Los Angeles

Christian Jankowski

In his 1940 essay “The Fall of Paris,” Harold Rosenberg lamented that geopolitical maneuvers, rising nationalism, and fascist aggression had brought about the decline of an almost-levitating capital of modernist culture—once an international “No-Place” of multiple perspectives—and wondered where modernism’s new centers would be and what forms they would take. Surely he did not have in mind an after-party at the Art Basel Miami Beach 2008 fair or an army of Hula-hoopers, marshaled by a German conceptualist, taking up rooftop positions in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Chinatown districts. But it is with just such antics that Christian Jankowski—an artist who is constantly searching for new moves to make, and positions to take, in the development of his idiosyncratic practice—brings Rosenberg’s line of inquiry into a current context.

Jankowski’s recent exhibition at Regen Projects II centered around two works. The more recent one, and the exhibition’s namesake, was Above All I’m an Art Lover, 2009—a projected video of a made-for-the-camera performance/happening/intervention that Jankowski staged in collaboration with the Berlin-based collective the Broken Hearts Club, during last December’s Art Basel Miami fair. As an invitation- only crowd squeezes onto an absurdly small dance floor—a clown-car version of a discotheque—a camera follows a woman armed with a microphone and excessive enthusiasm. Picking the brains of the guests—fair organizers, gallerists, collectors, artists, and hangers-on, including a self-proclaimed “king of the art world”—the interviewer gleans sentiments about the global economic downturn’s effects on the art market, eliciting gallows humor, denial, ennui, and unbridled optimism. The video ends with the woman turning to the camera to let viewers know they are watching “live art,” only to be contradicted by an off-camera voice asserting that it “was art,” while security guards, who previously defended the velvet ropes, begin throwing out the guests. Accompanying the video was a chromogenic print of numerous party photographs digitally collaged together, resembling the star and society pages found in fashion and celebrity glossies.

Jankowski’s other video, Rooftop Routine, 2007–2008, was shot in the neighborhood around the artist’s apartment, and inspired by his neighbor, Suat Ling Chua, who Hula-hoops for exercise. In the fall of 2007, Jankowski assembled a cast of twenty-five men, women, and children, on rooftops in the area. With Chua leading, watched from a distance by others following her moves, who in turn served as cues for still-more-distant others, a chain of command and communication was established, and a cultural currency was exchanged—and these were further extended to the gallery, whose visitors could take up hoops provided by the artist. The video cuts between close-ups of hula-hoopers, wide shots of hooper-dotted skylines, and commentary from Chua, who offers technical advice and reflects on how her moves serve as both forms of expression and an alleviation of boredom.

While the videos and their accoutrements dominated the gallery, other works by Jankowski filled out the show, literally, along the periphery. Not to be missed was The Laugh of Dan Graham, 2009, consisting of a speaker in one corner that broadcasted the spliced-together bits of laughter from a recent conversation between Jankowski and artist Dan Graham. The recording conspired with the two central videos to offer an experience that oscillated between the entertaining and the grating, the optimistic and the cynical, the humorous and the occasionally poignant—compelling a reconsideration, as Jankowski’s work often does, of making, viewing, participation, and discourse.

Christopher Miles