Critics’ Picks

View of “Systemics #4: Aarhus Rapport—Avantgarde as Network (or, the Politics of the Ultralocal),” 2014

View of “Systemics #4: Aarhus Rapport—Avantgarde as Network (or, the Politics of the Ultralocal),” 2014

Aarhus

“Systemics #4: Aarhus Rapport – Avantgarde as Network (or, the Politics of the Ultralocal)”

Kunsthal Aarhus
J.M. Mørks Gade 13
September 21–December 31, 2014

Contemporary curatorial projects that are formulated as critical responses to earlier radical art always run the risk of becoming perfunctory showcases that only canonize once urgent and anti-institutional activities. Not so with “Systemics #4: Aarhus Rapport—Avantgarde as Network (or, the Politics of the Ultralocal),” a collaboration between a curatorial collective, archival researchers, and artists. The exhibition examines an overlooked moment of rich multidisciplinary exchange—the flourishing of experimental happenings, poetry readings, music, and public artworks that took place in Aarhus from 1961 to 1969—as documented in the Aarhus Art Society’s 1969 report. “Systemics #4” undermines any neat historicizing of such fragmentary moments by using the archive as an apparatus to both engage the original works and ponder the future of artistic practice itself.

Several of the installations, such as George Brecht’s 1968 The Chemistry of Music, which parodies the format of the lecture as a hierarchical dissemination of unquestionable knowledge, highlight the show’s implicit problematizing of stable notions of a history reached through collected information. Jakob Jakobsen’s New Experimental College Tabloid, 2013–14, similarly questions avenues of information distribution by providing visitors with newspapers, which function as a portable archive that shares forgotten histories of the radical education explored by the Danish New Experimental College. Like the rest of the exhibition, these works highlight the curators’ acute understanding that the new report published to accompany “Systemics #4” inevitably presents only a partial account of an experimental project for future art historians seeking to reengage with the past.