Critics’ Picks

Mark Wallinger, According to Mark, 2010, one-hundred chairs, black marker, white strings, 7 x 12’.

Mark Wallinger, According to Mark, 2010, one-hundred chairs, black marker, white strings, 7 x 12’.


Mark Wallinger

carlier | gebauer, Berlin
Markgrafenstraße 67
May 1–June 5, 2010

Last year, Mark Wallinger curated “The Russian Linesman” for London’s Hayward Gallery: a superb show that explored all sorts of liminal spaces. For his latest exhibition, he has applied the same logic to his own practice, presenting a series of new works caught between the real and the imagined.

In The Unconscious (all works 2010), enlarged pictures, culled from the Internet, of people asleep on public transit line the walls. Eyes roll back, chins drop, and arms get stuck under slumped bodies as Wallinger traps his exhausted heroes between destinations and between conscious states. For WORD, the artist copied out the entire text of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250–1918 but removed all the punctuation and line breaks, turning centuries of poetic imaginings into indecipherable wallpaper. And for a video titled The Magic of Things, he edited together all the moments from the sitcom Bewitched in which inanimate objects spring to life: acts of voodoo that seem no less believable than the TV show’s hypersaturated suburban sets.

According to Mark, however, is the highlight of the show. In it, one hundred mismatched chairs, each with the word MARK written on their backs, sit in rows on the floor, tied by strings to a single vanishing point on the wall. The threads are like rays of religious light, giving the whole scene a Renaissance feel. But it’s the words on the chairs that deliver the real punch line. One could either use them as incitement for a complicated exegesis on “the artist’s mark,” or take the altogether more straightforward view that yes, the artist is indeed “Mark,” and all the chairs belong to him. It’s a good gag, and it illustrates one of Wallinger’s greatest strengths: his ability to create challenging works that combine a comedian’s sense of timing with serious analytic thought.