Critics’ Picks

Carlos Motta, Pesca Milagrosa (detail), 2002.

Carlos Motta, Pesca Milagrosa (detail), 2002.

New York

“Establishing Shot”

Artists Space Exhibitions
38 Greene Street 3rd Floor
March 9–May 1, 2004

In filmic language, establishing shots are images that seek to set the mood of the scenes to follow. So should we understand this show as an attempt by Christian Rattemeyer, Artists Space’s new curator, to set the mood for his exhibition program? Yes and no: The press release says that the show is indeed a sort of preview of the coming season—but it also points out that establishing shots are notable for their frequent failure to establish anything at all. Having thus hedged his bets, Rattemeyer proceeds to offer a provocative exhibition that emphasizes the ambiguous nature of “documentary” information. Carlos Motta’s grid of high-contrast ink-jet printouts of missing persons’ ghostly faces—all downloaded from the Internet and digitally manipulated—reminds us that the era of the milk-carton all-points bulletin has evolved into the age of ephemeral, accessible, and easily altered information. Two collaborative films by Liam Gillick, Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Carsten Höller, Philippe Parreno, and Rirkrit Tiravanija feature the artists waxing philosophical on idealism, cheese, and the real reason for casual Fridays, among other topics. The narrative elides specific focus, and the dense dialogue slips into ambiguity. As in much of the work here, conclusions are thwarted, but an implicit warning remains. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld: “There are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”