COLUMNS

  • 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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  • 1000 WORDS: MIKE NELSON

    On the phone with Mike Nelson, I note that my typescript of our conversation begins at the end and travels backward. He's not surprised: Serpentlike, Nelson's installations are forever nipping at their own tail. In his 2001 Turner Prize display, a maze of narrow corridors spiraled around a dimly lit store of old doors, shabby furniture, yellowing newspapers, a battle-scarred game machine, and other detritus: apparent junk that an accompanying text (and a telltale white-coral fan) identified as the dismembered carcass of Nelson's Coral Reef, 2000. But the Tate installation's involutions corkscrewed

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  • 1000 WORDS: RODNEY GRAHAM

    In The Phonokinetoscope, 2001, Vancouver-based artist Rodney Graham once again casts himself as the protagonist of a short film loop. But unlike the desert-isle burlesque Vexation Island, 1997, or the sepia-hued Western How I Became a Ramblin' Man, 1999, Graham's latest project allows charm to reign over travesty. The film is set in Berlin's spring-blooming Tiergarten; its only props are a playing card, a clothespin, a vintage German bicycle, a thermos, and last but not least, a blotter of lysergic acid diethylamide, which Graham casually drops on his tongue while reposing on a rock.

    The title

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  • 1000 WORDS: RUSSELL CROTTY

    FIRST THE OUTLINE OF PINES . . . oak and sumac darkened . . . backlit by the full moon rising in capricornus . . . talk radio company.. . coffee on the tailgate. . . the gloaming twilight to the west.” —Atlas of Lunar Drawings, 1996

    A lot of the pleasure in Russell Crotty's pencil-drawn vision of outer space is the commonplace grandeur of It. He draws and captions in “bad poetry”— sky we know, a contemporary LA sky with the problems of light pollution and the toll of encroaching development and the weirdness of nature itself jutting into the horizon: radio towers, ponderosas and palm

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  • 1000 WORDS: MICHAEL CLARK

    During the premiere of his new show at the Hebbel Theater in Berlin this August, choreographer Michael Clark himself appeared only briefly, wielding a janitor's broom to sweep his company of dancers offstage. This came as something of a surprise since Clark’s personal charisma as a performer has always underpinned his status as one of contemporary dance’s true stars. He looks like a hybrid of Charlie Chaplin and Lauren Bacall with the physique and control of an Olympic gymnast. After training in traditional Scottish dance and ballet, Clark achieved instant celebrity on the launch of his own

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  • 1000 WORDS: THOMAS RUFF

    *Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was fond of quoting Augustine's dictum that “Beauty is the splendor of Truth.” Indeed, a dedication to beauty in truth permitted Mies to see over the heads of his contemporaries and glimpse what modern architecture would become. German artist Thomas Ruff's appreciation of what it means to make photography modern is likewise undiluted—though Ruff's relation to the “truth” of his medium is somewhat more complicated. In fact, the proposition that photography is not the unmediated bearer of truth it was once thought to be but is, on the contrary, conceptual to the core is

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  • 1000 WORDS: THOMAS DEMAND

    Thomas Demand works in the eastern part of Berlin, in a blue-collar neighborhood closer to Mitte’s industrial waterfront than to its galleries and fashionable cafés. His studio is located in one of those light-manufacturing buildings typically found in the innermost reaches of Berlin courtyards. When I went to visit the studio, nearly the entire loft space was filled with giant cardboard models for his recent series “Poll,” 2001. The setup was extremely disconcerting: I couldn’t tell whether the chair or table in front of me would support even the weight of the bag I was carrying, or whether it

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  • 1000 WORDS: TIM HAWKINSON

    A Post-it note almost imperceptibly twitching on a page to mark time; a model sailing ship stretched full circle until bow and stern merge like a snake eating its tail; a skeleton assembled out of rawhide dog bones: Tim Hawkinson's work is always surprising. But with Überorgan he's outdone himself. A combination bagpipe, pipe organ, and player piano elegantly jury-rigged mostly out of materials you might find at your local Home Depot and Radio Shack, Überorgan is a behemoth sound-producing instrument. Its principal components are twelve Winnebago-size polyethylene bags lashed to the ceiling,

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