Critics’ Picks

Agnieszka Kurant, Untitled, 2014, conveyor belt and mirror, mirror: 80 x 120 x 1/4“, conveyor belt: 36 1/2 x 79 x 60 1/2”.

New York

Agnieszka Kurant

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
521 West 21st Street
September 11–October 18, 2014

On encountering the empty wall-mounted tubing of Agnieszka Kurant’s End of the Signature, 2014, it is possible to miss the mere seconds it takes for dark neon to shoot through the twisting structure—as if suddenly scrawled by an invisible hand—and materialize into a sign. For this work in the artist’s current exhibition, “Variables,” Kurant collected more than one hundred signatures and used specially designed software to merge them into a single, collective one, which a nearby machine writes and rewrites with a pen. Maps of phantom islands, one topographical, one color-coded for national territories, appear in a side gallery. The room is empty save for a soccer ball on the floor, an animatronic object that inches away, its movements so slight as to be almost imperceptible.

Not seeing becomes as important as seeing: Kurant’s works, often automated like mechanical Turks, conjure art even with blind participation, influenced by economies in which play gets converted into labor. For A.A.I 1-6, 2014, the artist collaborated with a lab in Florida to deploy termites to build six mounds out of glitter, gold, and jewel-colored sand, echoing the Kurant’s stake in collective intelligence, a theme that pervades the exhibition. Placed on a pedestal in the gallery, the structures take on the authority of ruins and press at a democratization of mark-making. In a more minimal gesture, a U-shaped conveyer belt leads into a mirror, and our gaze completes the path of this fiction-generating device, forever feeding into itself with our gaze. Nearby, in Air Rights 1, 2014, a rock floats electromagnetically just above its plinth: Suspended between our world and one just beyond it, Kurant points to that exact location where understanding yields to astonishment.