Martin Herbert

  • picks May 24, 2006

    Tomas Saraceno

    The first in a series of artworks commissioned for the Barbican’s tricky Curve gallery—a 260-foot-long bowed corridor, basically—Tomas Saraceno’s panoramic, thirty-two-screen video installation turns spatial limitation to spectacular advantage. To make the work (part of his ongoing “Air-Port-City” project), the Argentine artist went to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia—a three-acre salt lake in a desert positioned more than two miles above sea level. There he set up a ring of thirty-two cameras to shoot the sped-up footage of cloud movements, sunrises, and sunsets we see here. After

  • Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Ralph Rugoff

    IT IS MARCH 2006, AND WE’RE IN London—“the beating heart of Europe’s contemporary art scene,” as the New York Times puts it—and we’re touring the commercial galleries. Plush international dealerships hum to the north and west, increasingly slick indigenous operations cluster in the east, and myriad penurious venues percolate determinedly at various distances from the art scene’s main drags. The dynamism—whatever one might think of the art on display—is tangible.

    In order to determine how all this effervescence is aerating the city’s institutional echelons, let’s say we go to the Hayward Gallery

  • Nathaniel Mellors

    The ambiguous finale of the ’60s cult British TV series The Prisoner finds leading man Patrick McGoohan’s character, Number Six, apparently freed from the mysterious allegorical village he’s been trapped in and returning to his former metropolitan life. In Nathaniel Mellors’s 16-mm film (transferred to DVD) MACGOOHANSOC, 2005, a steely young Englishwoman claims to be “the body of Patrick McGoohan”: Not his spirit, not the fictional spirit of Number Six, but the physical form of the actor (who is still alive). Such compound perplexity is typical of Mellors’s gravitation toward points at which

  • Marc Quinn

    What form should portraiture take in the twenty-first century? As this show of thirty recent works by Marc Quinn ought to demonstrate, the human form is multifariously definable: Bronzes cast from chunks of animal meat have us as raw corporeality waiting for the slab; in his “DNA Portraits,” the artist schematizes identity into bacterial colonies in agar jelly using samples of human genomes; white marble representations of the physically handicapped challenge traditional conceptions of heroism and beauty. The last’s ironic interplay with damaged classical sculptures


    FROM THE POINTEDLY economical gestures with which she began her career—amps dimming or brightening in the viewer’s presence (Before and After Follow Each Other, 1990); recordings of applause or jeers triggered by visitors’ movements (as in Laughing Crowd Sound Piece, 1990)—to the polyphonic, multihued blend of geometric structures and son et lumière in which she specializes today, Angela Bulloch has progressively deepened a practice fascinated with ordering systems and the subjective processing of information. Inflecting the stringent aesthetics of Conceptualism and Minimalism with destabilizing

  • diary March 06, 2006

    Ruf Trade


    Midway through last Tuesday’s opening of the third Tate Triennial, a substantial percentage of the assembled guests set aside their cocktails and their chicken tikka–filled mini-ciabattas, and trooped out to the Tate Britain’s front lawn to watch one of Cerith Wyn Evans’s characteristic firework texts go up in smoke. As the gunpowder parcels ignited on a pair of metal armatures, fleetingly spelling out in white a two-verse poem by Ian Hamilton Finlay—in which permutations of the phrases “How blue / How sad / How small / How white / How far” are repeated, each ending once with an exclamation

  • Ugo Rondinone

    “Every day I set less store on intellect,” writes Marcel Proust in the essay “Against Sainte-Beuve,” privileging instinct and sensorial experience instead. In Ugo Rondinone’s first major London show, he would seem to work in the same spirit, since the exhibition’s melancholic title—“zero built a nest in my navel”—clearly speaks to gut feelings. Indeed, audiences at the Whitechapel Art Gallery initially have little else to go on, experiencing a considerable interlude of rebuffed quizzicality on first entering the galleries, followed by the realization that Rondinone’s cryptic installation is

  • Bob and Roberta Smith

    Brother-and-sister act Bob and Roberta Smith (no relation to the New York Times’s art scribe) is one—or, more accurately, two—of several pseudonymous identities that the British artist born Patrick Brill has adopted while distributing his homespun, semi-anarchic output over the past decade. But more than that, I am Bob and Roberta Smith—or so stated several button badges purchasable at Hales’s entrance; another recurrent phrase was ART NOT WAR.

    Declarative sentences, usually brightly painted on salvaged wood and reveling in the inept graphic flourishes of a novice sign-writer, are the tragicomic

  • Andrew Mania

    Outside is polyglot East London, but once inside Andrew Mania’s show “Gogolin” we are in Poland—albeit a Poland of the mind that compounds past and present, authentic and imaginary. The artist’s name, stenciled next to the entrance, reads as “Andrzej Mania”; the wall beside the reception desk bears a pointedly untranslated lyric from a Polish polka that, I later discover, concerns a woman’s departure from her partner. She’s going to Gogolin, in the country’s Krapkowice region, but she can’t tell him why. Sometimes, as when life feels stale, predictable, lacking romance, you just have to go.


    MARTIN HERBERT surveys the artist’s films in which coolly hypnotic, oblique narratives—haunted by the afterimages of ’60s avant-garde auteurs—straddle the borders between cinema and sculpture, art house and art gallery.

    I CAN’T HELP IT: I know the female character in Runa Islam’s five-minute 16 mm film Dead Time, 2000, is merely a cipher, a manipulated integer in a calculus of cinematic affectivity—but my heart goes out to her anyway. There she is in the first shot, framed against a blank sky, nearly expressionless yet radiating a sense of the kind of authentic interior life it often takes a

  • Jaki Irvine

    Soho’s Frith Street is no stranger to spooky goings-on. At No. 22, John Logie Baird invented the television: The crossover between the Victorian inventor’s wave-channeling invention and his belief in Spiritualism was evoked, some years ago, in a series of wraithlike projections by Tony Oursler in nearby Soho Square. No. 60, home of Frith Street Gallery, is a recurring flashpoint for coincidence, as one discovers in Jaki Irvine’s six-part video installation Towards a Polar Sea, 2005. In the opener, the only segment in black-and-white, gallery director Jane Hamlyn recalls how a Craigie Horsfield

  • Martin Herbert

    1 “AN ASIDE” (CAMDEN ARTS CENTRE, LONDON) Making a virtue of the ballooning art world’s deleterious impact on its own epistemology—i.e., no one can get a fix on the whole picture anymore—Tacita Dean’s superb curatorial venture foreswore holistic mastery in favor of a journey through the artist’s own cloud of unknowing. Chance meetings with art and artists (plus several Sebaldian coincidences) guided the collection of this daisy chain of works by, among others, Lothar Baumgarten, Paul Nash, Sharon Lockhart, Joseph Beuys, and Fischli & Weiss. An endeavor few “professional” curators would

  • diary October 10, 2005

    Eat to the Beat


    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

  • Hurvin Anderson

    Anyone who has visited Trinidad and Tobago—as British-born, Jamaica-descended Hurvin Anderson did before commencing the series of paintings he’s produced over the past couple of years—knows about “liming.” This Caribbean colloquialism has two sides: It’s what locals are doing when languidly propping up the beachside rum bars; it’s what travel brochures say moneyed tourists are up to when firing tennis balls around at the islands’ country clubs. On the evidence of his paintings, Anderson finds lime-time tough. His eye twitchily takes in places that semaphore colonialism (Trinidad and Tobago gained

  • Jonathan Monk

    Jonathan Monk loves first-generation Conceptualists like family: unconditionally and without compunction about teasing them for their foibles. The autobiographical tilt of the British artist’s output ensures its comic, critical impurity, whether in photographs taken on a car journey with his mother whenever she checked the route, wall texts inviting the viewer to dubious future assignations, or animations of both Sol LeWitt’s gouache cubes and a Rubik’s Cube. Monk’s first London retrospective will repurpose the ICA’s lower gallery as storage and its upper gallery as a

  • Michel Majerus

    Also on view at Deichtorhallen Hamburg from November 18, 2005–January 29, 2006

    The chief irony attending Michel Majerus’s tragic death in a plane crash at age thirty-five in 2002 is that his art—eyeball-strafing post-Pop paintings and installations colliding high and low imagery—could have gone on hacking through the mutating forest of signs forever. In Majerus’s view, progress was over and everything in our image-riddled culture was equivalent. These exhibitions—key components in an ongoing retrospective that, by 2007, will have spanned five separate institutions—should

  • diary July 29, 2005

    Wild Palms


    Full of honeyed light, looming tropical fronds, and lazily splashing koi, the third-floor conservatory is one of the quieter corners in that Brutalist warren of exhibition and concert halls known as the Barbican Center. It’d be a good place to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon in its own right, but add in the fact that Cerith Wyn Evans has mobilized this paradisiacal green zone with a chancy, multistrand sound piece—not to mention that the city’s feeling somewhat torn and frayed thanks to the recent terrorist bombings and the police killing of an innocent suspect—and, as was clear from

  • Rezi van Lankweld

    For the longest time, following the example of a writer I considered nearly infallible, I thought the adjective that defined the quality inherent in clouds, rocks, and so on that permits us to see various things in them—perhaps most notoriously the face of Christ—was “magmatic,” and that this word got at the shifting quality of their anthropomorphism. It’d be a fair descriptor of Rezi van Lankveld’s paintings, too, had I not just looked “magmatic” up and found that, oops, it pertains exclusively to the actions of magma. Even so, at a stretch into geological metaphor it fits the Dutch painter’s

  • Milena Dragicevic

    Two or three things I know about Milena Dragicevic: She’s Serbian by birth, raised in Canada, and London based. She’s a twin, and her paintings have previously applied the no-doubt-peculiar feeling of observing something that looks like you but isn’t to the post-Communist East and West. A couple of years ago she made a few too many canvases that diagrammed fashionable nostalgia: Soviet-era modernist architecture floating over color fields or striped backdrops that resembled ’60s American abstraction at its Clem-pleasing zenith of flatness. But she had a sideline in cleverly composed portraits


    The scene is a dimly lit diner. Hemispherical lamps hover over tables whose generic salt and pepper dispensers could date from the ’40s or from today, and the menu—in an unreadable script—furnishes no further clues about where (or when) you are. In any case, the proprietor has shut the kitchen and gone home. Outside the picture window, night has fallen over a landscape bisected by a highway that curves away invitingly. Of course it’s too dreamy to be true, not least because no institution—including GEM in The Hague, where Hans Op de Beeck’s etiolated walk-in environment Location 5, 2004, was