PRINT September 1999

International Shorts

Rachel Withers


Get hip to the wonders of science, Richard Dawkins’s recent book Unweaving the Rainbow urges the art community. A range of upcoming shows seem to have answered the challenge, but they may not be quite the uplifting celebration of quantum graininess the physicist had in mind. At Magasin Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, Mike Kelley will propose a dubious monument to the work of primate behavior specialist Harry Harlow in the form of a clinical, human-scale steel playroom that monkeys with the scientist’s research methods as well as Isamu Noguchi’s set designs for Martha Graham (Oct. 17, 1999–Jan. 16, 2000). Udo Wid, a “one-man institution” whose work combines neurophysiological research and free artistic experimentation, will be represented at the Secession in Vienna between October 8 and November 18. Flora Neuwirth, the up-and-coming inventor of “fnsystems” (a design concept that she applies rigorously to everything from bars to bras), will be showing brand-new work at the Salzburger Kunstverein (Sept. 16–Oct. 17). At the Kunsthaus Zug, Switzerland (location: see below), from September 12 to November 7, Pavel Pepperstein will take a break from the poststructuralist-inspired practice of “Medical Hermeneutics” that he helped pioneer in Moscow in the later ’80s. “Unbribable Inspector-Functionaries in the Epoch of Fading Flags” classified culture as a pathology and graded its outbreaks according to a five-point diagnostic; in Zug, Pepperstein will work with his father, artist Victor Pivovarov, on a dissection of the father-son relationship. And at the Witte de With in Rotterdam, the group show “Stimuli” (Nov. 20, 1999–Feb. 13, 2000), with artists ranging from Gerhard Richter and Barnett Newman to Dennis Adams and Francis Alÿs, will consider art’s ambiguous relation to the concept of objectivity and test out the ways in which hallucination might offer a model for artistic production and consumption.


When is an installation not an installation? Why, when it’s a large sculpture, intervention, assemblage or 3-D piece, site-specific, space-led, or room-based. Or even just a display. Writers beware: Artists are often picky about the terminology. For example, between October 29, 1999, and January 3, 2000, the Hamburg Deichtorhallen will be crammed with what we might risk calling a very big “thing” by Jason Rhoades—not an installation, he insists, but an awe-inspiring 6,500-foot-long sculpture that, given the artist’s recent output, is likely to initiate a whole body of subsequent work. Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn, meanwhile, rejects the I-word in favor of “displays.” His extensive improvisations (hope that’s OK, Thomas) act dumb in the face of consumerism, conjuring gold bars and monster Swiss watches out of tinfoil and tat. At the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint Etienne, France, Hirschhorn’s World Corners will be on display between October 8 and late November. Richard Tuttle, another fan of mundane materials—chicken wire, corrugated cardboard, bits and bobs—is best known for delicate work that’s almost self-effacing in scale. However, at the Kunsthaus Zug between November 20, 1999, and January 16, 2000, “Replace the Abstract Picture Plane” may change his reputation. Among a range of works representing Tuttle’s four-year association with Zug will be a textile-and-wood piece measuring a stonking 150 feet. (“And where is Zug?” I hear you cry. Answer: about one inch down from Zurich, and slightly to the left.)


A group of relatively unsung, or maybe unlikely, pioneers of the modern movement are celebrated in an assortment of shows this autumn. Willi Baumeister (1889–1955), whose post-1919 paintings earned him the support of Léger and the Purists and eventually gained him the honorable title of “degenerate artist,” will be featured at the Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France, between September 4 and December 5; Baumeister’s own work will be contextualized with pieces by Léger, Arp, Ozenfant, Le Corbusier, and many others. And at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the paintings of two significant so-called outsiders, Alfred Wallis, from St. Ives, Cornwall, and James Dixon, from Tory Island on the north Irish coast, will be on display from September 1 to November 7, in a show that promises both to mark their respective achievements and to question the label of “primitive” often attached to their work.


“Liverpudlian” is a nineteenth-century word, based on the alteration of “pool” to “puddle”—presumably some snooty non-Liverpudlian’s witty idea. But times change. Those enterprising Scousers are poised to steal a march on the rest of the UK by hosting its first major art biennial. Organized by Tony Bond, chief curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art (Sept. 28–Nov. 7) will incorporate various preexisting events: the prestigious John Moores open painting competition, and “New Contemporaries 99,” the annual showcase for work by recent graduates from UK art schools. In addition, TRACEY, an artist-led alliance of Liverpool’s alternative galleries and studio groups, will exploit the city’s potential for experimental and site-specific work.


If you have tears, prepare to shed them at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, between October 9 and December 26. In “Countdown to Unhappiness,” Sophie Calle will regale visitors with the story of her most miserable experience, as well as tragic tales she has elicited from others over the years. At the Nicolaj Contemporary Art Centre, Copenhagen, from November 5 to December 19, “Close-Ups: Carl Dreyer and Contemporary Art” will take examples of the pioneering director’s close-up technique as the starting point for an exploration of the psychological dimensions of various contemporary works, including those of Bas Jan Ader, Lawrence Weiner, and Gillian Wearing. Ann-Sofi Sidén, probably best known for her investigations into the inner life of paranoid Manhattan psychiatrist Alice E. Fabian, will continue her meditations on the wilder shores of the human psyche at the Vienna Secession between December 3, 1999, and January 17, 2000. And the second outbreak of “Neurotic Realism” will take place at the Saatchi Gallery, London, between September 16 and December 5; among the work exhibited in phase two of this scheduled three-part survey will be Dexter Dalwood’s paintings and Tom Hunter’s conspicuously unneurotic photographic portraits.

Rachel Withers



Viennese art-loving pyromaniacs rejoice. This fall the art of two committed incendiarists goes on view in the Austrian capital. From November 5, 1999, to February 27, 2000, the Kunsthalle will survey Cai Guo-Qiang’s experiments with gunpowder, fire, water, wood, and earth, including a firework “installation” marking the site to which the gallery will relocate in 2001. Over at the Secession, from October 8 to November 18, Roman Signer (hot from the Venice success) will show objects, installations, films, and photographs documenting the transformative processes—burning, exploding, melting away—with which he has long been preoccupied. Bring your own asbestos blanket.



Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles has proved a phenomenal draw wherever it has appeared in the UK; now there’s a little corner of greater Europe claimed as forever Gormley. Well, OK—maybe not forever, but definitely between September 18 and November 14, when the artist’s European Field (40,000 six-inch-high terra-cotta figures, modeled in 1993 by local students at the Östra Grevie art school) will show at Malmö Konsthall. (The test of a really good Gormley “field”? Eighty thousand freaky little eyes follow you around the room.)



If language is a virus from outer space, then the language-based pieces brought together in “Babel” (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, September to October) should provide a catalogue of its most virulent strains. Work by an international lineup of artists who work with the written word (including Ken Lum, Xu Bing, and Shirin Neshat) promises to explore the unstable relations between language and identity; individual works’ ingredients range from long-distance phone calls to mating pigs, touch-sensitive computer screens to papaya trees, the Bible to Mein Kampf.