Critics’ Picks

View of “Red-blooded, White-skinned, and the Blues,” 2018.

Berlin

Christopher Aque

Sweetwater, Berlin
Kottbusser Damm 7 3rd Floor
November 30–January 26

For “Red-blooded, White-skinned, and the Blues,” Christopher Aque has installed a radio, Transmission (all works 2018), tuned to a station specializing in 2000s rock. The exhibition’s title can thus be read as a reference to that particular strain of white masculine Americana and its cultural output: “alt-rock,” its prefix signifying defiance of the mainstream, and these days, proudly adopted by the alt-right. In the related text materials, the artist details his embarrassment about adolescent melancholia. Bands such as Bright Eyes and Arcade Fire—which now play through the radio in the gallery, arousing teenage feelings of desire and frustration—serve as the soundtrack of this stage of the artist’s emotional life.

The visitor encounters not only aughts-era alt upon entering the gallery but also motion sensors that deactivate the UV-C fluorescent lamps of the light sculpture Erasure (en masse). It is likely for the best that its blue light is visible only from outside the gallery when the room is unoccupied. Exposure to it can be physically harmful; UV-C eradicates biological matter and is used as a clinical disinfectant in hospitals and laboratories. Displayed in an adjacent room is a red gelatin cyanotype, Sanitation (Pride). Developed using UV-C, it depicts a New York sanitation-department truck as a float in a Pride parade. Carrying with it the latent threat of physical harm, the UV-C also literally makes visible the municipal workers’ act of self-representation at the parade. Working in tandem, the three works in this exhibition speak to Aque’s refusal to neatly resolve form and content. Like its perishable lights and sounds, Aque’s show—though legibly a critique of power—proves intangible, more atmosphere than argument.