Critics’ Picks

Ei Arakawa, B (Emerald), 2019, LED strips on hand-dyed fabric, metal, LED transmitters, power supplies, SD cards, speaker, 57 x 70".

Ei Arakawa, B (Emerald), 2019, LED strips on hand-dyed fabric, metal, LED transmitters, power supplies, SD cards, speaker, 57 x 70".


Ei Arakawa and Sarah Chow

Cc Foundation&Art Centre Cc基金会&艺术中心
101,Building 15, No.50 Moganshan Road, Putuo District
May 11, 2019–February 2, 2020

“Occultism is the metaphysics of dunces,” once wrote Adorno, a “regression to magic . . . assimilated to late capitalist forms.” It’s no surprise, then, that astrology is alive and well in our century. It serves as the conceptual linchpin for “Moon Rehearsals,” an exhibition by VERTEX af (Ei Arakawa and Sarah Chow). A continuation of a project begun in 2018 at Düsseldorf’s Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, the show joins Arakawa’s superlunary LED-lit tapestries with Chow’s “Performance People,” 2018, a series of astrological readings of canonical art. For the latter—fifteen printouts taped to the gallery wall—works including Vito Acconci’s Seedbed, Michael Smith’s Baby Ikki persona, and Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece have been anthropomorphized to possess their own distinct character flaws, strengths, and psychosexual tendencies, all based on their “birth dates.”

Rather than apply this popular brand of divination to mete out critical postmortems, Chow doubles down on the whimsy and inventiveness of her premise. “In a past life, you were oppressed by your mentor figure, a spiritual star curator who limited your artistic freedom in an environment of psychological oppression,” counsels the reading for Tony Conrad’s 7360 Sukiyaki (a Sagittarius). “Star curator acted like he knows what’s best for you because he’s a Cancer.” Like any good horoscope, Chow’s can only reaffirm our desires so that we may more clearly reroute them—as in the text for Baby Ikki (sun and moon in Taurus, Sagittarius rising): “What you’re really looking for is a charming, nurturing, and emotionally receptive partner (audience). You therefore tend to respond to partners (audiences) that seem like the caregiving type.”

“Moon Rehearsals” encourages artmaking as communal and ritualistic trial, a way to constellate the players and point to the invisible dynamics between them. One can sense the friendly ghost of Walter Benjamin, who, unlike his comrade Adorno, believed in the possibilities of myth and magic—seeing them as both symptoms of and protection against the purportedly inexorable logic of the contemporary. Duncery? It sounds a lot like art.