Martin Herbert

  • 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

  • Paul McCarthy

    FOUR DECADES IN, Paul McCarthy’s art might easily be considered repetitious, overblown, big-budget, anxiously relentless. Is that his problem, or is it America’s? The question is worth asking, if only because McCarthy, like Warhol before him, totes a get-out-of-critique-free card: His art is a mirror to his homeland’s times, at best the convex type that allows a view around blind bends—though should it descend into costly gibbering spectacle, there are always enough analogues and portents in the parent culture to still render it defensible. Even so, there are inevitably qualitative variations

  • PUBLIC RETRACTION: BRITISH ARTS FUNDING

    EVER SINCE WORLD WAR II, the arts in England—as elsewhere in Europe—have been generously if variably funded by the government, by means of the Arts Council of Great Britain, which was split into four independent organizations, for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, in 1994. If not quite the envy of the world, the level of funding provided by Arts Council England has certainly been the envy of America, where investment in the arts is largely a private affair. Whereas the Arts Council will invest £417 million ($836 million) in the arts this year alone, the United States (federal,

  • “The World as a Stage” and “A Theatre Without Theatre”

    ONE WOULD THINK I’d have been ready. Performance has become such a catchword in contemporary art circles, as artists and critics alike seek to characterize the current shifts in production toward acting out or interacting with audiences—frequently in order to intersect artistic practice with political agency and redefinitions of protest—that I ought to have entered Tate Modern’s “The World as a Stage” with ears prickling and eyeballs peeled. Yet here we were: The museum attendant, handing me the exhibition pamphlet, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Saturday night parking.” And

  • FILLING THE VOID: THE ART OF MUNGO THOMSON

    MUNGO THOMSON’S The Collected Live Recordings of Bob Dylan 1963–1995, 1999, is a compact disc with a hole in the middle—not just literally, but metaphorically, too. For while the recording encompasses, in chronological order, all the live albums made by the Minnesota-born singer-songwriter for Columbia Records over the course of thirty-two years, one crucial component is missing: Dylan’s music. Every song has been edited out, leaving a twenty-five-minute flow of crowd noises that rise, like grit-filled waves, in gently clattering crescendos, then break, recede, and build again, sometimes

  • “Double Agent”

    Reflecting the thematic hook of “art in which the artist uses other people as a medium,” this exhibition will be a roll call of key players: Pawel Althamer, Phil Collins, Dora García, Joe Scanlan, Barbara Visser, Artur Zmijewski, and theatrical firebrand Christoph Schlingensief—and behind them, a shadow squad of auxiliary producers.

    Despite the title, put aside thoughts of espionage. In the sense intended by the ICA's Mark Sladen and guest curator Claire Bishop—who has written eloquently on participatory aeshetics for this magazine and elsewhere—“double agent” instead connotes “doubled agency.” Reflecting the thematic hook of “art in which the artist uses other people as a medium,” this exhibition will be a roll call of key players: Pawel Althamer, Phil Collins, Dora García, Joe Scanlan, Barbara Visser, Artur Zmijewski, and theatrical firebrand Christoph Schlingensief—and behind them,