THE TITLE OF AN EXHIBITION curated by Bice Curiger precedes it like a magical incantation, the better to drift and resonate in one’s brain among the exhibition’s wealth of works: “Endstation Sehnsucht” (A streetcar named desire), 1994; “Signs and Wonders,” 1995; “Birth of the Cool” 1997. Now the mental tuning is raised to a new level in “Hypermental: Rampant Reality 1950–2000. From Salvador Dali to Jeff Koons.” Where Surrealism was concerned with the paranoid-critical overturning of modern reality, its postmodern continuation, Curiger shows, exalts a world that has dispersed into a hybrid understanding of the mental—a sublimated complex of desire, emotions, and reflexivity. Curiger develops her theme in six indistinctly defined, overlapping segments: Desired Objects, Object-like Desire; Art and Reality; Rrose Sélavy (Eros c’est la vie. . .et le malheur); Optical Illusions/Psychedelics/Cybermysticism; The Collective Neuroticized Gaze—Common Property on Call at Any Time; Rays and Atoms, the Cosmic.
Above all, “Hypermental” offers a reunion with a series of important works from the ’50s to the present, including well-known artists like Hans Bellmer, Louise Bourgeois, Marcel Duchamp, Yayoi Kusama, and Meret Oppenheim. Cindy Sherman, Robert Gober, Matthew Barney, Sarah Lucas, Pipilotti Rist, and Doug Aitken are here too. Alongside them one discovers unusual pieces such as Domenico Gnoli’s hallucinatory painting of a coat button (Bottone, 1967) or his empty, fetishistically embroidered tablecloth, painted in acrylic on sand: Senza Natura Morte (Without still life), 1966. Many works here, among them the Rape Scenes, 1973, by Ana Mendieta, move between brutalization and seduction. A truly rampant reality is conveyed by the endless trip with Jane and Louise Wilson through the empty, ghostly corridors of Stasi City, 1996, in Berlin. Solitary, like a philosopher’s stone, David Hammons’s Untitled (Stone with Hair), 1998, stands in the middle of an exhibition that no longer wants to have anything to do with the Surrealists’ colonial borrowings from African art. The Long Count (I Shook Up the World), 2000—Paul Pfeiffer’s boxing match, on the LCDT—screen in the middle of the room—becomes a dance of faded phantoms.
In this age of cyborgs and simulacra, the return of pictorial illusionism is not unexpected. Reaching across time, Dalí meets with the likes of Glenn Brown, Dirk Skreber, Fred Tomaselli, or Damian Loeb. This series of reencounters leads from Bridget Riley’s optical hallucinations from the ’60s to Karin Davie’s Interior Ghosts #1, 2000. Dali’s La Maxima Velocidad de la Madonna de Rafael (Raphael’s Madonna at maximum speed), 1954, corresponds, in interstellar space, with Matthew Ritchie’s Abraxas, 2000, just as Dalí’s character as expressed in Andre Breton’s anagram of the Spaniard’s name, “Avida Dollars,” finds its contemporary reflection in Herz mit Geld (Heart with money), 1998-99, by Katharina Fritsch, an immense, shining silver heart on a floor spread with coins as with stars, or in Barbara Kruger’s now familiar statement: “I shop therefore I am,” 1987.
This wealth of works in the most varied of media does not encourage us to experience them one by one so much as it opens a vast realm of associations. That the individual berths in the Kunsthaus Zürich are arranged along a central boulevard invites flânerie but also draws the subjective paths through this labyrinthine material back to an ordered route. Jeff Koons’s Pink Bow, 1996, which one sees at the beginning of the exhibition, also stands at its end, showing an opulent, pinkly shimmering loop of foil ribbon as a promise of gifts to come. How long the dream will linger remains to be seen.
—Hans Rudolf Reust
Translated from German by Sara Ogger.