Martin Herbert

  • Artangel’s twentieth anniversary

    IF YOU’VE PAID ATTENTION to contemporary art in Britain since the early 1990s, the chances are good that Artangel—the exemplary, catalytic, London-based arts trust currently marking its twentieth anniversary—has gifted you with some indelible memories. Numerous spikes in the graph of my own spectatorship correspond to site-specific projects that codirectors James Lingwood and Michael Morris have commissioned, financed, and helped conceptualize. 1993: Rachel Whiteread’s House, a spectral plaster cast of the interior of an East London house, last survivor of a demolished terrace and

  • Susan Hiller

    IN 1974, following several years in which she ritually renounced painting––chopping old canvases into little rectangles and stitching them together into tomblike blocks, preserving the ashes of burned works in vials––Susan Hiller found her enduring subject with Dream Mapping. Articulated via dream diaries (seen at Tate Britain in vitrines) kept by seven people sleeping within “fairy rings” of mushrooms in a supposedly enchanted Hampshire field, this lasting topic was the stubborn, abyssal irrationality of the human mind. On the evidence of Tate Britain’s forty-year survey, curated by Ann Gallagher

  • “Secret Societies”

    From Yale’s president-spawning Skull and Bones to that mythical “invisible world government” the Illuminati, secret societies exert a powerful grip on the imagination.

    From Yale’s president-spawning Skull and Bones to that mythical “invisible world government” the Illuminati, secret societies exert a powerful grip on the imagination. The Schirn Kunsthalle’s show isn’t an exposé, though. Rather, it proposes contemporary art itself as a seedbed for clandestine coteries, exacting codes of behavior, and diverse methods of evasion and exclusion. Here, within an appositely labyrinthine display designed by Fabian Marti, more than one hundred works by nearly fifty artists—including Kenneth Anger, Joachim Koester,

  • Simon Starling

    FOUR TIMES SINCE 2005, Camden Arts Centre has crossed its fingers and handed the curatorial reins to an artist. After Tacita Dean, Steven Claydon, and Paulina Olowska, most recently it was Simon Starling’s turn, and it was notable and apposite that this marked the first occasion when the neophyte curator’s name surged above his or her chosen title, because “Never the Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts)”—mounted almost exactly a decade after Starling’s own solo show here—was especially consonant with its selector’s artistic practice: that of resituating and reanimating objects

  • John Stezaker

    After forty years of sifting through antique photographs from thrift shops and flea markets—and then cropping and conjoining them to crowbar open their meanings—John Stezaker is finally being recognized at home.

    After forty years of sifting through antique photographs from thrift shops and flea markets—and then cropping and conjoining them to crowbar open their meanings—John Stezaker is finally being recognized at home. The ninety-plus works in his first UK retrospective should appear as a singularly unified whole, for the sexagenarian artist (who is still augmenting series he initiated three decades ago) hasn’t so much evolved as finessed his aptitude for the uncanny. As Stezaker dramatizes the irrational hold that particular images exert on him by, say, a virtuoso

  • UNBOUNDED ENTHUSIASMS: THE ART OF BOJAN ŠARČEVIĆ

    “TO WHAT EXTENT SHOULD AN ARTIST understand the implications of his or her findings?” This is the cryptic question that Bojan Šarčević posed to a panel of artists, critics, and curators he’d convened on the occasion of his 2006 two-venue exhibition in Ireland, at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, and the Model Arts and Niland Gallery, Sligo. The show debuted a group of works—miniature geometries of brass threads dangling almost imperceptibly against an expanse of elegantly distressed wallpaper—that appeared far from the kind of research-based production his query would seem to address.

  • OPENINGS: JOS DE GRUYTER AND HARALD THYS

    FOR ALMOST A DECADE, Jos de Gruyter worked at Ten Weyngaert, a Brussels community center that began as a utopian experiment in the 1980s. Intended as a place that citizens could visit in order to freely express their creativity—a latter-day Esalen—the center is now frequented, de Gruyter says, by disaffected individuals: failed artists, retired yoga instructors, and so on. These denizens often partake in art therapy programs there; when invited to access their imaginative inner worlds through such sessions, they often become confused, angry, or depressed, and the ensuing atmosphere of silence

  • THIRD LIFE: THE ART OF JOHN STEZAKER

    FOR SOME LUCKY PHOTOGRAPHS, there’s an interval between disfavor and disposal—a hiatus that offers a second chance at life. In our disembodied age, this purgatory is usually the wilds of eBay, although prints and reproductions also linger on in actual flea markets, antiquarian bookstores, and thrift shops. Few photographs, however, are discarded and restored more than once—unless they happen to be swept up in the vicissitudes of John Stezaker’s forty-year career. Some of the pictures the artist has used have inhabited this liminal state multiple times, their drift and resurgence tracing an

  • Ceal Floyer

    This survey, collating some twenty works from 1992 through the present, accordingly promises plenty of practiced bait-and-switch, with cerebral pleasure giving way to rippling disquiet.

    Ceal Floyer has a mathematician’s brain, a phenomenologist’s eye, and—belying the apparent reticence of her Minimalist-Conceptualist amalgams—a conjurer’s showmanship. Moving fleetly between formats (sculpture, video, drawing, photography, sound), the Pakistani-born, London-raised, Berlin-based artist specializes in elegant, witty, circular proposals that could almost be one-liners if they didn’t open onto questionings of perceptual habit and expectation. A bucket, seemingly catching a leak, conceals a speaker playing dripping sounds (Bucket, 1999); a performance is

  • Martin Herbert

    MARTIN HERBERT

    1 “Isa Genzken: Open, Sesame!” (Whitechapel Gallery, London) A double event: One of London’s best-loved institutions reopened, and this stellar retrospective—the renovated Whitechapel’s inaugural show—landed in the East End like a disheveled but highly advanced spacecraft. This was a public service to most of us, who had previously been unable to consider Genzken’s achievement at full historical stretch. Curated by the Whitechapel’s Andrea Tarsia and by Kasper König and Nina Gülicher of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, the show connected the dots (and illuminated the leaps)

  • Gustav Metzger

    Leading off with early paintings, the Serpentine will feature Gustav Metzger’s notable metaphors for our ineluctable journey on the Oblivion Express.

    Capitalism, to Gustav Metzger, has always looked like a handcart to hell—so it’s apt that this extensive survey of the Nuremberg-born, London-based, officially “stateless” octogenarian’s six-decade career follows a global economic upheaval. Leading off with early paintings, the Serpentine will feature Metzger’s notable metaphors for our ineluctable journey on the Oblivion Express—his notorious “auto-destructive” pieces (disintegrating sculptures, acid-splashed canvases) begun in the late ’50s—in addition to

  • OPENINGS: GUIDO VAN DER WERVE

    FOR TWENTY-FOUR HOURS, starting on April 28, 2007, our blue planet went one way and Guido van der Werve went the other. Compressing that day into eight minutes and forty seconds of time-lapse photography transferred to high-definition video, Nummer negen: The day I didn’t turn with the world, 2007, shows the black-clad Dutchman standing on tundra at the North Pole, dwarfed—in the static composition—by blank icescape and endless blue sky. Making gestures that semaphore frozen discomfort, the artist slowly shuffles clockwise. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the sun’s accelerated passage from left to

  • “Altermodern: Tate Triennial”

    A dozen years after he minted the term relational aesthetics, Nicolas Bourriaud has a new buzzword: altermodernism.

    A dozen years after he minted the term relational aesthetics, Nicolas Bourriaud has a new buzzword: altermodernism. For the influential French curator and critic, this is what comes after postmodernism; a renewed response to reality, in which artists consider our globalized moment—hallmarked by ubiquitous communication, travel, migration, and standardization—via work that is postmedium, interdisciplinary, puckishly drawn to deceptive fictions, and eco-friendly. And intercontinental: In Bourriaud’s iteration of the fourth Tate Triennial—an event doubling as his latest

  • OPENINGS: TRIS VONNA-MICHELL

    TRIS VONNA-MICHELL’S PROJECTS invariably develop from something seemingly inconsequential: a stash of old family photographs; the late French poet Henri Chopin’s taste for quail eggs; Germans named Hahn or Huhn. By the time the British artist is done, however, he’ll have traveled to other countries and explored the possibility of knowledge emerging from the intersections of personal experience, history, and coincidence. And by the time the audience hears about it, it’s usually in a fractured, postmedium manner. There are performances in which Vonna-Michell first sets (or asks the audience to

  • OPENINGS: KATERINA SEDÁ

    ONE SUNNY SATURDAY IN MAY 2003, the majority of citizens in the Czech Republic village of Ponětovice (population approximately three hundred) went shopping at exactly 7 am and spent ten crowns each on their groceries. They opened their windows at 9, swept their houses at 10, cycled around town at 10:30. At noon they had dumplings with tomato sauce for lunch. At 5 pm they all met up for a beer. And at 10 pm, in a final flourish of civic synchrony, they flipped off their lights and went to sleep. Why? Because Kateřina Šedá, then a student at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, asked them to. Or told

  • Manifesta 7

    MANIFESTA HAS ALWAYS come across as a complexly sensitized biennial, reactive not only to the morphing state of post-Wall Europe—the crucible in which it was conceived in 1991—but also to itself. The so-called European Biennial of Contemporary Art has leaped, in its itinerancy and self-reinvention, from the city of Luxembourg’s affluent avenues (Manifesta 2, 1998) to Ljubljana, Slovenia, then in proximity to ethnic violence (Manifesta 3, 2000). It has temporarily abandoned, at different points in its history, its theme-driven approach (Manifesta 4, Frankfurt, 2002) and its overwhelming

  • “Experiment Marathon Reykjavík”

    INTRODUCING “EXPERIMENT MARATHON REYKJAVÍK,” a two-day event that took place this past May in the Hafnarhús, the Icelandic capital’s contemporary art museum, artist Olafur Eliasson described the occasion as “a parallel parliament that includes disagreement, a parallel Western democracy.” Presented to a near-capacity audience, this alternative legislature was about to become manifest in the form of thirty-six fifteen-minute-long presentations from artists, architects, scientists, and theoreticians. First, however, Eliasson’s collaborator in organizing the event, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, reframed

  • John Stezaker

    Not long ago, John Stezaker was better known as a teacher (the inspirational “Stez” of London’s Royal College of Art) than he was for the frequently marvelous neo-Surrealist photocollages he has been evolving since the 1970s—mysterious inverted landscapes, deft physiognomic hodgepodges, silhouettes with miniature worlds inside them.

    Not long ago, John Stezaker was better known as a teacher (the inspirational “Stez” of London’s Royal College of Art) than he was for the frequently marvelous neo-Surrealist photocollages he has been evolving since the 1970s—mysterious inverted landscapes, deft physiognomic hodgepodges, silhouettes with miniature worlds inside them. Happily, a recent string of profile-raising gallery shows has made the British artist’s implausible prestidigitations with film stills, postcards, and children’s books fashionable once more. Featuring sixty-eight works from 1976 to the

  • Nedko Solakov

    Good luck separating Nedko Solakov’s upbringing in Communist Bulgaria from his art. As clarified by this survey of work since the late 1980s, the neo-Conceptualist’s postmedium practice mirrors instability, inhuman commands, and distrust of authority—with his pieces frequently conjuring two forces endlessly duking it out.

    Good luck separating Nedko Solakov’s upbringing in Communist Bulgaria from his art. As clarified by this survey of work since the late 1980s, the neo-Conceptualist’s postmedium practice mirrors instability, inhuman commands, and distrust of authority—with his pieces frequently conjuring two forces endlessly duking it out: Top Secret, 1989–90, an archive revealing Solakov’s history as an informant for the Bulgarian secret police, secured him pariah status at home; for A Life (Black and White), 1998–, one performer whitewashes a gallery’s walls as another obliterates his

  • diary June 18, 2008

    Shabby Chic

    Folkestone, UK

    “A walk from riches to rags” is how Folkestone Triennial curator Andrea Schlieker described the event she has been working on for the past three years. It was Friday, the exhibition’s opening day, and we were standing at the “riches” end: the sunlit ballroom of the Metropole Hotel, a luscious relic of the Kentish coastal town’s Edwardian boom years as a holiday resort. As David Batchelor’s Disco Mechanique—comprising dozens of motorized faux glitter balls made from thirty-four hundred interlaced pairs of colorful Brazilian sunglasses—twirled in the room’s center, Schlieker promised “a string of