COLUMNS

  • 1000 WORDS: YANG FUDONG

    At the 50th Venice Biennale, Shanghai-based artist Yang Fudong presented The Seven Intellectuals in Bamboo Forest, 2003, the first part of his new filmic pentalogy, The Seven Intellectuals, an adaptation of the traditional Chinese stories known as “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove.” The first installment (shot in 35 mm black and white) begins the series’ exploration of the ambiguous position of intellectuals in contemporary China—their longing for individual freedom in the shifting context of an emerging capitalist economy. Yang, who was born in 1971 in Beijing and graduated from the China

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  • 1000 WORDS: JENNIFER PASTOR

    In April, I met Jennifer Pastor at Carlson & Co., a high-end fabrication facility in the San Fernando Valley where, with a crew of technical assistants, she was putting the finishing touches on a large sculpture titled The Perfect Ride, 2003—an incredibly odd yet credible translation of a dam, which would soon be shipped to the Venice Biennale for its debut. Morphing between a sort of sci-fi behemoth and fantastic hot rod, the work comprised everything from sections of surrounding hillside to a river, with the baroque convolutions of an elegant water-circulation system begging for scrupulous

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  • 1000 WORDS: SIMON STARLING

    Born in Epsom, England, in 1967 and trained at the Glasgow School of Art, Simon Starling mingles the grand tradition of the British boffin, forever tinkering in the basement, with heady neo-Victorian science, re-creating lost histories and divining the invisible global traffic of everyday life. He plunges head-on into those nebulous topographies social scientists like to call the “space of flows,” casting abstracted labor into relief and putting commodity fetishism before the fun-house mirror: Starling has obtained balsa wood from Ecuador to make a model of a French Farman Mosquito airplane,

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  • 1000 WORDS: KUTLUG ATAMAN

    “Talking is the only meaningful activity we’re capable of.” Thus spake Kutlug Ataman when we met in New York recently. Curious words for someone trained in “narrative film” at UCLA’s graduate film program, a Hollywood conduit where cinema is considered the presentation of actions, not words. Not so for this Turkish filmmaker and artist, whose “video vérités,” shown at biennials in Istanbul, Berlin, and Venice, as well as at Documenta 11, are centered on individuals who do little more than speak. This speech, however, is no ordinary ramble. In it, we witness something extraordinary. In works such

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  • 1000 WORDS: MALERIE MARDER

    In her staged photographs Malerie Marder prizes nothing if not awkwardness. Ever since she first started exhibiting her photos, in the late ’90s, Marder has explored the psychosexual undertow of her own intimate relationships, frequently shooting herself along with family and friends in close quarters (including pay-by-the-hour motels) and, usually, undressed. She flirts with prurience, with ideas of privacy and surveillance, eroticism and pornography, but seems more satisfied when approaching the complications of love or being in love. Marder has directed her naked father in front of a fireplace,

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  • 1000 WORDS: JEREMY DELLER

    Jeremy Deller is an artist who gets down with the people, wherever he happens to be. Based in Britain, where he has created artworks with coal miners (The Battle of Orgreave, 2001), marching bands (Acid Brass, 1997), and Manic Street Preachers fans (The Uses of Literacy, 1997), Defier spent much of the past year in residency at the CCAC Watt’s Institute in San Francisco. The result of his stay is an unlikely art project: an unorthodox (though usable) guidebook to the once Golden State. After the Gold Rush is a ninety-six-page collection of maps, history (penned by Matthew Coolidge of the Center

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  • 1000 WORDS: SANTIAGO SIERRA

    Although he started out as a more or less traditional sculptor in an arte povera vein, Santiago Sierra is today best known for paying others to perform his pieces (he has paid people to sit in cardboard boxes, get tattoos, even masturbate on camera). Over the past three years, I have worked with Sierra several times—in Berlin, Munich, and New York. On each occasion we started out with the intention of restaging or, better, recontextualizing his 2000 work Lifted Out Wall Leaning Over by 60 Degrees and Held Up by 5 People, but the particularities of each venue ended up producing altogether different

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  • 1000 WORDS: OLIVER PAYNE AND NICK RELPH

    Short-listed for this year’s Beck’s Futures award, British filmmaking duo Oliver Payne and Nick Relph put their prize money straight to work. The result is Mixtape, 2002, twenty minutes of “wild, trance-inducing loops” designed to infect viewers with humor and headaches alike. Structured around Terry Riley’s mesmerizing Motown cutup “You’re No Good,” the film weaves a set of tangentially related vignettes into footage of a teenage hardcore band’s spasmodic writhing. As the title suggests, it is an idiosyncratic compilation of perfect moments or, as Relph offers with a chuckle, “a really good

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  • 1000 WORDS: FRANCIS ALŸS

    “IN MY CITY EVERYTHING is temporary,” writes Francis Alÿs. And indeed, the ephemeral is the central aesthetic principle for this artist, who is perhaps best known for his “walks”—like The Collector, 1991–92, which entailed his pulling a magnetic toy on wheels through the streets of Mexico City, picking up bits of metal along the way; or Narcotourism, 1996, for which Alÿs traversed Copenhagen over the course of seven days under the influence of seven different drugs. Such works chart a literal and figurative path through an urban, social, or discursive space. One might say that Alÿs has invented

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  • 1000 WORDS: THOMAS STRUTH

    With the decline of the utopian spirit and the demise of the “great narratives,” the word paradise has taken on an ironic undertone that it just can’t shake. I met Thomas Struth last winter at his apartment in the middle of Düsseldorf, overlooking a rather verdant courtyard. There we talked about his ongoing series of photographs of jungles and forests, in which the artist confronts the Edenic. His paradise is neither lost nor won—it has no innocence to lose. Rather, pluralized in a series of images, it embodies a phenomenon of viewing: the gaze losing itself in the branches only to be thrown

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  • 1000 WORDS: ROMAN SIGNER

    SINCE THE EARLY '70S Roman Signer has been conducting and documenting self-described “sculptural events” in the Swiss countryside, employing a limited repertoire of objects (blue barrel, red balloon, Christmas tree, dynamite) to produce various physical phenomena. Effects range from the pink smoke of flares trailing Signer's skis as he crossed a pristine snowfield (Zakopane, l994) to the subtle roving of a camera's eye view from a tabletop raft as it floated past vivid riparian scenery (Table with Camera, 2001), to more dramatic outcomes, like the controlled explosion of Observation Box,

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  • 1000 WORDS: BRUCE NAUMAN

    Bruce Nauman’s new piece calls to mind one of his early works, Fishing for Asian Carp, 1966. That two-minute-forty-four-second film documents a man putting on wading boots, entering a river, and eventually catching a fish. The structure was dictated by the process and goal of catching a fish: When the fish was caught the film was over. What we don't know is what would have happened had the fish not been caught. Part tongue-in-cheek instructional film, Fishing is also an allegory for the unpredictable nature of artmaking. As with Beckett’s Molloy, who transferred a stone from one pocket to another,

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