PRINT December 2015

Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda

Barbara Hammer, Untitled (Stuttgart Museum Performance), 1972, gelatin silver print, 8 × 9".

1 BARBARA HAMMER (KOW, BERLIN) The standout in this revelatory survey was a group of black-and-white photographs (Untitled [Stuttgart Museum Performance], 1972) depicting Hammer in various galleries of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, using her body to mimic the artwork on display. Her gestures call attention to the formation of the artist as subject and to the submission implied in every response to art. Prescient and deceptively unassuming, the work is typical of Hammer’s underappreciated practice.

2 ALEXANDER HEMPEL (LARS FRIEDRICH, BERLIN) The cliché regarding performance, especially when it directly involves the spectator, is that the medium’s spontaneity allows it to break down social boundaries. Hempel subverted this tired idea. Instead of playing the nonconformist, he assumed the role of deranged control freak, embodying the forces of both policing and hostage taking. At one point in the piece, Hempel politely took people’s names, making a friendly act seem oddly intimidating.

3 LEONARDO DA VINCI (PALAZZO REALE, MILAN; CURATED BY PIETRO C. MARANI AND MARIA TERESA FIORIO) This comprehensive show of Leonardo’s drawings, paintings, and inventions was best read through John Miller’s book Mike Kelley: Educational Complex (Afterall, 2015). Miller uses Kelley’s oeuvre to analyze the ways in which an artwork’s very existence is predicated on the social formations responsible for the transmission of knowledge. Framed by this disquisition, the scores of derivative works by Leonardo’s students and epigones—shown last in the museum’s chronological presentation, after the drawings by the master himself—were imbued with a kind of lumpen antisubjectivity.

4 L FOR LEISURE (LEV KALMAN AND WHITNEY HORN) Kalman and Horn defamiliarize spoken language by cannily directing their actors, who play graduate students on vacation, to deliver references to poststructuralism with an inflection vaguely attributable to Aaron Spelling TV shows. In recognizing this peculiar language for what it is—the dialect of a sheltered minority living in a solipsistic world—L for Leisure delivers biting social commentary wrapped up in a pitch-perfect ’90s period piece.

5 MERLIN CARPENTER, “THE OUTSIDE CAN’T GO OUTSIDE” This essay, the follow-up to Carpenter’s exhibition “Poor Leatherette” at Berlin’s MD 72, corrects the misconception that market value in contemporary art is contingent on the exploitation of immaterial labor within the art world itself (be it that of the artist, critic, or social network). We tend to use the term cultural capital as if it were more than just a metaphor, but Carpenter’s text serves as a much-needed antidote to our narcissism, reminding us of the art world’s structurally subordinate role in the broader regime of capitalism.

Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (York and London, 1760–67). Volume 3 with frontispiece by William Hogarth. From “Toby’s Tristram Shandy Shop.”

6 LITERATURMUSEUM, VIENNA The first exhibit in this newly inaugurated museum is a reverentially lit vitrine containing the personal effects of various figures from the history of Austrian literature. In presenting Peter Handke’s walking stick and a lock of Arthur Schnitzler’s hair, the showcase both courts and mocks our current fascination with public personality. According to the director of the museum, the vitrine is meant ironically; the remaining exhibits consist solely of sketches, notes, and correspondence—the true material of literature.

7 TOBIAS KASPAR (UDOLPHO, BERLIN) Kaspar’s show “Toby’s Tristram Shandy Shop” made the baroque complexity of Laurence Sterne’s famously experimental novel relatable by enveloping it in slick aesthetics and language we all understand—that of merchandising and branding. Spatially representing the truism that Sterne was the first literary celebrity and providing the exact figures paid at auction for copies of his novel, the exhibition was at its most disturbing when taken at face value.

8 BITTER LAKE (ADAM CURTIS) In Bitter Lake—a film consisting of outtakes from twenty-six terabytes of video footage recovered from the BBC’s abandoned Kabul office—we glimpse the fragments of a shattered history. If the past forty years can be recounted as a series of misunderstandings, gaffes, and catastrophes, as Curtis seems to suggest, perhaps the same is true for our narratives about art.

9 “SADE: ATTAQUER LE SOLEIL” (SADE: ATTACKING THE SUN) (MUSÉE D’ORSAY, PARIS; CURATED BY ANNIE LE BRUN AND LAURENCE DES CARS) This exhibition juxtaposed key works from historical modernity with the writings of the Marquis de Sade, who derived extravagance from isolation, profanity from idealism, and satire from hypocrisy. In this context, artistic revolt is no matter of Oedipal succession or formal innovation, but a violent, unforgiving inversion of all that concerns the status quo.

10 NELL ZINK, THE WALLCREEPER (DOROTHY) In her debut novel, Zink maps expat hijinks extending from Bern to Berlin to—of all places—Wittenberg. The book’s characters are contrived, not so much full-fledged human beings as mere libidos, but Zink more than compensates for that, bringing to life their animal indifference with her own acerbic, contemptuous wit.

Jay Chung & Q Takeki Maeda have recently had solo exhibitions at Cabinet Gallery, London, and Galerie Francesca Pia, Zurich. Next spring, their work will be featured in the fifth installment of Roppongi Crossing, the triennial survey of Japanese contemporary art.