Michael Wilson

  • Glen Baxter

    In his most recent novel Millennium People (2003), J. G. Ballard imagines a middle-class insurrection in which the most comfortable members of contemporary London society attempt to destroy the very system they were responsible for creating, transforming their tasteful effects into tools of civil disobedience: “Banners hung from dozens of balconies, sheets of best Egyptian cotton from Peter Jones, gladly sacrificed for the revolution.” Should British cartoonist Glen Baxter ever leave behind the alternative past he prefers to inhabit, Ballard’s alternative present might well be his first port of

  • diary September 21, 2005

    Green Piece

    New York

    “If they really cared about Robert Smithson, they wouldn’t have put down Astroturf!” In one of a precious few ill-tempered (though, one suspects, tongue-in-cheek) remarks overheard at Saturday’s public launch of Smithson’s Floating Island to Travel Around the Island of Manhattan, this exacting visitor was complaining about the apparent conceptual inconsistency of artificially “greening” Pier 46, the arm of Hudson River Park that served as official viewing spot. But it would have taken a hard heart indeed to allow such miniscule details to seriously impinge on the enjoyment of an exceptionally

  • Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester

    Matthew Buckingham and Joachim Koester’s video installation Sandra of the Tuliphouse or How to Live in a Free State, 2001, is a ruminative work inspired by the complex history of Christiania, a famous anarchistic community established in Copenhagen in 1971. Divided between large freestanding screens—each accompanied by its own unidirectional speaker to minimize the discordant buildup of sound—Sandra of the Tuliphouse comprises five independent twelve-to-twenty-minute video loops that may be watched in any order, in part or (by the more determined visitor) from beginning to end. Making its belated

  • diary August 10, 2005

    High Art

    New York

    No Gavin Brown-organized event would feel quite complete without the impression that it might at any moment degenerate into chaos, but the opening of “Drunk vs. Stoned 2” (the first installment took place in April 2004) heralded its dizzily euphoric spirit via a press release that was later retracted, to be replaced by an almost-identical new one. (I never figured out what was wrong with the first one.) A group exhibition produced in collaboration with Milwaukee’s General Store gallery, “Drunk vs. Stoned 2” purports to explore the two different altered states named in its title as metaphors for

  • Damien Hirst

    “If it wins, it wins through intimidation.” This was David Rimanelli’s concluding assessment of Damien Hirst’s last solo exhibition in New York, also at Gagosian Gallery, published in these pages in 2000. A meticulously designed production number, the show bore a typically verbose pseudoscientific title—“Theories, Models, Methods, Approaches, Assumptions, Results, and Findings”—and, regardless of its critical or financial success, it packed ’em in like the blockbuster it was. Hirst’s belated return to the city, the more tersely (though still excitedly) titled “The Elusive Truth!” elicited

  • Jeff Davis

    Sitting astride a giant, wailing, red-and-yellow severed head is a green-skinned naked man sporting an enormous erection. This supersize organ curves upward to support a cloud or platform on which is perched another head of the same size and color as the first. Hovering above this is a blue-skinned man who, while urinating freely, proffers a third head that spits blood into the gaping mouth of a fourth nearby. And holding this is a fifth and final head, bright green and equipped with arms that project from where its ears should be.

    In most circles the subject of this untitled drawing from 2004

  • diary May 16, 2005

    Group Effort

    New York

    “COULD WE HAVE SOME QUIET IN HERE, PLEASE?” The commandingly loud voice belonged to Andrea Fraser, whose performance May I Help You? had been in more or less continual progress for four hours, ever since the new gallery Orchard, founded by artist Gareth James and eleven cohorts including Moyra Davey, Fraser, Christian Philipp-Müller, R. H. Quaytman, Karin Schneider, and Bennett Simpson, opened its doors to the public at 1:00pm on Wednesday, May 11. Originally devised in 1991 for a show at the late Colin de Land’s American Fine Arts, Fraser’s wickedly funny monologue—in which she seems to


    In adverse speaking conditions one should always replace the term “I” with the term “WE,” moving the focus of the speech away from the isolated individual towards a hypothetical consensual group. One should always emphasize the undeniable truth of what one is saying. One should speak like the creator! One’s speech should be like a diamond hammered into the skull of the listener!

    —Mark Titchner, Why and Why Not (Book Works, London, 2004)

    In his artist’s book Why and Why Not (Vibrations, Schizzes and Knots) (2004), Mark Titchner adopts a bewildering variety of voices, the linguistic mode of his

  • Tim Hawkinson

    While poles apart visually, Tim Hawkinson’s current appearance at the Whitney bears comparison to Christo and Jean-Claude’s recent Central Park Gates, a few final remnants of which I walked through en route to the museum. Both projects convey a certain joie de vivre and lay claim to popular appeal but stand to some extent beyond the pale of contemporary critical discourse. However, free as he is from the brouhaha in which the older artists wrap themselves—and the way it veils their work’s conceptual shortcomings—Hawkinson finds himself in a relatively vulnerable position. Yes, he is the subject

  • Jeff Wall

    Continuing interest in Jeff Wall’s art-historically savvy fusion of classical painterly ambition with Baudelairian social critique and digitally orchestrated cinematic style is well-nigh assured. But this exhibition of the celebrated Canadian photographer’s work—the most comprehensive to date—should definitively illuminate the extent of his influence. Focusing on Wall’s signature large-format photographic light boxes, as well as on more recent black-and-white prints, it includes some seventy works made since 1978. The simultaneous publication of a catalogue

  • Steve McQueen

    It was the ultimate curatorial head-scratcher: Assemble a portfolio of images to represent to aliens what life is like on Earth. Addressing an unknowable audience, a team of NASA researchers, chaired by astronomer, educator, and author Carl Sagan, set themselves this unusual brief back in 1977. More recently, their choices—which are still hurtling through space aboard the Voyager II probe—formed the basis of British artist Steve McQueen’s Once upon a Time, 2002. Seventy minutes long, this slow-motion computer-simulated slide dissolve of all 116 well-traveled pictures reveals a fascinating time

  • Stephen Vitiello

    In Stephen Vitiello’s World Trade Center Recordings: Winds After Hurricane Floyd, 1999–2002, developed during a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council residency, the eerie creaks emitted by the twin towers as they swayed in the breeze recall the tortured contractions of a sixteenth-century galleon as much as the constrained flexing of a modern skyscraper. And while the work’s emotional impact has undoubtedly been amplified by the buildings’ fate, it does not depend on that catastrophe for its continued resonance. For if recording sound might be considered a rather passive method of observational

  • diary March 16, 2005

    Beers for Peers

    New York

    The opening of P.S. 1’s locals-only megasurvey “Greater New York 2005” marked the climax of a protracted and, for some, rather fraught selection procedure. Doleful also-rans nursing lukewarm beers in P.S. 1’s courtyard reported having had up to five studio visits with the show’s curators and still not making the cut; others complained of having had their initial invitations to participate humiliatingly revoked. Some of those who did secure a spot on the roster were not informed of their inclusion until mid-February and were then asked to make new work in time for the opening. Even the official

  • Jesper Just

    It begins with a ringing phone. A middle-aged man picks up the receiver and begins, not the expected conversation, but a delicately sung duet with a much younger man on the other end of the line. Their facial expressions are difficult to read and their performances are highly mannered, but the exchange is obviously charged with emotion. The strangeness of the episode is amplified by its details: The protagonists are not only seated within earshot of each other in the same dimly lit club lounge but also surrounded by other men, each sitting by his own phone and apparently awaiting a similar call.

  • Adam McEwen

    “History is a Perpetual Virgin endlessly and repeatedly Deflowered by successive generations of Fucking Liars.” One hell of a title, so it’s doubly unfortunate that the exhibition it was appended to, British artist Adam McEwen’s New York solo debut, was neither as analytically incisive nor as bullishly confrontational as the hard-boiled moniker implied. Instead, McEwen served up a warmed-over selection of conceptual witticisms that, while slickly executed and superficially appealing, ultimately settled into a holding pattern of comfortable irony and self-satisfied gimmickry. It was the kind of

  • Gabriel Vormstein

    In a startlingly literal attempt to connect his works and anchor them to their context, Gabriel Vormstein, in his recent New York debut at Casey Kaplan, went so far as to bind his delicate paintings together with wire and dot the gallery floor with rocks. With just a handful of exhibition appearances to his name, the young Berlin-based artist is sufficiently inexperienced that the gesture might have signaled a lack of confidence were it not consistent with a lyrical aesthetic informed by a web of cultural references, chief among them the material experiments of arte povera.

    In giving this show

  • “Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist's Eye”

    “So sorry to hear that you are still not over us. Come back to Vietnam for closure!” It’s estimated that, by 2010, the number of people who travel internationally will reach one billion, but, as Dinh Q. Lê’s sardonic poster implies, the relationship between traveler and destination remains unsettled. This show aims to illuminate our mediated interaction with the wider world, exploring the complexities of the tourist attraction. Bonami, who contributes to the accompanying catalogue-cum-guidebook, leads us through the work of some seventy disparate artists, from Kyoichi

  • Dionysiac: Art in Flux

    The French have an unmatched record when it comes to wine and women (if not, perhaps, also to song), so this uninhibited celebration of devil-may-care excess and subversive laughter is opening in exactly the right place. With work by fourteen international artists including Thomas Hirschhorn, Fabrice Hyber, Keith Tyson, Paul McCarthy, and ubiquitous prankster Maurizio Cattelan, the show aims to evoke the hedonistic spirit of the ancient Greek deity by way of mostly brand-new installations, films, performance, and a sound room. Oh, and a conference. In addition to

  • Ricci Albenda

    The loose-knit French literary/mathematical collective OULIPO (l’Ouvroir de la littérature potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature) applied a variety of constraints to the composition of poetry, drama, and fiction in an effort to investigate the outer limits of language. Among the bizarre products of their rigorous approach are cofounder Raymond Queneau’s book Cent mille milliards de poèmes (1961)—which contains ten pages each split into fourteen strips, one for each line of text, that allow the reader (in theory at least) to construct the hundred trillion poems of the title—and

  • James Rielly

    Death Makes Living Fun; We See a Darkness; In the Darkness Let Me Dwell: To judge from British painter James Rielly’s self-consciously maudlin titles, the music of downbeat singer-songwriter Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, has been in heavy rotation on his stereo over the past year or so. But just as there is humor (albeit avowedly dark) and even an occasional glimmer of optimism to be found in Oldham’s lyrics, so Rielly’s canvases are not all doom and gloom. In fact, an overdependence on the sight gag ultimately proves to be their undoing, overshadowing the graver aspects of the painter’s