Martin Herbert

  • Gustav Metzger, Historic Photograph Terror and Oppression, 2007, two black-and-white photographs on fabric, 18' 6“ x 14' 7” and 15' 5“ x 14' 7”.

    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

  • Spartacus Chetwynd, Hermito's Children, 2008, promotional material for a television pilot.

    “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

  • Tris Vonna-Michell, Papierstau (Paper Jam), 2007–2008. Performance view, Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany, 2007. From Leipzig Calendar Works, 2005–. Photo: Fred Dott.

    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

  •  Piratbyrån (Piracy Bureau), Partybus, 2008. Installation view, ex-Alumix factory, Bolzano-Bozen, Italy.

    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, Bubble IV, 1994, collage, 11 1/4 x 11 1/4".

    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, The Yellow Blob Story, 1997, yellow paint and handwritten text on wall. Installation view, Sofia City Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria. From “The Absent-Minded Man” project.

    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

  • Left: Folkestone Triennial curator Andrea Schlieker (left) with artist Christian Boltanski (right). (Photo: Barry Duffield) Right: Nathan Coley's Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens. (Photo: Martin Herbert)
    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,