PRINT December 2001

Kate Bush


1 Jeremy Deller, The Battle of Orgreave The award for Art Event of the Year must go to this epic re-creation. On June 18, 1984, at the height of Thatcherism, the quiet South Yorkshire village of Orgreave was the scene of a particularly violent confrontation in a long and painful miners’ strike. This summer, Deller (and producer Artangel) assembled a group of amateur reenactors and restaged the pitched battle between police and picketers, complete with cavalry charges, flying missiles, howling ambulances, and bloodied faces. As political performance-cum-living history painting, Deller’s Battle of Orgreave constituted a new kind of artistic hybrid. Watch for Mike Figgis’s documentary of the project, which premiered at the London Film Festival last month.

2 Nicolas Roeg, Don’t Look Now Essential preparatory viewing for any trip to the great necropolis that is Venice. A new print of Roeg’s 1973 masterpiece was released in March, in plenty of time for the biannual art pilgrimage (and, as it turned out, infinitely more satisfying). The film has it all: most beautiful heroine, most vertically challenged villain, sexiest sex scene, and the most horrible ending in the history of cinema. A couple trying to come to terms with the drowning of their young daughter visits a bleak, wintry Venice where he (Donald Sutherland) is overseeing both the restoration of a crumbling church and the psychological disintegration of his wife (Julie Christie). It’s a ghost story of sorts, but mostly a meditation on death and renewal, which, set in the city of mirrors and masks, trembles with symbolic possibility.

3 Thomas Hirschhorn It’s not easy to make art about injustice, but Hirschhorn does it with increasing conviction. The Swiss artist was awarded the Prix Marcel Duchamp for Pôle-Self at the Pompidou this year; a smaller project, Laundrette, at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, affirmed his place as contemporary art’s most passionate provocateur. He transplanted a scuzzy laundromat—perfectly observed, with a nasty plastic floor, lurid lighting, chained furniture, and abandoned reading matter—to a storefront in London’s salubrious WI district. Inside the washing machines revolved footage of stomach-churning atrocities taken from war zones around the world. There was nothing subtle about Laundrette’s correlation of public hygiene and ethnic cleansing. But Hirschhorn’s distinctive nonaesthetic—based on rickety form, cheap materials, and a blizzard of images and words—is powered by a sense of urgency and incomprehension in the face of catastrophe that leaves us, under his unforgiving neon, nowhere to hide.

4 “Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer” (International Center of Photography, New York) In this assiduously researched exhibition, Therese Lichtenstein presented the case that mannequin-meister Bellmer was neither a deviant pedophile nor an unlikely protofeminist but a gender revolutionary out to undermine the sociosexual regime of the Third Reich. The only thing missing from this fine show was an account of the mysterious artist Unica Zürn, Bellmer’s companion and muse, who, trussed up like a parcel, was the subject of his darkest pornography.

5 Juan Muñoz, Double Bind I’ve never been much taken with Muñoz’s whimsical figures, which seem overly nostalgic for an earlier age of Spanish art, but this magisterial installation at Tate Modern confirmed how his convoluted imagination could command the most daunting architectural space. Looked up at and down at, but never simply across at, Double Bind wore its trompe l’oeil tricks lightly and pirouetted so gracefully on a lateral sculptural axis that you forgot just how big it was. Muñoz created a hovering purgatory inhabited by colorless men, a world suspended in midair, perfectly still save for two empty elevators trundling up and down for eternity. The artist’s untimely death in August only heightened the pathos, and the eschatology, of this final work.

6 Karlheinz Weinbergerger: Photos 1954-1995 (Andreas Züst Verlag, 2000) A hugely enjoyable book released at the end of last year by the octogenarian Swiss photographer, who started out in the late ’50s documenting a’coterie of Zurich teen rebels known as Die Verlausten (the Lice-Infested Ones) and stayed with them as they graduated from mopeds and Elvis to motorbikes and a peculiarly Alpine version of the Hell’s Angels. What with their teasy-weasy hair, horned helmets, furry accessories, and jeans strained shut with extravagant ironmongery, this could be the ’60s BC rather than AD. A Teutonic tribe worthy of Tacitus’s Germania: Think James Dean meets Tom of Finland meets Attila the Hun, and then say Switzerland is boring.

7 Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart (Harvill Press, 2000; Knopf, 2001) No one writes like Haruki Murakami. His style is as lean and fresh as sushi. Often baffling, always moving, the novels wash over you slowly and then send you swirling for days in their subterranean currents. It’s the juxtaposition of the mundane and the insane that makes Murakami inimitable. Like all his novels, Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart are narrated by very ordinary men who meet strange girls with even stranger problems; they’re metaphysical love stories, full of suppressed desire and injured but hopeful characters who struggle to make connections with one another.

8 & 9 Sislej Xhafa and Anri Sala Out of the Balkan diaspora came two young Albanians who brought intense artistry to bear on contemporary Europe’s most vital problems: the traumatizing effects of war and the forced migration of peoples. Anri Sala’s poetic docudramas and Sislej Xhafa’s trenchant public interventions gave compelling artistic shape to the experiences of a dislocated continent.

10 Pierre Huyghe, Venice Biennale In the face-off between German expressionism and French classicism in the Giardini, my vote went to Pierre Huyghe’s elegant fusion of architecture, design, animation, and electronic media in the French Pavilion. The ensemble of discreetly synchronized works was as light or as heavy, as conceptual or as spectacular as you wanted to make it—a Gesamtkunstwerk for the twenty-first century.

Kate Bush, a London-based art critic, is senior programmer at the Photographers’ Gallery.