A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS (plus finale) with a cast of sixteen, A Play of Selves was first staged . . . well, never. At least not exactly. Cindy Sherman completed the piece in 1976, when she was an undergraduate studying art at Buffalo State College in upstate New York and living above Hallwalls, the alternative space she had founded in 1974 with Robert Longo, Charlie Clough, and others. Having abandoned painting for photography, a medium that allowed her to enact a variety of private performances entirely for and by way of the camera, Sherman created seventy-two black-and-white tableaux that collectively

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    IT WOULD BE DISINGENUOUS to say that Joan Jonas is not a performance artist, but I don’t think of her that way. When she started in the 1960s, she sought bare land for building; these neighborhoods expanded around her only much later. She goes outside, generally.

    Jonas’s newest work, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, 2005, was commissioned by Dia:Beacon, and premiered there last year, with a reprise this past October. It tells stories, it’s representational, but, as with many aspects of her work, this is deceptive. Not cunningly so, but in the way of distances: You’re fooled easiest if

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    VANCOUVER-BASED ARTIST STAN DOUGLAS has reinvented some of the most significant works of cinema, from his elegantly looping six-minute, 16-mm work Subject to a Film: Marnie, 1989, which follows closely from Hitchcock’s 1964 original, to Suspiria, 2002/2003, a recombinant video mix of elements borrowed from Dario Argento’s gory, Technicolor-drenched 1977 cult classic of the same name, transposed to an eighteenth-century tower in Kassel, Germany, during Documenta 11. Douglas’s latest offering, Klatsassin—a high-definition video that will be screened in abridged form at the Vancouver International

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    MICHELANGELO IS A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW—and pinch-hitting for Andy Warhol probably isn’t much easier—yet these were precisely the challenges presented to David Salle when Roman art collector Carlo Bilotti recently asked him to execute a commission on the theme of the Sistine Chapel (a recast version of an unrealized Bilotti project once slated for the Pop master). Salle, who splashed on to the scene twenty-five years ago with a brazen brew of postmodern pictorial eclecticism and New York School–scale, capital-P Painting, would seem a natural fit for such an epic return to art history, having spent

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    AT FIRST GLANCE, Pawel Althamer’s Fairy Tale, 2006—perhaps the most iconoclastic work in the current Berlin Biennial—is an activist project: the artist leveraging the power of institutions (in this instance, the biennial, with its visibility and prestige) for social change. Entering a run-down former stable in the courtyard of a disused post office, viewers find themselves in a room that’s empty except for a single sneaker. On the door is a photocopied text on biennial stationery: a letter from Althamer to Berlin’s interior minister, Erhart Körting, pleading with him to grant a residence permit

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    FROM THE POINTEDLY economical gestures with which she began her career—amps dimming or brightening in the viewer’s presence (Before and After Follow Each Other, 1990); recordings of applause or jeers triggered by visitors’ movements (as in Laughing Crowd Sound Piece, 1990)—to the polyphonic, multihued blend of geometric structures and son et lumière in which she specializes today, Angela Bulloch has progressively deepened a practice fascinated with ordering systems and the subjective processing of information. Inflecting the stringent aesthetics of Conceptualism and Minimalism with destabilizing

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    FOR A CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD already engaged in a productive critical reassessment of the practices of the 1960s, the 2006 Whitney Biennial, which opens March 2, offers yet another welcome opportunity to compare and contrast that cultural moment and our own. The Peace Tower, 2005–2006, a joint project created by Rirkrit Tiravanija and Mark di Suvero for the Whitney’s Sculpture Court, resuscitates a curiously underexamined watershed in the history of cultural activism in America—the creation, in the winter of 1966, of a dramatic collaborative artwork in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los

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    HEINRICH VON KLEIST tells the story of a famous dancer who, praising the marionette theater, suggests that a mechanical figure could be designed to “perform a dance that neither he nor any other outstanding dancer of his time . . . could equal.” For this marionette’s every movement, he claims, would be more graceful than any person’s—akin to that of a pendulum, whose insentient motion is determined solely by an unwavering center of gravity.

    Kleist’s legendary discourse comes to mind when considering Catherine Sullivan’s most recent work, The Chittendens, 2005, whose evolution also began with a

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    TRYING TO COME UP with a taxonomy for the burgeoning idioms of contemporary sculpture is probably ill advised. But one can’t help wishing for a bit of handy nomenclature to categorize the abundance of recent work in which rigorously formal propositions achieve an odd, uneasy détente with, well, junk—tchotchkes, cast-offs, discount-bin merchandise. The result of this dynamically unstable alliance—visible in the work of artists as diverse as Jim Lambie, Gedi Sibony, and, perhaps most notably, Rachel Harrison—suggests less a simple rejiggering of old terms, e.g., assemblage, than an evolution of

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    It’s easy to love a Castiglione lamp. Harder, perhaps, to embrace without irony the more tricked-out artifacts of modernism’s schizophrenic dotage. Such Jetsons-era concoctions could scarcely be called “timeless,” but for artist Josiah McElheny that’s precisely their allure. McElheny has repeatedly gravitated toward a class of objects that show both their age and their Age, embodying as they do the often unresolved or inassimilable aesthetic aspirations of their historical milieu. He has taken as his subject not the Bauhaus’s iconic Wagenfeld lamp but that design school’s madcap Metal Party,

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    THIRTY-TWO DOWN, 333 TO GO. Back in 2000, Mike Kelley unveiled Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), the first installment of an ongoing, gargantuan serial work that will eventually comprise 365 video pieces, each with its own set, or sculptural component. Next month, “Day Is Done,” Kelley’s first solo show at Gagosian Gallery in New York, will assemble an ambitious multiplex of thirty-one videos and associated sculptural “stations” (Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstructions # 2–32, 2004–2005) that the artist has made since.

    The exhibition reactivates

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    The professional relationship between Basel-based artist Christoph Büchel and Zurich-based curator Giovanni Carmine started traditionally enough: Carmine commissioned a work by Büchel for the 2002 group show “Unloaded: Coming Up for Air,” which used former Swiss Army bunkers as its exhibition spaces. The next year, Harald Szeemann asked Büchel to contribute to “G 2003: A Village & a Small Town Receive Art,” an outdoor sculpture show in Ticino, the Italian-speaking southern region of Switzerland, and Büchel invited Carmine to join him as an artistic collaborator. The partnership yielded Operation

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