Kirsten Pieroth

Galerie Klosterfelde

Untitled (Loan) (all works 2007), the first work viewers encountered in Kirsten Pieroth’s third solo show at Klosterfelde, comprised a vitrine and seven unframed photographs. An ironic examination of the international exhibition industry and its protocols, the images documented the Berlin-based artist’s contribution to “Learn to Read,” a group show at Tate Modern last fall. Pieroth had borrowed the wall label for the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in order to show it in London as an unassisted readymade, using this self-reflexive gesture to reenact the paradigmatic shift from work to frame (to borrow Craig Owens’s phrase) established in Conceptual art in the late ’60s. Pieroth’s photographs, hung as two separate series, showed museum workers in Paris and London removing and installing the plaque as well as a shot of the canonical painting without its label, protected by bulletproof glass and a semicircular wooden railing. Another photograph in the vitrine showed the masses of tourists that make the pilgrimage to admire the Mona Lisa every day; beside it, Pieroth had arranged a photograph of the label itself, along with the loan contract she had signed with the Louvre: On the form, the label’s insurance value is specified as twenty-five euros.

The work centers on an administrative process disproportionate to the economic or artistic value assigned to the object in question, therein revealing a laconic but by no means melancholy perspective on the history of Conceptualism and its anti-commercial aspirations: The “dematerialization of the art object,” which let summary instructions, haphazard photographs, systems of notation, and site-specific interventions replace modernism’s discrete, portable objects, marks the culminating point of what Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has called an “aesthetic of administration”; in it, the ideology of a medium-specific formalism is not so much overcome as replaced by bureaucratic formats that constantly make reference to art as institution. By choosing self-referential administrative procedures as the subject of a work, Pieroth reverses the relationship between artwork and parergon: An inconspicuous component of methods of display, which can leave the museum only temporarily through an officially regulated process, is elevated by its dislocation to the status of pseudo-autonomous object.

Next door in the gallery’s office space, Untitled (Safe) addressed the specter of use-value in readymade strategies by presenting a safe to which the artist has attached a stovepipe; a DVD loop showing the smoking chimney on the exterior of the building implies a redefinition of the function of this object as oscillating between the preservation and destruction of its contents. A third room contained a wooden hunting blind on stilts that Pieroth—as could be seen in twelve small-format color photographs hung on the wall—had found in the countryside in Brandenburg and disassembled. When the blind was reassembled in the gallery, the tower had to be shortened and the moss-covered roof removed; some remainders of this forced adaptation to the parameters of the white cube lay casually nearby in the room. In this instance, too, Pieroth’s conceptual practice proves to be a pointed and profound meditation on the indissoluble bond between work and frame, consciously exhibiting the succinct decisions it sometimes takes to make art within the confines and conventions of institutional reason.

André Rottmann

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss