PRINT Summer 2004


Lucy McKenzie

The work of Glasgow-based artist Lucy McKenzie can be seen in solo exhibitions at Cabinet, London, through July, and at the ICA Boston this fall.

  1. DEATHWATCH Bertrand Tavernier’s depressing projection of tomorrow’s world gathered an international all-star cast in manky Glasgow in 1980—long before its cappuccino facelift. Released on DVD last year as La Mort en direct, the film is marked by a Gaelic, philosophical tone set in sharp relief against the stodgy socialist backdrop of Scotland at that time. Tavernier’s prescience of reality TV is what’s immediately striking, but so is his canny identification of a Glaswegian sensibility. Those familiar with Alasdair Gray’s 1981 novel Lanark will note the similarity to Unthank, the Glasgow-inspired fictional fantasy town in which the municipal buildings have been sold to private developers and mass entertainment masks cultural, economic, and emotional impoverishment.

    Bertrand Tavernier, Deathwatch, 1980, still from a color film in 35 mm, 128 minutes. Bertrand Tavernier, Deathwatch, 1980, still from a color film in 35 mm, 128 minutes.
  2. VARIANT ( Glasgow is neither a microcosm nor an outpost of the general art world but has an idiosyncratic community and history of its own. Variant, a free magazine and Web archive founded in 1996, represents a subgroup of that community: the critical Left. While its stance is often familiar, the magazine continues to produce fiercely independent writing on pertinent inequities such as the privatization of the benefits system in the UK and the discontinuation of the visual-arts program at the city’s Tramway space. Using the narrative of its own persistent funding problems to address the constraints of cultural red tape under New Labour, Variant exposes the diminished freedom of other art magazines, which in comparison occupy what can only be described as a service industry.

  3. MEMORIAL OF THE GOOD OLD TIME, 1987 Martin Kippenberger’s preposterous life-size inflatable skip is an uninviting black hole in which celebratory good vibes can be safely disposed of. It was a key work in the recent “Nach Kippenberger” at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, in which it embodied his work’s fundamental resistance to simplification. There is just no way into this thing; its monumental status highlights Kippenberger’s refusal to be marbleized.

    Martin Kippenberger, Memorial of the Good Old Time, 1987, rubber, wood, and vacuum cleaner, 6' x 12'4“ x 8 1/4”. Martin Kippenberger, Memorial of the Good Old Time, 1987, rubber, wood, and vacuum cleaner, 6' x 12'4“ x 8 1/4”.
  4. DENIM AND ANDREAS DORAU Completely unconnected—except through their affinity for equally high-pitched pop psychosis—are the musicians Denim and Andreas Dorau. Denim’s mastermind, Lawrence, crawled out from underneath the “Mary Chain debris” of the ’80s and his cult band Felt with a novelty sound that he was sure would take him to the top of the charts. (It didn’t.) Dorau was a teenage New Wave star of the early ’80s whose trajectory never hit the intended angle. For both of these geniuses, lack of mainstream success seems to be a creative catalyst: Reacting to their perceived failure, they went beyond the point of no return and in the mid-’90s made noxiously perky, invisibly avant-garde synth pop. Recommended: Denim’s Novelty Rock (EMI, 1997) and Dorau’s Neu! (Motor Music, 1994).

  5. PEYTON’S COPPOLA Ads for Marc Jacobs’s perfume Marc feature a painting by Elizabeth Peyton of Sofia Coppola. No three-way collaboration could illustrate and consolidate the New York “quality intelligent alternative” more succinctly. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore also model for Marc Jacobs in magazine ads, aligning what they stand for with Spring/Summer 2004. This reminds us that the enemy is not merely conservatism but complacency, which includes collusion in production that has no interest in disrupting predominant conditions and merely reverts to type.

    Elizabeth Peyton, Sofia, 2003, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22". Elizabeth Peyton, Sofia, 2003, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22".
  6. BERNHARD WILLHELM In the past we have winced at grown men in romper suits. The Belgian designer’s essayist approach is rife with Peter York’s Babytime (in which the style commentator proposes that adults’ dressing like children is an abstraction of repudiated social responsibility, the infantilist embracing of capitalism that bridged hippies to yuppies), but last season he took a more palatable sidestep: skirts and coats fringed with embroidered reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry and underwear featuring faux Normans and Anglo-Saxons.

  7. VÉRONIQUE BRANQUINHO Another designer hailing from Belgium, Branquinho has developed a niche market by reenergizing a very specific European cliché: the solitary female intellectual representing an antiquated ideal of creativity, out of step with the times but redeemable for being somewhat of an endangered species. Branquinho has provided this lonely creature with ascetic items like cassocks and thermals to get her through the Warsaw winter practicing her cor anglais. Just like the heroines of her compatriot Chantal Akerman, women in Branquinho’s clothes are empowered through a subtle, underdetermined parody of the feminine archetype.

    Véronique Branquinho, Autumn/Winter 2003/2004 collection. Photo: Etienne Tordoir. Véronique Branquinho, Autumn/Winter 2003/2004 collection. Photo: Etienne Tordoir.
  8. PHILIP TAAFFE INTERVIEWS Reading Taaffe’s commentaries on his own work, it’s shocking to realize that all those tearful or turned-on moments in front of the paintings were evoked in you with such known intent on his part. I usually presume the specific effect of an artwork emits from one’s personal interpretation or some kind of unavoidable but nevertheless poignant misunderstanding. In the case of Taaffe, though, his realistic and imaginative identification with the viewer creates this short distance between him, the painting, and you.

  9. PHILIP LARKIN,LOVE AND DEATH IN HULL This documentary, directed by Ian Macmillan and aired last year on Britain’s Channel 4, delicately presents the innate humor and self-thwarting neurosis of the dour poet. Dowdy misanthropes torturing each other, alcoholism, life painted in the limited color palette of British Leyland Motors: If J.G. Ballard’s Crash had been made into a film in its own epoch, its sensibility could perhaps have felt something like this.

  10. BRUSSELS The seeming chaos of the Belgian state, the fuzziness of its property laws, its unrivaled musical heritage, and more make this city exceptional. The men, with their wee feet and big heads, are as endearingly misshapen as the Scots, though better dressed. They seem to favor erotic comic books and dart covert glances in your direction on the street. An overarching sense of latency, of desires kept private, permeates all creative life; Brussels has a genuine subterranea.