“Like an Attali Report, But Different”

In “Like an Attali Report, but Different,” the Romanian curator Cosmin Costinas explored one of the great themes of our time: the question of political visions. In addition to a number of subtle cross-references, the show offered a refreshingly diverse viewing experience with a small, manageable selection of works by ten artists. For example, Anatoly Osmolovsky’s Mayakovsky-Osmolovsky, 1993, a sequence of documentary photographs of the artist climbing up the Valdimir Mayakovsky statue in Moscow, was placed next to an evocative abstract wall work by Heman Chong. In Teardrop (Inversed), 2008, the Singapore-based artist used three thousand small self-adhesive stickers whose shapes resemble those of location markers on a map. A complex pattern ran from the Kadist Foundation’s front window all the way to the inner room, like a seismographic visualization. Clearly representing some huge transformation, the work's magnitude can be understood whether the stickers represent people, cities, or even points in time. Osmolovsky’s performance on the statue of the Futurist poet Mayakovsky—who deeply influenced Marxist writing of the 1910s and ’20s, committed suicide in 1930, and was posthumously lionized in the ’50s—conjures the twin specters of historical amnesia and politically motivated reinterpretation. In the same section of the show, the visitor encountered a painting and a series of drawings by Norwegian artist Pushwagner (who was included this year in the Berlin Biennial). His claustrophobic vision of skyscraper chasms in the painting Klaxton, 1990, is pointedly critical of futurist utopias. And Deimantas Narkevicius’s film Revisiting Solaris, 2007, stages a sort of future anterior when the artist, playing the young psychologist Kris Kelvin, protagonist of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), meets the Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis, who played the psychologist in the original, in a former Soviet television station.

The most radical work on view, both artistically and politically, is Yael Bartana’s Mary Koszmary, 2007: In this video, leftist author and politician Slawomir Sierakowski gives a speech in English in front of Warsaw’s abandoned X-lecia Stadium. After 1989, this stadium was used for the informal trafficking of cheap goods under the name “Jarmark Europa.” The speech begins with the words: “Let the three million Jews that Poland has missed . . . return to Poland, to your country.” These words, in this place, are a provocative reflection of Polish-Jewish relations from the anti-Semitic campaigns of the late 1960s to the present, with its neoliberal forms of nationalism and anti-Semitism.

The exhibition gives plenty of room to the individual works, both in the space itself and in the curatorial setting, so that they are allowed to develop a certain autonomy and to position themselves with respect to the theme through their specific narratives. The mention of the Attali Report—a recent plan “for the liberation of French growth” by economist and political consultant Jacques Attali—places the exhibition in its immediate context, i.e., French current affairs. But its actual timeliness comes from an understanding of “political imagination” as having the power to turn us into subjects in an emancipatory sense.

In his autobiographical film Fast Trip, Long Drop 1993, Gregg Bordowitz poignantly documents the time immediately following his contraction of HIV in 1988 with humor, intimacy, and the directness of a committed activist—reflecting his multiple identities as a Jewish son, as a young man in his midtwenties facing death, and as a member of ACT UP. In the film, Bordowitz says, “I am AIDS,” a climactic moment for the entire exhibition, one in which heightened emotion and political subjectivization are expressed through language.

Rike Frank

Translated from German by Laura Hoffmann.