Christian Rattemeyer

  • passages April 24, 2018

    Josip Vaništa (1924–2018)

    IN 1959, a group of artists, critics, curators, and historians founded the group Gorgona, a clandestine association of like-minded creators who began sending transmissions into the world—most famously in the form of an antimagazine of the same name—until 1966, when the group formally disbanded. The driving force and intellectual motor of Gorgona was the artist Josip Vaništa, who had studied and taught architectural drawing since the early 1950s, though he never practiced the discipline himself.

    If Gorgona was, in essence, an attitude, a rumor, and an invocation, Vaništa was the keeper of the

  • passages January 21, 2016

    Cengiz Çekil (1945–2015)

    A SMALL NOTEBOOK in a vitrine at the 2009 Istanbul Biennial caught my attention. It looked innocent enough: a light blue cover with an image of the Pink Panther on its front. At first sight, it resembled the diary of an eleven-year-old girl, not a conceptual artwork. But when opened, the all-caps rubber-stamped text reveals that this book registers not the private thoughts of an adolescent but the stark reality of a country in turmoil.

    BU GÜN DE YAŞIYORUM (I am still alive today), ran the text across each page, accompanied only by the date, stamped on top. The diary marks a watershed moment in

  • the 8th Berlin Biennale

    EVER SINCE ITS FIRST EDITION in 1998, which took as its theme the colonization of abandoned or unoccupied real estate in East Berlin by artists, galleries, and other creative industries, the Berlin Biennale has made the use of vacant, unusual, or historically important spaces its hallmark. Indeed, this is what makes the biennial unique: It has always hinged not on the selection of specific artists or works, but on the particular and idiosyncratic venues it inhabits.

    The eighth edition of the biennial, curated by Juan A. Gaitán, is no exception. Together, the sites it occupies make a statement

  • “Surogat stvarnosti”

    When Yugoslavia emerged culturally from the rubble of World War II, one of the ways it differed from the Eastern bloc was in its embrace of abstraction as its official artistic vocabulary. But around the time Yugoslav abstraction was gaining prominence through groups such as Exat 51 in the early 1950s, the film production studio Zagreb Film began to develop a new narrative tradition in features and animations, commonly called the Zagreb School of Animation. These works often started from abstract impulses, and involved many of the same artists, including Exat 51 members Vlado Kristl and Aleksandar

  • Mai-Thu Perret

    Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret has developed a rich backstory for her oeuvre in “The Crystal Frontier,” a fictional narrative involving an all-female commune circa 1900, set in the American Southwest. This context serves as the source for her range of multidisciplinary works—posters for bake sales, suggesting alternative economies; costumes for dance performances; a monumental constructivist teapot that doubles as a freestanding gallery within the exhibition space; even a rich trove of diaristic literature—all of which detail the toils and trepidations of New

  • “The Tropics: Views from the Middle of the Globe”

    Curator Alfons Hug presents the work of twenty-one living artists from around the world alongside a hundred “premodern” pieces from the collection of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin.

    Taking as his inspiration “Magiciens de la terre,” the Centre Pompidou’s groundbreaking 1989 exhibition of African art, curator Alfons Hug presents the work of twenty-one living artists from around the world alongside a hundred “premodern” pieces from the collection of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. Since many of the contemporary artists work in documentary formats and several are not native to the tropics, the tension between “hosts” and “guests,” as well as that between old and new, should make for dynamic viewing.

    Travels to the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Rio

  • the 27th São Paulo Bienal

    FOR THIS INCARNATION of the São Paulo Bienal, chief curator Lisette Lagnado—along with Adriano Pedrosa, Cristina Freire, José Roca, Rosa Martínez, and guest curator Jochen Volz—decided to do away with the exhibition’s long-standing separation by nationality. Instead, the organizers framed the exhibition around the theme stated in the biennial’s title, “Como Viver Junto” (How to Live Together), taken from a series of lectures Roland Barthes delivered at the Collège de France in Paris in 1976–77. This subject was approached from two angles, dubbed “programs for life” and “constructive projects,”

  • Mark Dion

    Working at the intersection of natural science, history, and museology for more than twenty years, Mark Dion has applied systems of taxonomy to everything from marine animals in Manhattan’s Chinatown to objects found buried on the site of the extension to the New York Museum of Modern Art.

    Working at the intersection of natural science, history, and museology for more than twenty years, Mark Dion has applied systems of taxonomy to everything from marine animals in Manhattan’s Chinatown to objects found buried on the site of the extension to the New York Museum of Modern Art. This exhibition—curated by Françoise Cohen—organizes 120 of Dion’s works from the past fifteen years—including installations, drawings, and videos—into the five categories instituted by natural-history museums in the nineteenth century: earth science, entomology, archaeology, ornithology,

  • “Make Your Own Life”

    FOCUSING ON ARTISTIC productions and provocations in Cologne from roughly the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, “Make Your Own Life” is an introduction to an important and fertile moment in (mainly) German contemporary art, and it is not an easy show. In attempting to track the connections within and among the overlapping circles of artists, gallerists, musicians, and writers of that near-mythical time and place, curator Bennett Simpson has mounted an exhibition that exemplifies the difficulties of framing the complex social relations central to many crucial art-historical developments. Simpson

  • Lisa Tan

    TERMS OFTEN USED to describe interactions between lovers—tenderness, flirtatiousness, intimacy, longing, desire, even ecstasy—may also be aptly applied to the bonds between Lisa Tan and the subjects (and objects) of her artistic affections. Relationships are at the heart of this New York–based artist’s practice. Some of Tan’s works originate in encounters with other people, while others engage the artist’s emotional connection to an idea or experience; all are conceptual, and many are aesthetically spare, even minimal, but they possess considerable elegance and style nonetheless. They encompass

  • Marc-Olivier Wahler

    After five years at the helm of the Swiss Institute in New York, Marc-Olivier Wahler will become the new director of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris next month. During his tenure at the Swiss Institute, Wahler emerged as one of the most distinctive curatorial voices in New York. Through his vision we learned about the minute but irreconcilable differences between the world and its artistic representation in exhibitions that could not be easily reduced to a single theme or topic. His group shows, often bearing such open-ended titles as “Untitled (Mayday, Mayday)” (2001), “Extra” (2003), “Five Billion

  • “Who If Not We Should At Least Try to Imagine the Future of All This?”

    When the Netherlands took over the presidency of the European Union last July, it was the first full term to include the ten new member states. To celebrate this occasion, Holland implemented a vast range of cultural programs called “Thinking Forward.” The visual-art component, a series of seven exhibitions instigated by Maria Hlavajova and collectively titled “Who If Not We Should At Least Try to Imagine the Future of All This? 7 episodes on (ex)changing Europe,” comprised three different exhibitions in the Netherlands, as well as shows in Budapest, Ljubljana, Vilnius, and Warsaw.

    At Witte de

  • “(my private) Heroes”

    Documenta IX curator and Belgian art impresario Jan Hoet is always where you least expect him. Named director of MARTa in 2001, he has since been working toward the inauguration of this Frank Gehry–designed museum in the German countryside, conceived in partnership with the local furniture industry. Although MARTa’s focus is on the interface between art, architecture, and design, its opening show allows Hoet to look back at his own career and acknowledge those who have inspired him: The resulting Wunderkammer of some three hundred works

  • 1000 WORDS: MARK DION

    Throughout his career, Mark Dion has engaged classificatory systems in both the natural sciences and museological practices, underscoring not only how we order the messy boundaries between nature and culture, but also the more contested dynamics of control and exclusion manifested by acts of social policy and cultural preservation. He has collected plant, rock, and animal specimens in locales as diverse as the Amazon and New York’s Chinatown; rearranged the holdings of natural and cultural history museums in Switzerland and Spain; and conducted archaeological digs in New England and London. Now

  • Biennale of Sydney

    “On Reason and Emotion,” as curator Isabel Carlos subtitled her poetic but unfortunately simplistic Biennale of Sydney, threw into relief the often-problematic nature of themes for the well-rehearsed and conventionalized format of biennials—the increasingly difficult task of instilling meaning into an agglomeration of individual artworks, however excellent. Aiming to find intuition in the analytical and rationality in the emotional, and further expanding the cliché of dichotomies into the geographical arena of North and South (as the cultural “sites” of rationality and emotion), Carlos found

  • Lucy McKenzie

    Many of Lucy McKenzie’s activities—like Flourish Nights, informal events organized at her collective studio in Glasgow—center on collaborative practices. But the Scottish artist also teams up to work on her own installations, curatorial probings, and site-specific projects (in locations as diverse as the Sunday Herald Magazine or the shipyard in Gdansk).

    Many of Lucy McKenzie’s activities—like Flourish Nights, informal events organized at her collective studio in Glasgow—center on collaborative practices. But the Scottish artist also teams up to work on her own installations, curatorial probings, and site-specific projects (in locations as diverse as the Sunday Herald Magazine or the shipyard in Gdansk). Referencing such sources as the 1980 Moscow Olympics, handmade East German Depeche Mode concert flyers, and fascist and socialist mural paintings, McKenzie’s paintings, drawings, and installations always engage visual manifestations of political

  • Gwangju Biennial 2004

    Nearly a decade after its inception, the Gwangju Biennale is breaking new curatorial ground for its fifth incarnation. Promoted as an attempt to challenge the passive position of the viewer, sixty so-called viewer-participants from all walks of life were asked to select one artist each.

    Nearly a decade after its inception, the Gwangju Biennale is breaking new curatorial ground for its fifth incarnation. Promoted as an attempt to challenge the passive position of the viewer, sixty so-called viewer-participants from all walks of life were asked to select one artist each. Italian fashionista Miuccia Prada, for instance, invited Korean video artist Lee Kyung-ho, while British farmer Ross Cherrington chose art star Damien Hirst. Among the roughly two hundred artists in the themed shows are Anish Kapoor, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Park Bul-dong. This process might, however, risk reviving

  • VIII Bienal de Habana

    Organized by a team of six local curators affiliated with the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, including its director, Hilda María Rodríguez Enríquez, the eighth Bienal de Habana faced difficulties on several fronts—political, financial, and conceptual. After the Cuban government arrested seventy-five Cuban intellectuals in the months prior to the exhibition and the biennial failed to distance itself from the government’s actions, the organization found itself severely compromised, as key European foundations withdrew their support. A statement by the president of the biennial’s board

  • 1000 WORDS: TACITA DEAN

    In the voice-over to Sans Soleil (1982), Chris Marker offers a typically aphoristic remark: “We do not remember; we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten.” The linkage between history and memory, their common constructedness, is also evident in the films of Tacita Dean, who, while ostensibly celebrating the formal languages of structural film—duration, framing, sound, and editing—engages the process of memory and resignification that sets in when history lets go of its protagonists, and their actions, objects, and characters become forgotten. Almost all of Dean’s films center around one