PRINT December 2018

Caroline Busta

Jutta Koether, Mède, 1992, oil on canvas, 98 1⁄2 × 78 3⁄4".

1 JUTTA KOETHER (MUSEUM BRANDHORST, MUNICH; CURATED BY ACHIM HOCHDÖRFER AND TONIO KRÖNER WITH KIRSTEN STORZ) In a time when tablets and smartphones have become the default viewing zone for most art, this exacting survey gave us a clear, IRL perspective on the career output of an artist-feminist for whom the canvas itself serves as a kind of screen. Paintings, for Koether, are less objects than interfaces—membranes for receiving and transmitting data. But the passage of information through her work is never glitch-free, and perhaps this is by design. “Jutta Koether: Tour de Madame” presents a practice that, in the face of ever-higher-speed networks, values the interrupted signal—and knows that meaning only truly comes alive in the off-line gap.
Co-organized with Musée d’Art Moderne Grand Duc Jean, Luxembourg.

Stephan Dillemuth, Ziegenkarussell (Goat Carousel), 2012/2018, monitor, surveil- lance camera, video projector, motor, plaster, taxidermied goats, plastic. Installation view, Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2018.

2 STEPHAN DILLEMUTH (LENBACHHAUS, MUNICH; CURATED BY STEPHANIE WEBER) When it comes to critiquing the machinery of cultural production, Dillemuth is a seasoned agent. In his work, Fordist cogs and gears appear interchangeable with cast human limbs, and CRT monitors display closed-circuit-video surveillance—lest the viewer forget that she is never not working. At Lenbachhaus, which occupies a restored turn-of-the-century artist’s villa, the luxe fittings supplied a suggestive foil to Dillemuth’s Lebensreform trope of liberation through a back-to-the-land asceticism. Yet he doesn’t stop there, reminding viewers that, to borrow words from Byung-Chul Han, “digital control society makes intensive use of freedom.”

Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, Der Klang der Familie, 2018. Performance view, Grüner Salon, Volksbühne, Berlin, July 7, 2018. Ann Göbel, Mia von Matt, and Sir Henry.

3 CALLA HENKEL & MAX PITEGOFF, GRÜNER SALON (VOLKSBÜHNE, BERLIN) Thanks to the art world’s globalization and media decentralization, contemporary art practice has become increasingly homogenous, so it comes as no surprise that prominent institutions are increasingly mining their own environs for “the local.” Such was the case with Berlin’s Volksbühne this year, which, amid a volatile transition of leadership, commissioned artists Henkel & Pitegoff—whose work has always been tied to the creation of social space, first via Neukölln’s Times Bar, later for the New Theater in Kreuzberg—to program its Grüner Salon. Channeling the surreal churn of post-2016 news cycles, the duo called on their community to produce a dazzling, trilingual, and unapologetically provincial theater of the absurd.

View of “Tobias Spichtig: Long Stories,” 2018, Jan Kaps, Cologne. From left: Sexy in Paradise, 2018; Iggy Pop, 2018; Liebe Hoffnung, sei doch nicht so verloren (Dear hope, please don’t be so lost), 2018. Photo: Tobias Spichtig.

4 TOBIAS SPICHTIG (JAN KAPS, COLOGNE) If “local” scenes in Berlin and New York felt newly significant this past year, galleries in smaller cities, such as Düsseldorf’s Max Mayer and Cologne’s Jan Kaps, also emerged as vital nodes. For Spichtig’s exhibition “Long Stories” at Jan Kaps, the Swiss artist filled the gallery with eBayed couches, positioning them to face his highly mediagenic paintings of, for example, Iggy Pop, dying lilies, a Swiss mountain range, or the German word for crying handwritten in all caps (WEINEN). The surfeit of furniture may have nodded to the absurd, but it was also practical, appearing to offer a suggestion: Come hang out, sit for a minute, take these works in. And maybe, once again, the gallery could be a space where art is seen (rather than just sold), and where communities grow.

Peak grand opening, London, November 3, 2017. Photo: Marilyn Thompson.

5 PEAK (LONDON) If Peak feels so alive, perhaps it’s because its end is always in view. Artist Marilyn Thompson’s space is located in unit 340A on the ground floor of London’s Elephant and Castle shopping center, a hub for the Latin American community, offering affordable shopping for all. It’s slated to be replaced in 2020 with luxury residential towers, a new London College of Communication building, and other markers of urban “regeneration.” Rather than vaingloriously beating an anti-gentrification drum, Thompson has focused on creating shows, events (live cat drawing, anyone?), and even a community-run pirate radio station that, in Zen fashion, accept but also critically engage what is now all but certain to come.

Trevor Paglen’s 2017 rendering for Orbital Reflector, 2018.

6 TREVOR PAGLEN, ORBITAL REFLECTOR, 2018 As global leaders quietly transform Earth’s outer atmosphere into their military playground, Paglen has created a sculpture that will turn the public’s attention skyward, raising questions about the privatization and militarization of space. Paglen’s artwork-cum-satellite, supported by the Nevada Museum of Art and taken aloft via a SpaceX rocket, is, at the time of this writing, slated to go “on view” in November in low earth orbit, where it will remain until at least the end of the year before disintegrating in the upper atmosphere without a trace. Take issue with this piece? Cool, says Paglen. Then consider taking issue with Russia’s Object 2014-28E and the Boeing X-37B, too.

Photos by Michael Oppitz of Qiang shamans, Min Mountains, China, 1998–2000.

7 MICHAEL OPPITZ (GALERIE BUCHHOLZ, BERLIN) Tribalism begins and ends with language, a shared way of encoding and decoding meaning. This is just as true within today’s balkanized memeplex as it was a millennium ago on the steppes of the Himalayas. In the winter of 2018, Galerie Buchholz mounted “Enquiries on the Fringes of Writing,” a presentation of items sourced from different tribes native to the Tibetan Plateau, where anthropologist Michael Oppitz has focused his life’s research. Thangkas variously featuring “pure lands” (Shambala) and wrathful deities were flanked by ritual objects, including a true skullcap and many drums, as well as Oppitz’s own Bernd and Hilla Becher–style typological images of the individuals who played them. In another room, depictions of Shambala hung beside post–World War II–era examples of its commercial double, “Shangri-la,” lending the show its principal theme: the fight for autonomous identity in the face of capital’s expansion. Square that with tribalism now.

Still from Mongrel’s video game BlackLash, 1998. From “Net Art Anthology.”

8 “NET ART ANTHOLOGY” (ANTHOLOGY.RHIZOME.ORG; CURATED BY MICHAEL CONNOR) While Web-based content may be ephemeral, its material support—i.e., the internet, however decentralized—is fundamentally physical, functioning like a canvas to painting. Understanding this, as well as the fact that big-search-engine algorithms make terrible curators, Rhizome launched its Webrecorder in 2016, an interface/neo-institution through which human users can direct the Web in archiving itself. Among Rhizome’s current shows is the online-only “Net Art Anthology,” which draws from Webrecorder’s growing library to highlight a diverse selection of one hundred artworks—ranging from, for example, Mongrel’s 1998 BackLash to Jayson Musson’s 2010–12 series “ART THOUGHTZ with Hennessy Youngman” and beyond.

Heji Shin, Protector and Protégé, 2018, ink-jet print, steel frame, 17 3⁄4 × 23 3⁄4".

9 HEJI SHIN, “MEN PHOTOGRAPHING MEN,” REENA SPAULINGS FINE ART, NEW YORK With #MeToo fires raging, 2018 was a banner year for social catharsis. But lines were drawn and redrawn, as the often-needed policing of male chauvinism met the reactionary fragility of the privileged classes. For many, this real-world social restructuring inspired fears of a cooling effect on art. Enter Shin, with a taboo for our times: “Men photographing men”—or, as it were, Shin photographing men, some naked, some dressed as cops, admiring each other, fucking, one brandishing a D&D-type sword. Framed variously in brushed aluminum and wood, Shin’s luscious, fashion-photography-grade prints let all viewers, no matter their gender, class, or age, desublimate their inner toxic male gaze.

Nick Mullen and Stavros Halkias’s Cum Town podcast logo, 2018.

10 PODCASTING From the dirt-style commentary of shows like Cum Town or the all-female Red Scare to more slickly produced, deeper-insight pods such as Vox Media’s Ezra Klein Show or HKW’s streaming lectures by the likes of Bruno Latour and Eyal Weizman, podcasting became the way of transmitting and receiving critical cultural production this year. Even David Zwirner Gallery launched a pod. And it makes sense: Contra the alienated hyperindividuation of platform-based feeds, podcasting delivers criticism plus context; criticism plus the actual human voices of a particular scene; criticism that comes from, and just maybe promises to build, some kind of new public commons.

Caroline Busta is a cofounder of New Models, a new media aggregator for the culture sector ( She previously served as the editor in chief of Texte zur Kunst and as an associate editor at Artforum.