riley! The birthday boy himself is blowing off the cow-sterilizing decibels of his acid-metal acolytes. I guess I don’t have to flay myself after all.

Two views of Acid Mothers Temple's performance. (Photos: Justin Hall and Colin Blodorn)


The crowd around Riley seems to split about fifty-fifty: Half Santa Monica culture vultures, half adorable teen hipsters who look like they stepped out of Bresson’s The Devil Probably. Somewhere in the center is a passel of early-middle-aged new-music types, like Phil Beaumont and Bruce McKenzie of the brilliant ambient-psychedelica ensemble Maquiladora, who toured with Acid Mothers Temple and revere them still. The soulful McKenzie, who once described himself as “Steve McQueen meets Jennifer Jason Leigh,” likens Riley’s four-hand piano piece to the nightmarish player-piano works of Conlan Noncarrow.

As for the Bressonian teens, I have one of the most surprisingly insight-strewn conversations I’ve ever enjoyed in a theater lobby with a trio of youthful Rileyites who see a continuum between his pioneering trance states and twenty-first-century digital composition. “Youth culture’s preoccupation with noise is naïve,” opines Annie O’Malley, a twenty-one-year-old senior at Occidental. “You look back at Beethoven and he was writing something to reproduce the feeling of the end of a rainstorm. Today there are things like Animal Collective that aim higher than just producing torturous sound—they aim for transcendence.” What’s Animal Collective? A quick Googulation tells me a) that it’s an outfit whose sound recalls “the psychedelic freak-outs of ‘90s west coast isolationists like Caroliner and Sun City Girls, the emotional hooks and bursts of punk, the textures and structures of minimal techno (à la the Kompakt label),” etc., and b) that I hate music critics. T.K. Broderick, a musician and recent USC film student, suggests that the question facing Riley’s compositional heirs today is the role of the listener: “How can the audience participate in real time? Be non-passive?”

The sagest exegesis, however, comes from one of three short, squat, mushroom-Afro’d white teens who emerge from Royce Hall in Acid Mothers Temple T-shirts with ehhh-whatever sneers on their faces. “It’s not that I don’t like feedback,” one of them shrugs, clearly at the beginning of an aesthete’s lifelong journey of cred-proving. “It’s that I don’t like this feedback.”

Matthew Wilder

Vito Longa

Amsterdam
10.04.05

Left: Vito Acconci in conversation with Jeroen Boomgaard. Right: Artist Rezi van Lankveld and gallerist Juliette Jongma.


It all started Thursday night on the eleventh floor of POST CS, the Stedelijk Museum’s temporary home in Amsterdam’s former post office building, where Vito Acconci was giving a talk in conjunction with his—I should say their, since technically it’s the Vito Hannibal Acconci Studio—retrospective, opening the next day.

But before that, at 7:30, W139, an alternative gallery space also taking temporary shelter in the POST CS building (albeit in the less glamorous basement) was launching a series of books, short monographs on recently graduated art students. They were running late as usual, in their laid-back, alternative-space kind of way. By 7:45 none of the scheduled speeches had commenced. Most days I’m happy to linger, but this time I just wanted them to get on with it so I could follow the buzz echoing through the hallways: Vito, Vito, Vito…. I discreetly bailed at 7:55 and headed upstairs to the “auditorium” (a rather official term for what was really just one half of the eleventh floor, the other half being taken up by the restaurant and hangout spot sensibly named Club 11). Most of the front row was marked “reserved,” something new in Amsterdam. Evidently it meant that some bona-fide VIPs were in our midst. Feeling deserving, I sat down in the hallowed row, next to Corinne Diserens, curator of the show, which was initiated by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and co-organized by the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. She was next to Barbara Gladstone. Behind us, the auditorium was packed, proof that we Amsterdam residents crave not only stardom (though every true down-to-earth Dutch citizen will deny this) but also intellectual stimulation … and that perhaps we’re not getting enough of either.

Acconci spoke with Professor Jeroen Boomgaard from the University of Amsterdam for a full knee-drumming, foot-tapping hour about his practice, moving chronologically (like the show itself). He began, as he did the last time I saw him talk—in Miami four years ago (but who’s counting?)—by discussing how he started as a writer, not an artist. “I became obsessed with the page, with the page’s sense of space. Choosing a word became impossible—any word referring to anything outside the page was wrong. Only direct references were possible, words like ‘there’ and ‘here’.” And from the middle of the page he moved to the edges and then to the corners and then right off of it onto the street, entering the art context through the back door, in order to defy, as he put it, the “Do Not Touch the Artwork” signs, which to him “seemed immoral, as though art was more valuable than people.” Asked to participate in the “Street Works IV” show in 1969, he came up with the infamous Following Piece. At this point in the talk he dropped a bombshell, revealing (for the first time, as far as I know) that the legendary photos of this work, of Vito apparently following different people in the street are—brace yourself—staged. He never had pictures taken during the actual following. In fact, it was really because of gallerists that he started to make documentation at all, the kind of documentation that could be sold for as much as a painting. Instead he believes that documentation should be just that, documentation: Cheap, free for all, unlimited. I looked over two seats.

Left: Stedelijk Museum curator Maarten Bertreux with gallerist Waling Boers. Right: Artist Yang Fudong, an interpreter, and Stedelijk Museum director Gijs van Tuyl.


“Isn’t he divine?” Gladstone smiled to Eva Presenhuber, who came to say hello after the lecture. One young American artist could only agree, practically drooling as she opined, “I could fall in love with him, even though he’s three times my age. The way he talks, his passion, I hung on every word.”

The opening the next day was fine. Just fine. A bit quiet. The museum’s newish director, Gijs van Tuyl (brought in to put the museum back on the art world map, for God’s sake!) asked me, “Where are all the people of your generation?” Downstairs in the basement, I thought, drinking and smoking and probably dancing by now. “We have to make this museum young again, get the young people back to the museum. Wake it up and shake it up. This is a small town and it needs more….”

More indeed. Steve McQueen (one of Holland’s most prominent artists, though not Dutch) and Bartomeo Mari (MACBA’s chief curator and former director—pre-Catherine David—of Witte de With in Rotterdam), apparently weren’t enough for a proper celeb attendance score. Was everyone packing for the “EindhovenIstanbul” opening—a pendant to the Istanbul Biennial—at the Van Abbemuseum the next night? Probably the biggest and most welcome news spinning around the Becks bottles was Nicolaus Schaffhausen’s appointment as new director of Witte de With. Maybe soon we’ll meet everyone there. Though not a basement, I hear it’ll be swinging.

Maxine Kopsa

Left: Dr. Christina Weiss with award recipient Monica Bonvicini. Right: Boxer René Weller with artist Tobias Rehberger.


I woke up Saturday morning to find red wine stains on a blouse I wore to the Tuesday night awards ceremony for the €50,000 Nationalgalerie Prize for Young Art—odd, considering that I thought I had only drank champagne. That was several nights ago, so heaven knows what blows my memory has suffered in the meantime. I vaguely remember a story the director of the Kunstverein Braunschweig, Karola Grässlin, was telling me about riding a hotel elevator up and down all night long—like a somnambuliste dangereuse—until her beau, gallerist Christian Nagel, came to her rescue. That was at the Clegg and Guttman book release party, and I know I drank only water there. That much I remember. Was that Wednesday? No, that was Friday . . . I think.

The capriciousness of memory was the topic of collegial conversation at neugerriemschneider the evening after the ceremony, when, as part of his exhibition, Rirkrit “Ne Travaillez Jamais” Tiravanija invited Tobias Rehberger to take part in the “Magazine Station #4” events at the gallery. Rehberger then invited René Weller (former world featherweight champion) to narrate for a live audience that night’s televised broadcast of the heavyweight boxing championship. Or was it the middleweight? None of the gallery-goers really knew anyway. Weller informed us that after a boxer has been knocked out, half an hour later he doesn’t have the slightest inkling of what happened! As if memories were physical things floating freely around our heads until some punch knocks them into exile…. Later I gabbed it up with Anri Sala, whose performance in Pursuit of Happiness, 2005, Jimmie Durham’s latest film (on view at the just-opened Art Forum Berlin fair), had me in a swoon—a girl’s easily impressed with a man who sets his mobile home on fire. He was mulling the confounding fact that firemen are actually called firemen. They should be called anti-firemen, right?

I came home that evening trying to sort through the memories of the night before. Word on the street was that a woman would receive the Nationalgalerie prize this year (previous winners being men, namely a bad painter whose name I forget and the unforgettable conceptual art duo Elmgreen & Dragset). It was high time for a lady to win, everyone said, to which I said “Bollocks!” Since when did “equal opportunity” politics ever truly play a role in the art world? Among the four nominees—John Bock and Anri Sala, representing this year’s out-of-luck gender, along with Monica Bonvicini and Angela Bulloch—the general sentiment was that the latter was a shoe-in, having broken out of her well-known Pixelbox shell, so to speak. Granted, Bulloch had us all befuddled at first, but then enchanted with her Disenchanted Forest x1001, 2005, a living and breathing form of institutional critique. It makes use of the rules for numbering Berlin’s city trees and a cybernetic dance floor that took its cue from a classic Duchampian gambit: making things difficult to see in order to see them better.

This was perhaps also the philosophy of the Nationalgalerie jury members, who, in making it difficult for us to see the whys and wherefores of their decision, made it easier for many to speculate that it was certainly going to be difficult for Bulloch to win, given that she signed the petition against controversial collector Friedrich Christian Flick in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung earlier this year. Alas, whether or not this was the case, it seems all too true that institutions have been corrupted by the wicked ways of private collectors. But what else is new?

Left: Anri Sala, Waling Boers, Michael Krome, Caroline Schneider, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Right: Martin Klosterfelde and John Bock.


And then there was the strange fact that nobody knew in advance that there was going to be a “second” (read: consolation) prize, namely the “public’s choice” award—akin to Miss Congeniality: No money, no crown, just a general acknowledgement of having almost cut the mustard. When it was announced that Bonvicini had taken first place and “public’s choice” was going to Bulloch, we really couldn’t believe our ears. Bonvicini too seemed aghast and was literally speechless when she received her golden bar of chocolate and a Day-Glo-green check for €25,000 (plus another €25,000 for the acquisition of the work—an installation typifying her own form of institutional critique and involving an ironic, sadomasochistic playground of chain-and-black-leather hammocks). Meanwhile Miss Congeniality played her part well, gracefully taking the stage to receive her silver bar of chocolate from Peter Raue (Chairman of the Friends of the Neue Nationalgalerie). He mistakenly called her “Angela Bollock," but she remained as poised and was the belle of the ball as she received deep condolences from all and sundry. Everyone felt she had been robbed; even a fairly sober critic I ran into sledging around the Art Forum the next day—who loves Bonvicini’s identity-bending oeuvre just as much as the rest of us—said, “It was as if there was a dog pissing against my leg all evening long.”

Later, while Bonvicini was hamming it up on the dance floor in the Hamburger Bahnhof’s café, Bulloch was running around town, leaving her aluminum-foil wrapped chocolate in one restaurant bar after another, which made it difficult to reconstruct events the next day. (“Where did I last leave my chocolate? Shouldn’t I retrieve it so that I might give it to John Bock for one of his videos?”) So I met her at the Tiravanija-Rehberger shindig and she was carrying around a purple sack with the aluminum-foil-wrapped prize inside. I think, if someone sees you with that, my dear, I thought, they’re going to say you’ve got your knickers in a wad, unable to get over the fact that you are an also-ran for the second time (the first being the Turner in 1997), “No, no,” she said when I voiced my concerns, “it’s just that I keep leaving the thing behind. I am quite pleased to have won the ‘popular’ prize.”

What a relief the week is over. We can all go back to our wild fantasies of starting up our own worldwide Gagosians, an idea inspired by Gagosian Berlin, a “guerrila franchise gallery” opened on Monday night by the curators of next year's Berlin Biennale. (No word from Larry yet.) During Thursday evening's performances by Icelandic artists at the Münzclub, Tiravanija suggested Gagosiann Bangkok (with a swirly Thai “g” and double “n”) and Sala would helm Gagozian Tirana, with plenty of red wine flowing and spilling over all those things we'll forget about in the near future.

April Elizabeth Lamm