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Taryn Simon

Gagosian | Hong Kong
12 Pedder Street, 7/F Pedder Building
May 25–August 5

Taryn Simon, Animal Corpses (Prohibited), Animal Parts (Prohibited), Animal Skeletons (Prohibited), Animal Specimens (Prohibited), Butterflies (Prohibited), Snails (Prohibited) (detail), 2010, 15 archival ink-jet prints in Plexiglas boxes, dimensions variable.

An uncomfortable portrait ushers viewers into American artist Taryn Simon’s first exhibition in Hong Kong: The single-channel video Cutaways, 2012 shows footage of the artist making prolonged eye contact with newscasters for Russian prime time. Simon was asked to stare in silence for several minutes after an interview on the network, so that the footage—which she obtained from the program’s producers—could be used in the editing process. The work sets the tone for several of Simon’s other projects on view, which use photography to illustrate controlling systems or authorities: At the center of the show, the piece Paperwork and the Will of Capital, 2015, dissects the symbols of power present at the signing of international accords. Simon carefully re-creates and photographs bouquets beside which powerful men stand during significant diplomatic deals. (The flowers are both markers of femininity and reminiscent of “impossible bouquets,” a seventeenth-century Dutch painting trope of flowers whose existence would be inconceivable in the seasons and climates of their settings.) She houses the images in large, wooden museum-cabinet frames with textual details of their circumstances inscribed into the panels. Other series examine, through photographs and meticulous research, the bloodlines of albino families in Tanzania targeted for their supposed magical powers, or the family members of a South Korean man believed to have been kidnapped by the government of the North. In the final room of the gallery, Contraband, 2010, comprises hundreds of photographs of items confiscated during Simon’s five-day stint with customs at JFK airport in New York. Among the objects are beans, weapons, sausages, pirate videos, sexual-enhancement drugs, and one dead bird; the work is a motley archive of desire, violence, and restraint.

Elliat Albrecht

“Stretched Terrains”

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art
145, DLF South Court Mall, Saket
February 2–July 31

View of “Stretched Terrains,” 2017.

This ambitious show is part of a series at the museum that reconsiders modernism in postindependence India, in the era of decolonization and liberalism that is in crisis today. It showcases the work of eighteen artists, photographers, and architects through eight themed galleries. The first room, “Delhi: Building the Modern,” charts civic architectural projects that were part of the Nehruvian vision for a new India. The recent demolition of the Hall of Nations (1972), despite local and international outcry, makes the inclusion here of architect Raj Rewal’s original scale model and Madan Mahatta’s photographs of its construction particularly poignant memorials.

While the show foregrounds the well-known cadre of the Progressive Artists’ Group, it’s their lesser-known works that are most compelling, such as M. F. Husain’s vivid sketches and his film Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967). S. H. Raza’s paintings of cityscapes in Italy from the 1950s signal the beginning of his move toward the purer abstraction of his later works. A heavy velvet curtain provides a measure of privacy for viewing a room of F. N. Souza’s loving and thickly rendered paintings of women, some gazing impetuously at us with their skirts drawn up.

The inclusion of works by the late 1960s Bombay-based collective Vision Exchange Workshop (VIEW) artists Akbar Padamsee and Nalini Malani gestures toward the need to expand the Indian modernist canon to embrace photography and film. Ashim Ahluwalia’s 16-mm film Events in a Cloud Chamber (2016) strikes a wistful note by re-creating Padamsee’s lost film of the same name (1969). When Ahluwalia asks about Event’s score, Padamsee vaguely recalls “a Sarabhai woman” of whose death he was unaware—composer Geeta Sarabhai, a colleague of John Cage—which reminds us that there are some histories that remain occluded in our attempts to retrieve others, but that something beautiful can arise in reimaginings.

Sadia Shirazi

Su Yu Hsien

TKG+
No. 15 Ln. 548 Ruiguang Rd. Neihu Dist., B1
July 8–September 10

Su Yu Hsien, Prophet, 2016, two-channel color video, 24 minutes 16 seconds.

Two large video projections occupy opposite ends of the main space of this venue, together making up the two-channel work Prophet, (all works 2016). One projection shows layers of red curtains towed by pulleys, never revealing the stage, while the lights slowly dim. In the other, an elderly couple, basking in the red glow reflected by the curtains across the room, argues about the man’s failed ambitions as a modern intellectual. Staged in theaters in 1965, the play Prophet was originally meant to be staged with the couple performing while seated in the audience, but was rejected by the director, who felt that the absence of actors onstage and the curtain mechanism would not be understood by the conservative, Peking-opera-going crowds of martial-law-era Taiwan, when the art form took on a political symbolism for a nationalist government keen on stressing its unbroken ties to China.

The era of Prophet was perhaps epitomized by a single object from the event: a plaster gong. Created to announce the opening of the play as a parody of the man with a gong in the opening credits films produced by Rank Organisation, the object shattered upon first strike. Su, reenacting Prophet and revisiting the circumstances and history of the gong, displays new works in the adjacent room, Plaster Gong #1-5 (all shattered plaster gongs either from making #1 or from performances documented off-site, #2-5, with videos Documentary and Percussion Performance), which focus on the form and musical quality of the object, honoring noise, defiance, and an urgency to disrupt existing order, despite the instrument’s tendency to shatter into a million pieces.

Daphne Chu

Etti Abergel

Bar David Museum for Jewish Art and Judaica
Kibbutz Baram
February 25–October 31

View of “Archaeology of Others,” 2017.

For nearly four decades, Etti Abergel has been investigating and expressing a lineage of exile: Her parents, who were born in Morocco and fled to Israel in the late 1940s and 1950s, have struggled with their new location and identity. A sense of estrangement has been passed down to Abergel, despite her being born and raised in the Jewish state. Her current exhibition is a parting ceremony from her migrant identity.

A wooden bridge leads viewers through the length of the gallery. Without a real aim or purpose, the bridge, decorated with metal-can mobiles and plastic tote bags—materials the artist associates with migration and adaptation—directs the viewer to a wooden cabin. Titled Transitional Cell, 2017, this small meditative space seems to be a place for rituals. In it is a plaster-casted floor pillow installed near a large industrial porcelain plate, while the cell’s roof is partially covered with twigs taken from the artist’s hometown, Tivon. Portions of the walls are covered with expressive black vertical lines that look like scratches and feel like a silent scream.

Numerous items are housed within Library of Objects, 2017, a large shelving unit. Some, such as Footstool, 2015, and Knot, 2003, are taken from Abergel’s previous shows. Together, the works in this library offer a sense of fragility and obstruction: A broken bowl covered with plaster, ballpoint pens tied into a delicate nest-like structure, and dice trapped in plaster and placed under a glass cup are also on view. The exhibition concludes in the museum’s small archeological room, where Tape Measures, 2017, a chandelier of measuring tapes, hangs from the ceiling, as if scaling the artist’s virtues. It is a symbolic form of contemplation about one’s past choices, faith, and paths.

Naomi Lev

“Ghosting of Beings and Worlds”

Grey Noise
Unit 24, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1, Exit 43 - SZR
May 22–July 31

Paul Hage Boutros, Prosthetic Love, 2016, paper, chair, 10 x 7". Installation view.

Hidden above viewers’ line of sight on the gallery’s left wall is a mathematical formula, titled Vitesse de Fantomisation (Speed of Ghosting), 2010, used for calculating ghosting: the speed of the disappearance of felt moments. Inspired by Laurent Derobert’s 2012 text Mathémathiques Existentielles, which attempts to capture feelings with equations, this monochromatic exhibition is less a foray into apparitions and more an elegant encounter with emotional ephemerality.

Paul Hage Boutros’s five-year documentation of SMS messages with his partner (Prosthetic Love, 2016) is an entry point to the show’s intimacy and aesthetic subtlety. Their exchanges fill a white book and imply both the blanking effect of time and the lingering wisps of subjective narrative as imprinted into memory. Though the nine artists’ works are better at soliloquy than dialogue, each piece’s adherence to the organizing concept ensures cohesiveness, from curator Charbel-joseph H. Boutros’s burnt blankets as dream catchers (selections from his series “Night Cartographies,” 2017) to Ange Leccia’s video where he clearly awaits something (Autoportrait à l’atelier [Self-Portrait in the Studio], 2016). Invisible auras and the ensuing delicate residues are all that remain, save for the Minimalist works that attempt containment.

However, “Ghosting of Beings and Worlds” may be more neatly wrapped up than needed—thematic oversimplification risks undermining the poetry of the works as they guide viewers between speculation and infiltration. Yet poetic traces are resistant to entrapment, and this exhibition reinforces that some things are best, and purposefully, left enigmatic.

Katrina Kufer

Hugo Aveta

Centro Cultural Haroldo Conti
Av. del Libertador 8151 C.A.B.A.
March 18–July 30

Hugo Aveta, Síntomas (Symptoms), 2015, 84 doors, dimensions variable.

The door may well be one of the most ingenious human inventions ever. How could we envision culture—or life itself—without the image of opening and closing doors, making way or blocking passage, and, most of all, isolating ourselves? Síntomas (Symptoms), 2015, an installation by Hugo Aveta, looks to the symbolic power of the door without losing sight of its function. The severe architectural block that rises up in the back of the gallery indicates what cannot be seen. Yet, as is often the case, the very act of imposing a limit is an invitation to cross it. And so one of the eighty-four doors laid out in a prism opens, and the visitor has access to an experience that this review cannot even attempt to convey.

The show, “La conciencia íntima de los objetos” (The Intimate Consciousness of Objects), consists of four installations, as well as photographs, videos, and drawings that Aveta has shown individually in different venues in Latin America and Europe. It is not coincidental that he has brought them together in this space, the location of a clandestine detention center during this country’s last military dictatorship. Though not overtly political, Aveta’s work demands constant engagement with memory, both individual and collective. What at first glance may seem like the staging of a closed metaphor immediately goes astray due to the marks that time has left on the objects and the drives that those same objects unleash in our own history. We find ourselves alone, then, in a sort of limbo.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.

M.S. Dansey

Guilherme Vaz

SESC | Pompéia
Clelia street, 93, Pompeii
May 5–August 6

Guilherme Vaz and Carlos Bedurap Zoró, untitled, 1999, oil on canvas, 68 x 56".

With Hélio Oiticica, Cildo Meireles, and Artur Barrio, the artist and composer Guilherme Vaz was among the four Brazilian participants in Kynaston McShine’s 1970 “Information” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A retrospective of Vaz’s work took place last year at Rio de Janeiro’s CCBB, and this venue hosts another iteration of the show. It opens with two films for which Vaz created the sound track. One, Fome de Amor (1968), is a Nelson Pereira dos Santos–directed Nouvelle Vague–era work shot in Angra dos Reis and New York, and widely considered the first Brazilian film to feature musique concrète. The score for the other, Brasiliários (1986), stems from a collaboration with director Sérgio Bazi and was inspired by a text from writer Clarice Lispector. Akin to much of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, Bazi’s heralded film portrays a woman—Lispector as played by Cláudia Pereira—and her journey through Brasilia’s iconic modernist architecture.

Both of these films are accompanied by parts of Vaz’s composition scripts, as well as a vitrine with documents related to the artist’s music production over a number of decades as he moved between Brasilia, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro. It also includes correspondence with the late Bahia-based musician Walter Smetak, the now-defunct German Telewissen collective, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder collaborator Peer Raben. As part of a presentation of Vaz’s Crude, 2015, viewers are invited to improvise tonal arrangements by activating six wall-mounted paper sculptures featuring contact microphones. It all concludes with a series of sound and video works as well as six untitled paintings from 1999, the latter of which the artist produced in partnership with indigenous populations in central and northern Brazil.

Tobi Maier