Critics’ Picks

Manon de Boer, Laurien, 1996–2007, still from a black-and-white film in 16 mm, 10 minutes.

Manon de Boer, Laurien, 1996–2007, still from a black-and-white film in 16 mm, 10 minutes.

Luxembourg City

“The Space of Words”

Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean
3, Park Dräi Eechelen
February 19–May 25, 2009

Despite its title, visitors to this group exhibition curated by Christophe Gallois will find nary a word in most of the works. Inspired by Jacques Rancière’s discussion of Marcel Broodthaers’s 1969 “barred-out” version of Mallarmé’s typographically radical poem Un Coup de dès jamais n’abolira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance), “The Space of Words” is an elegant and elegiac colloquy on reading, meaning, and the spatialization of language. The aforementioned work by Broodthaers is responded to by the mum, historically oblique response of Ed Ruscha’s Trouble Your Way IF YOU Insist on Ratting, 1997, a syntactic series of white acrylic rectangles on raw linen that seem to censor Ruscha’s absent censure. Like the plaster constructions of Harald Klingelhöller, evoking cabinets furnished with drawerlike rectangles—one for each word of the work’s title—the denotation of words as units in the works here produces a mute code, both familiar and indecipherable. Klingelhöller, afforded almost a quarter of the exhibition for his oddball and outsize hieroglyphic constructions, stands out among a list of familiar names in this exhibition, all represented by a fair number of works.

Frances Stark’s wry, autobiographical collages devise a tandem in which spectator and artist piece the piece together—one of many representations of reading here, from an actress reenacting various movie excerpts that feature readers in Aurélien Froment’s video L’Adaptation manifeste, 2008, to Raymond Hains’s “exploded” versions of a poem photographed through fluted glass. But the most poignant example of the solitary pastime in this elegant if somewhat frictionless proposition is Manon de Boer’s Laurien, 1996–2007, a Super 8 film transferred to 16 mm of a woman reading, shot three times between 1996 and 2007. These eleven years bracket a period in which reading has gone from a model of the art experience to an etiolated reflection of what that experience used to be. With readers now replaced by spectators, works like Laurien seem like mirrors of the past.