Critics’ Picks

View of “For Forgetting,” 2014.

View of “For Forgetting,” 2014.

New York

Laure Prouvost

New Museum
235 Bowery
February 12–April 13, 2014

“For Forgetting,” Laure Prouvost’s solo museum debut in the United States, is a messy, cacophonic installation that latches onto the visitor’s subconscious ambitions and desires only to rashly relinquish hold moments later. The artist affirms her dark-horse win of last year’s Turner Prize by creating a dense sensorial experience, turning the New Museum’s ground-floor gallery into a three-room maze plastered with sculptures, videos, drawings, paintings, office furniture, printed e-mails, knockoff handbags, and crumpled dollar bills, among other items.

The installation can be read through a web of art-historical references: The artist’s well-known interest in Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau 1923–37 is apparent in the chaotic collaged mural encircling the gallery; in several videos, Prouvost’s face is concealed behind a mask reminiscent of those made by Marcel Janco for the Zurich Dada; and the peephole through which visitors peer into a beachscape video montage can only allude to Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés 1946–66. Yet perhaps the best way to approach Prouvost’s confounding practice is as a form of aesthetic homeopathy—she treats our cultural afflictions by inserting a diluted form of its cause into her work. It’s pop-culture self-help modus operandi with a twist. Before we even enter the packed space, we face the words IDEALLY THIS SIGN WOULD REMEMBER YOU. The affirmative paired with the conditional and the askew marked here is replicated throughout the exhibition, particularly in the interspersed videos that mock seemingly magical acts of will.

The centerpiece of the installation is the film How to Make Money Religiously, 2014. It histrionically directs us to remember a series of increasingly frenetic images with grandiose enticements of wealth and station. JUST HOLD ON TO THE IMAGES, the artist proclaims, knowing full well the inherent impossibility of such a command. With these words, Prouvost taps into a cultural chord much greater than the illusionary promises of an ever-hustling popular culture.