Claire Bishop


    Istanbul, September 2003

    THE INSTALLATION BEGAN MILES AWAY, when we decided it was time to find it. The instructions in the biennial leaflet were hazy, as if to maximize the probability that you would not be successful. I’d heard about several people who’d spent hours circulating through the streets and failed, or who’d gotten as far as the gate only to find it locked. Others had given me tips—look out for a gateway, a courtyard, and then a staircase. But these unanchored directions were next to useless as guides to the market district; really, the only thing to do was to keep asking for the

  • View of “Wolfgang Tillmans: truth study center,” 2005, Maureen Paley, London.


    POSTCARDS, FAXES, AND EMAIL PRINTOUTS lie wanly in a vitrine. A plywood shelving unit holds rows of informational leaflets. One gallery wall is plastered with graphs and charts. Another is covered in hundreds of seemingly identical photographs. On a bank of video monitors, talking heads are explaining something. In a darkened corner, a slide projector clunks slowly through a carousel of images. Nearby, a 16-mm film whirs alongside a soporific voice-over. An illuminated table is covered in papers and newspaper clippings marked up with Post-its. Every object on display is accompanied by a lengthy

  • Suzanne Bocanegra, Honor, an Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra Starring Lili Taylor, 2022. Performance view, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 19, 2022. Suzanne Bocanegra and Lili Taylor. On-screen: Bernard van Orley, Honor, ca. 1520–32. Photo: Stephanie Berger.

    BEST OF 2022

    ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES once compared listening to a lecture by the great art historian T. J. Clark to being taken for a drive on a warm sunny day. The car roof is down, the wind is blowing in your hair, the driver knows where he’s going, and the journey is sheer pleasure. The lecture-performance, by contrast, is often another matter. John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, 1949, arguably the first example of the genre, is the opposite of a smooth cruise in a convertible. With a repetitive structure and self-reflexive content, it’s more like circling around the parking lot until you run out of gas.



    THE MOST POSITIVE WAY to describe the Fifty-Eighth Venice Biennale is to say that a relatively large percentage of the work on view is good enough to survive a lousy curatorial premise. But just for fun, let’s start at rock bottom: that much-discussed title, “May You Live in Interesting Times.” I can understand the Biennale’s artistic director—this round, Ralph Rugoff—wanting to puncture the ludicrously inflated rhetoric of previous editions’ titles, but his use of this fake Chinese curse oozes such privileged detachment that you wish the entire exhibition had simply been left untitled. It would


    THERE’S A TENDENCY to dismiss artistic gestures created in the white heat of the political present—they don’t rise above the complexities of their moment or have anything to say to future generations. The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera begs to differ. For the past decade or so, she has referred to such work as political timing specific.1 The phrase is a clear riff on site-specific, a term devised in the late 1960s to describe an anticommercial way of making sculpture within the physical remit of a given space, such that the work could not be resituated without its destruction. But this analogy is


    IT’S HARD THESE DAYS to stand out as a performance space in New York. Every arts venue in the city seems to be developing a hybrid visual art and performance program: the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, the Park Avenue Armory, Performance Space New York. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a performing arts series. So what’s a new cultural venue to do? One idea is to make it really, really big—say, two hundred thousand square feet. Another might be to hire Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design an eye-catching structure with some kind

  • Ilya Kabakov’s concept drawing for Three Nights, 1989.

    Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

    ILYA KABAKOV is arguably the paradigmatic installation artist, known above all for his theorization of the immersive “total installation,” and its execution in dozens of large-scale works made since the mid-1980s (after 1988 usually in collaboration with his partner and subsequent wife, Emilia). Yet this retrospective, “Not Everyone Will Be Taken into the Future,” was unfortunately not London’s long-awaited opportunity to experience an overview of the Soviet-born artists’ melancholy-utopian otherworlds. Instead, it rebranded them as painters, and not very good ones at that. As a result, the

  • Liliana Porter, El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves, Venecia 2017 (Man with Ax and Other Brief Situations, Venice 2017) (detail), mixed media. Installation view, Arsenale, Venice. From “Viva Arte Viva: Pavilion of Time and Infinity.” Photo: Chandra Glick.


    EVERYONE I SPOKE TO at the opening of “Viva Arte Viva,” the centerpiece of the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, was unambiguously assertive in their condemnation. So boring! So apolitical! So neo-primitivist! So anthropological! So male (65 percent) and so white (57 percent)! And let’s not even get started on all those themed pavilions: “Time and Infinity”? “Artists and Books”? And did you read the wall texts? Embarrassing!

    Some of these comments were warranted, but their vehemence was disconcerting, because I found curator Christine Macel’s Biennale far from offensive; I’d even say enjoyable. The

  • Artists from Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League) meet with Institute for Human Activities staff members Laurens Otto (second from left) and Nicolas Jolly (right), Lusanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, September 22, 2016. Photo: Léonardo Pongo.

    Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise

    IT’S A COLD JANUARY AFTERNOON at SculptureCenter in Queens, New York, and a lineup of top-notch intellectuals are arrayed before a small audience. Their task is to make sense of an exhibition of work by the Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (Congolese Plantation Workers Art League, or CATPC), brought here by Dutch artist Renzo Martens: twelve chocolate sculptures, a handful of drawings, and an enigmatic forty-one-minute video. No one on the panel can really come to grips with the project. Anthropologist Michael Taussig avoids the issue by discussing preplantation agriculture

  • Anna Boghiguian, The Salt Traders (detail), 2015, mixed media. Installation view, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Photo: Peter Cox.

    Claire Bishop

    1 ANNA BOGHIGUIAN, THE SALT TRADERS (VAN ABBEMUSEUM, EINDHOVEN, THE NETHERLANDS; CURATED BY ANNIE FLETCHER) At the center of an unexpectedly devastating group exhibition featuring the nomadic Cairo-based septuagenarian was the stunning installation The Salt Traders, 2015: a wooden grid of drawings, paintings, and collages, alternating with pungent honeycombs and salt. Boghiguian assembled a cosmos of research on the colonial use of salt, its centrality to the slave trade, and the contemporary legacy of this history—including the deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police. After

  • View of “Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better,” 2016. Upper tier: “Suddenly This Overview,” 1981–. Photo: David Heald.

    Peter Fischli and David Weiss

    THE TITLE of Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s current retrospective, “How to Work Better,” is taken from a ten-point list that the pair spotted in a Thai ceramics factory in 1990. Beginning sensibly enough with “Do one thing at a time” and ending with the banal management directive “Smile,” the list has cropped up throughout the Swiss artists’ oeuvre, most imposingly as a mural painted on the side of a non-descript office building in Zurich in 1991. Its slightly wonky font currently looms over the corner of Houston and Mott in New York, courtesy of Public Art Fund. At the Guggenheim, however,

  • Danh Vo, Lick Me Lick Me, 2015, white crystalline Greek-marble torso of Apollo, wood, nails. Installation view, Danish pavilion, Venice. Photo: Kate Lacey.

    Claire Bishop

    THE FIFTY-SIXTH VENICE BIENNALE is dominated by a Danh Vo double bill: “mothertongue,” a solo show in the Danish pavilion, and “Slip of the Tongue,” a large exhibition curated by the artist at the François Pinault Foundation’s Punta della Dogana, where Vo has mixed his own work with that of some three dozen others. Vo’s solo outing makes for one of this year’s most striking national pavilions, an exquisitely spare arrangement of Danish modern furniture, Oaxacan tiles, sinuous dead branches, and sawn-off or crated-up statuary from the first through seventeenth centuries. The tasteful atmosphere