Critics’ Picks

Left: Mario Merz, Movements of the Earth and the Moon on an Axis, 2003, triple igloo: metal tubes, glass, stone, neon, clamps, clay, 19’ 7” x 16’ 4” x 9’ 8”. Right: Simon Starling, 1,1,2, 2011, carrara marble blocks, slings, pulley systems, rope, cable, shackles, dimensions variable.


Simon Starling

Fondazione Merz
Via Limone, 24
October 29–January 15

Exhibitions curated by artists who use appropriation pose interesting problems. The most compelling regards status: What is the boundary between a show curated by an artist consisting of works by others, and a show in which an artist appropriates others’ work as part of his practice? Although appropriation is not at the core of Simon Starling’s work, he often incorporates design objects and sometimes works of art in their own right into his pieces. Responding to the invitation to create a project at the Fondazione Merz, Starling has selected, in addition to his own works, a heterogeneous constellation of objects, among which are Sture Johannesson’s experiments with computer graphics from the early 1970s, Faivovich & Goldberg’s documents about an area of Argentina struck by a meteor shower, and the wonderful series “Illustration for the Moon; Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite” created in 1874 by amateur astronomers Nasmyth and Carpenter, which features photographs of small-scale models of the lunar surface where Galileo meets Méliès. The selection overall orbits around the theme of astronomy, drawing parallels between creativity in science and creativity in art while touching on Starling’s favorite themes: the interweaving of historical and cultural events that surround objects, as well as translation in the broad sense of the word—here, the displacement of artifacts or words from one system of cultural parameters to another.

The result, to return to our initial question regarding the distinction between artist and curator, is unclassifiable. Starling’s exhibition can be considered a show “curated by” the artist (because it is a relatively traditional display of artworks) or, and with equal legitimacy, an exhibition “of” the artist (because of its ties with Starling’s own work and its conceptual background). One might even think of “The Inaccessible Poem” as an artwork itself. Whatever is it, it’s remarkable: The associations and comparisons presented within this body of work—which are as intellectually sophisticated as Starling at his best—marries, to paraphrase Nabokov, the precision of poetry to the imagination of science.