Critics’ Picks

Daniel Barroca, Alberto Caeiro (detail), 2014, vellum sheets and paper, dimensions variable.


“A Museum of Immortality”

Ashkal Alwan
Jisr el Wati, Street 90 Building 110, 1st Floor
June 11–July 18

Rounding out the third edition of Ashkal Alwan’s experimental art school, “A Museum of Immortality” is the last in a series of exhibitions anchoring a curriculum developed by the artists Anton Vidokle and Jalal Toufic. The show is based on a concept by Boris Groys, and actually tries to realize the Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov’s wild notion of “The Common Task,” whereby a heady, hallucinatory mix of science, technology, political circumstance, and spiritual fervor reimagines the museum as a space for resurrecting the dead and immortalizing all mankind.

With the help of more than fifty fellow artists, Vidokle and Toufic have created a muscular, mazelike installation of stacked and angled boxes, display cases doubling as glass-capped wooden coffins. The range of people, ideas, and things offered for eternal preservation here is broad, uneven, and dazzlingly inventive in terms of materials and forms. Jessika Khazrik’s My Body If Only I Could See You (all works 2014), for example, pays tribute to the eleventh-century polymath Ibn al-Haytham and his Book of Optics by placing a pair of identical light fixtures face-to-face. Daniel Barroca assembles seven vellum sheets, among others, scrawled with notes and astral drawings in Alberto Caeiro to conjure the spirit of the titular Portuguese poet, who was, like Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos, one of Fernando Pessoa’s great literary heteronyms.

Inevitably, perhaps, several artists plumb their own autobiographies. But where Lynn Kodeih’s broadcast of 147 hours of psychoanalysis, Untitled, 8820 Minutes Ongoing seems excessive and self-indulgent, Tony Chakar’s How to Say Goodbye, a collection of at least as many cassette tapes, speaks beautifully to a time of loss and a sense of longing whose resurrection can only ever be painfully incomplete.