Critics’ Picks

View of “By Accident,” 2009.

View of “By Accident,” 2009.


“By Accident”

Le Commissariat
113 Boulevard Richard Lenoir
March 14–April 4, 2009

For this exhibition, Le Commissariat, a Parisian curatorial group, invited Komplot, a Belgian curatorial group, to produce a show; Komplot invited London-based writer Douglas Park, who compiled an archive of relatively recent art-historical accidents, complications, and mistakes. The show’s theoretical key is a quote from Burroughs and Gysin’s now very fashionable The Third Mind (1978): “We cannot produce accidents to order.” In the exhibition’s press materials, Park cites Mel Bochner’s 1966 exhibition at the School of Visual Arts, “Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant to Be Viewed as Art,” as a specific, even archetypal example of such an accident.

That exhibition had originally been designed in a conventional fashion (prints framed and hung on the walls), but it was only because the school found it too expensive that Bochner was “forced” to adopt his famous exhibition strategy, in which sketches, invoices, calculations, and sundry ephemera and preparatory materials by many contributors were collated in four-ring binders, placed on pedestals, and made available for perusal. Park adopts a related casual approach. The core of the exhibition is the archive, which is compiled in a fifty-page booklet, with each entry discussed by Park in English and French, accompanied by David Evrard’s (seemingly unrelated) visuals. Copies are available, and there are chairs for sitting and perusing. On one wall, there is an orderly, legible slide show of many of the archived images and events, and on the other, there is a video by Matthew Burbidge of their drunken discussion—about the archive—with Park in a bar. The footage is grainy and dark, so that mostly what one sees are the French subtitles (which are not always accurate). There is a blustering and slightly helpless quality in Park’s voice and in the exhibition, but this lends the show a grimy authenticity and is indicative of something legitimately underground.