PRINT December 2004

Lynne Cooke


1 Francis Alÿs (Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg/ Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin) In a pair of slyly understated solo shows of works old and new, Alÿs parses preoccupations as poetic as they are political. In these disarmingly simple installations that depend on a self-reflexive, quasi-curatorial mode now completely integral to his practice, he draws deeply on his immediate milieu for his ostensible subjects. Yet he never gets mired in the merely local, nor does he succumb to the fecklessness of the self-styled nomadic artist.

2 Pierre Huyghe’s Harvard Project (Sert Gallery, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA) The French artist’s wryly haunting puppet play is set in a miniature theater, an ultracontemporary “blob” extruded from the bowels of Le Corbusier’s still-underregarded Carpenter Center. In a series of abbreviated scenes, Huyghe’s marionette show reprises the predicament of an artist/architect “genius” alternately commissioned and repulsed by the institutional patron, to poignantly memorable effect. Like others of Huyghe’s ambitious yet transient “events,” it will be edited into a film and presented in situ.

3 Mike Kelley, “The Uncanny” (Tate Liverpool) This caustic reworking of a project Kelley had realized in the Netherlands a decade earlier eviscerated the prurience at the heart of British culture by amassing a vast array of works from sources as apparently diverse as the routinely vilified Nicholas Treadwell stable, the ever-visible YBAs, and collections of nineteenth- century medical models. By juxtaposing this disturbingly homogeneous ensemble with the “Harems,” his personal collections of trash, trivia, and treasures, Kelley adroitly refused an omniscient position in favor of sparring mano a mano.

4 Rem Koolhaas, Seattle Public Library More style than substance, Content (Taschen), the Dutch architect’s restless compendium of theoretical and journalistic sound bites, was an enervated recapitulation of OMA’s trajectory to date, lacking the galvanizing energy and crystalline vision that fueled his earlier publications. In marked contrast, the remarkable Seattle library, following close on the heels of the student center for Chicago’s IIT campus, finally allowed Koolhaas to realize his ambitions at an appropriate scale and in the public domain. And his brilliant Casa da Música in Porto now nears completion as well. Once again, Koolhaas moves far ahead of the field. But whatever happened to his many museum projects?

5 Bruce Nauman, Raw Materials (Tate Modern, London) “You may not want to be here”—the provisional quantifier in one of Nauman’s spoken texts—acknowledges that the experience will prove far from seductive or exalting. Yet rather than threatening (despite Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room), Nauman here sardonically withholds (Thank You Thank You) in a brilliant intervention that undermines most of the previous, highly theatrical forays in the Tate’s cavernous Turbine Hall by turning up the volume. And he throws the onus back on the viewer: Work Work.

6 Anri Sala (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris/ARC) The Albanian-born artist’s first large(r)-scale museum show, in ARC’s temporary ecclesiastical quarters, was characteristically low-key and elliptical, resistant to heavy theorizing yet undeniably charged. Sala’s tersely abbreviated narratives make exegesis seem clumsy, almost beside the point. Given his ability to choose the visually telling moment/incident/ idea that, like an onion, can be peeled apart without revealing a kernel or core, an ensemble of his works resists the dulling, deadening effect that typifies shows devoted exclusively to projected work.

7 Catherine Sullivan, Ice Floes of Franz Joseph Land (Angel Orensanz Foundation, New York, Apr. 10) In yoking performance to video installation, Sullivan’s practice betrays the studied artifice, breadth of reference, and complex visual/verbal layering that are hallmarks of James Coleman’s art, for example. The manic, anarchic, and absurd, however, relentlessly destabilize her world, reflecting a vision ever prey to disruption, chaos, and anomie. Tightly choreographed, kaleidoscopically structured, this cryptic performance remains indelible.

8 “Diana Thater: Keep the Faith!” (Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen/ Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany) Spread across two museums, of very different types and scale in different regions of Germany, Thater’s retrospective beautifully and deftly responded to the particulars of site and sequencing in a subtle redevising of key works for their new environs. Her rousing, admonishing title attests to the consistency of purpose, the clarity of vision, and the rigor of a pursuit that leaves her somewhere far out on her own.

9 Mark Wallinger, Sleeper (Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin) Dressed in a well-worn bear suit, the British artist undertook a week of nocturnal ramblings through the luminous empty expanses of Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie, still the most glorious space in this city of untrammeled new construction. Given the site’s proximity to the historic Zoo and the Tiergarten (which formerly abutted the Wall), Wallinger’s absurd peregrinations in the guise of Berlin’s heraldic emblem spoke to the singularly complex intersection of nature, culture, and politics in the German capital over much of the last century.

10 Vivienne Westwood (Victoria & Albert Museum, London) Irrepressible, erratic, Westwood’s protean inventiveness has been purloined and refined by more polished and certified fashion designers for decades. The V&A’s spirited retrospective, together with the recent revised edition of Jane Mulvagh’s fascinating if unsparing 1998 biography, Vivienne Westwood: An Unfashionable Life (Harper- Collins), demonstrates, albeit somewhat belatedly, that Westwood deserves to be far more than a maverick local legend.

Lynne Cooke has been the curator at Dia Art Foundation since 1991. She also writes and teaches on contemporary art.