“Question the Wall Itself”

Walker Art Center
725 Vineland Place
November 20, 2016–May 21, 2017

Rosemarie Trockel, As Far as Possible, 2012, mixed media installation, dimensions variable. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

An international group show featuring work by twenty-three artists, “Question the Wall Itself” probes compromised interiorities; the political bleeds into the domestic, while the institutional frames emotional bonds and bodies alike, most palpably in Akram Zaatari’s installation All Is Well on the Border, 2008. Poetic and cerebral, the exhibition features a wide range of media, including paintings, tracings, texts, drawings, moving images, sculptural objects, and room-filling installations, such as Rosemarie Trockel’s ominous As Far as Possible, 2012—an uncomfortably bright, white-tiled room where caged mechanical birds flutter and a plastic palm tree protrudes stalactite-style from the ceiling.

Curated by Fionn Meade with Jordan Carter, the show is dense with allusions to the history of art, architecture, and décor. To convey the unreliability of these echoes, Marcel Broodthaers’s parrot from Dites partout que je l’ai dit (Say Everywhere I Said So), 1974, presides over the works on view. Shifts in scale, color, and perspective heighten a degree of disorientation, as in the miniature tinted interiors shown upside down in Paul Sietsema’s film Empire, 2002. Materials, too, imbue objects with ambiguous sensibilities: oil on canvas masquerades as marble in Lucy McKenzie’s Loos House, 2013, while ceramic floor tiles mimic cracked dirt and raw cement in Nina Beier’s Tileables, 2014. Things are not as they seem.

The air of uncanny déjà vu thickens with Cerith Wyn Evans’s slowly rotating potted palm. As the show unfolds, objects appear increasingly withdrawn, and our ability to know them, dubious. The empty vitrine in Danh Vō’s All Your Deeds Shall in Water Be Writ, but This in Marble, 2010–, best intimates the pervasive sense of suspended certainties, which is perhaps all the more reason to question the walls that surround us, any and all walls.

— Christina Schmid