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Hal Foster

Paul Chan, Pentasophia (or Le bonheur de vivre dans la catastrophe du monde occidental) (detail), 2016, nylon, metal, concrete, shoes, fans, paper. Installation view, 2017. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.

FOR PAUL CHAN, “art is a lawless proposition.” “The telos of artistic form,” he argues, is a “spirit of irreconcilability.”1 As Chan well knows, this principle runs counter to traditional ideas of art as the mastering of composition and composure. He wants this irreconcilability because it keeps artistic form open and dynamic, and because this making and unmaking of the object might inspire a similar movement in the subject. Or so Chan believes: A lawless proposition is also a hopeful one.

Chan placed open and dynamic forms throughout Greene Naftali in March, a month when the Trump catastrophe had fully sunk in. The title of the show, “Rhi Anima,” played on the Aristotelian treatise De Anima, which proposes that “knowledge is for that which moves by that which moves.” Chan intended his pieces, which he calls “breathers,” to evoke this “relationship between life (bios), consciousness

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