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PRINT February 2010

interviews

1000 WORDS: DANH VO

WHEN ARTFORUM first approached Danh Vo about his pending reinstallation of Elena Filipovic’s comprehensive survey “Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form” at Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels,† the Vietnamese-born, Berlin-based artist was decidedly reticent to discuss it, feeling that any full exposition of his own ideas would run counter to the project’s spirit. Indeed, he feared the very meaning of his gestures would be irrevocably altered by their public articulation and contextualization; and this, of course, is the very dilemma posed by Gonzalez-Torres’s work and its display. As Vo points out in conversation, the late artist’s pieces often take, and require audiences to take, more circuitous paths, their significance becoming evident only as one moves around them, encountering anew the objects—and often the individuals—that have occupied their different spheres. And herein lies a paradoxical task: If a retrospective is supposed to have a clarifying effect when it comes to an artist’s oeuvre and its qualities, how then should one present work whose meaning always stands at a remove or resides in an opacity that also connotes potential? At Wiels, Vo will put Gonzalez-Torres’s work on view so that it offers many partial reveals and gives (unannounced) access to areas of the institution that are usually off-limits—yielding knowledge of work even while withholding certain of its aspects, allowing for the possibility of alternative routes, both actual and interpretive. Vo will, in other words, illustrate by example and perhaps even provide additional examples by analogy, much as he has done in the passages offered here. —Tim Griffin
 
†“Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects Without Specific Form,” organized by Elena Filipovic, opened at Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels, on January 16. The retrospective will be reinstalled by a different artist at each of three venues: by Danh Vo at Wiels (March 5–April 24); by Carol Bove at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel (May 21–August 29); and by Tino Sehgal at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (January 28–April 25, 2011).

PÈRE LACHAISE CEMETERY is the site for an ongoing battle among dead stars using their life dramas, fighting to attract the attention of myriad pilgrims from around the world. The overdose of Jim Morrison; the trial of Oscar Wilde; the execution of the Communards; the accidental strangulation of Isadora Duncan, whose scarf got caught by the wind and the wheels of her cabriolet while she was escaping with her young lover. This was definitely not a place I wanted to miss during my stay in Paris.

I bought a map by the cemetery entrance, wanting an overview of the grounds in order to chart my path. This proved completely unnecessary, however, since the routes were already well defined by visitors. One just needed to follow their streams.

There is a reason this cemetery has gained its reputation, beyond its exceptional cluster of renowned personalities—the rituals prompted by the graves. I passed

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