PRINT December 2015

Magalí Arriola

Toshio Matsumoto, For the Almost Damaged Right Eye, 1968, three-channel 16-mm film transferred to DVD, color, sound, 12 minutes 9 seconds.

1 “FOR A NEW WORLD TO COME: EXPERIMENTS IN JAPANESE ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY, 1968–1979” (MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON; CURATED BY YASUFUMI NAKAMORI WITH ALLISON PAPPAS) Spanning media but focusing on photography and the moving image, this survey provided a unique opportunity to assess Japanese artists’ responses to the unrest that roiled their country in the 1960s. Daidō—Moriyama’s shadowy street photography and crucial collaboration with the magazine Provoke, Toshio Matsumoto’s psychedelic cinema, Hitoshi Nomura’s investigations of music and time, and other works on view—some 250 in all, many never before shown outside Japan—suggested both the dislocations and the liberating potential of radical change.

2 “VARIOUS SMALL FIRES (WORKING DOCUMENTS)” (LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART; CURATED BY JOSÉ LUIS BLONDET) Blondet’s exhibition, organized as part of the celebration of LACMA’s fiftieth anniversary, relates a beautifully condensed institutional history drawn from the museum collection and archives. The art and objects—such as Chris Burden’s L.A.P.D. Uniform, 1993; the smallest Jackson Pollock lying flat in a vitrine; and a colorful set of chairs allegedly used in a George Brecht performance and then forgotten in storage—trigger witty associations and reveal fascinating connections with archival documents that narrate incidents mundane and absurd, from acquisition negotiations to errant robots bumping into the art. Rarely has the inner life of a museum been rendered so beguilingly transparent.

3 TACITA DEAN, EVENT FOR A STAGE In Dean’s 16-mm film, we see actor Stephen Dillane pacing before a live audience, meditating on a mélange of subjects such as his deranged Australian father, Heinrich von Kleist’s marionette theater, and Prospero’s mastery of his island domain. Sometimes Dillane addresses the audience and reads from the script handed to him by Dean herself, who created this one-man show in collaboration with the actor and who sits in the front row. While the film finds Dean exploring a new craft—theater—it is not a documentary of this venture, but rather the outermost layer of a captivating mise en abyme.

4 I, OF WHOM I KNOW NOTHING (PABLO SIGG) Sigg’s film draws an intimate portrait of John Calder, Samuel Beckett’s London publisher and close friend. Constructed around the whirling void left by Beckett’s death, the film depicts Calder as an uncanny but still lively presence in his silent and claustrophobic apartment. At eighty-six, he gives interviews, rehearses a play he is directing, and visits the legendary actress Billie Whitelaw in her retirement home. Here the film reveals itself to be a moving meditation on old age, as Calder’s attempts to make Whitelaw talk about her past yield only a sad, beautiful blank stare in response.

5 TANIA PÉREZ CÓRDOVA (PROYECTOS MONCLOVA, MEXICO CITY) The show included a series of sculptures and performances mapping the artist’s studio and acquaintances: the imprint of a debit card on the bottom of a kiln-fired plate; colored contact lenses displayed on a marble shelf and worn by the artist’s friends at her show’s opening; the glass of studio windows transformed into undulating figures that shelter different objects and materials. As stated in a press release that acted as the show’s inner voice: “They say it happens for a reason, They say you will regret, They say no, They say yes. . . . They say it was on purpose. . . .”

View of “Slip of the Tongue,” 2015, Punta della Dogana, Venice. On floor: Jean-Luc Moulène, Tronche/Moon Face, 2014. On ceiling: Danh Vo, 08:03, 28.05, 2009. Photo: Kate Lacey.

6 FRANCIS ALŸS (MUSEO TAMAYO, MEXICO CITY; CURATED BY CUAUHTÉMOC MEDINA) Beautifully installed in the museum’s light-pink and pale-green galleries, this show highlighted the relationship between Alÿs’s painting practice and the public interventions through which he elaborates his political fables. One of the three major works featured in the exhibition, Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River, 2008, for which the artist imagined a human chain extending across the Strait of Gibraltar, acquired haunting new relevance against the backdrop of the current migration crisis.

7 ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU’S OSCAR When the Mexican filmmaker’s well-deserved award for Birdman brought him tremendous media attention, he used the spotlight to sound off yet again about the social and political catastrophe swamping Mexico, helping compel government officials to start acknowledging the situation.

8 K. D., HEADLESS (TRIPLE CANOPY, STERNBERG PRESS, AND TENSTA KONSTHALL) This detective novel narrates the adventures of a ghostwriter hired by the artist duo Goldin+Senneby to investigate the links between secretive tax havens, French philosophy, decapitation, and sacrifice. Along the way, the narrative prompts us to consider the mysterious ties connecting authorship, fiction, and other liminal territories. This is a restless book, and the introduction, by Alexander Provan, is equally thrilling, a cliffhanger that I hope will be continued.

9 “GERZSO, GERZSO, GERZSO” (CENTRO CULTURAL UNIVERSITARIO TLATELOLCO, MEXICO CITY; CURATED BY JAMES OLES AND JULIO GARCÍA MURILLO) Reversing the customary model of the group show orchestrated by one curator, Oles invited eight individuals (artists, curators, filmmakers, anthropologists . . . ) to address the practice and influence of painter Günther Gerzso (1915–2000). A risky and refreshing experiment that set the curated displays in dialogue with one another, the show not only focused on the abstract painter’s intricate, architectural layering of forms but also revealed some of his atypical figurative drawings, a couple of disavowed stage sets for film and theater, and the documentation of his fictional kidnapping in the 1970s by a younger generation of artists and performers—a gesture of artistic protest and dissent concocted, one presumes, in complicity with Gerzso himself.

10 “SLIP OF THE TONGUE” (PUNTA DELLA DOGANA, VENICE; CURATED BY DANH VO IN COLLABORATION WITH CAROLINE BOURGEOIS) This sensitive display of works from multiple periods demonstrated that there is still enough space in the art world for different perceptions to enter into dialogue and even to coexist.

Magalí Arriola is an independent curator living in Mexico City. She has recently organized shows of James Lee Byars (with Peter Eleey) and Danh Vo at Museo Jumex, and is currently working on a film script based on her exhibition “A Place out of History” (Museo Tamayo, 2010), about art, espionage, forgeries, false identities, and other narratives that emerge at the margins of art history.