Critics’ Picks

View of “Of Pleasure: The Learnings and Strange Fortunes of Atletica Ideal.” Photo: Mihaela Vezentan.

View of “Of Pleasure: The Learnings and Strange Fortunes of Atletica Ideal.” Photo: Mihaela Vezentan.


Apparatus 22

Mantuleasa street 22
November 16, 2022–February 4, 2023

In 2015, Apparatus 22 embarked on the “Suprainfinit utopian universe,” a conceptual framework named after the gallery that hosted the collective. Their latest exhibition, “Of Pleasure: The Learnings and Strange Fortunes of Atletica Ideal,” continues to build out this artistic ecosystem, filling the gallery with sculptures made from black leather, metal chains, and marble balls; neon letters spelling out musings like “my crusade for love reached the end of the world” or “metaphysics and flesh crushed in pleasure”; parts of birdhouses coated in black paint; and “lightbox skeletons”—wall-mounted fluorescent tubes covered in printed textiles. The Owls Are Not What They Seem (all works cited 2022) nods to the American serial Twin Peaks as it suspends long bands of glossy VHS tape in an undulating curtain that courses through the gallery, while an anthracite metal cot plus a more spartan counterpart fashioned from dark wood—the kind one might find as readily in a military camp as in an s/m dungeon—are mounted with screens broadcasting the collective’s Sex Tape III (Atletica Ideal x Lovers of Beaubourg by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries) and Sex Tape VIII (Atletica Ideal x The Scream by Edvard Munch).

Amplifying the atmosphere of an artsy darkroom club, these videos imagine the perspective of Atletica Ideal, an AI character who is trying to understand the concept of love but gets too aroused by artworks in the process. One is shot as if with a thermal-imaging camera, all in shades of blue; the other is in black-and-white and filmed with a handheld camera, like a 1990s horror movie. Both works are situated oddly between “old media” and utopian thinking. The emphasis on fetishism stresses the need for nonnormative options, prompting visitors to reevaluate modern society’s adoration of progress and rationality. By questioning whether true alternatives to established modes of interpretation can really exist, Apparatus 22 gives us glimpses of the world that could be instead.