Liège, Belgium

Suchan Kinoshita

Galerie Nadja Vilenne

The desiccation of the art scene during the summer season can easily cause one to mistake the slightest relief in the landscape for an unexpected oasis. But it was not just the typical paucity of substantial exhibitions that accounted for one’s feeling of gratitude at this show, “La carrière d’un spectateur” (A Spectator’s Career). This time, it was the profound generosity of the artistic offering one was thankful for.

Suchan Kinoshita presented what practically amounted to a mini-retrospective. On two floors, twelve pieces (old, recent, and never before seen) were exhibited, casually retracing a practice initiated in the early 1990s. Admittedly, if one were looking for a synthesis in the selection and distribution of the works—and the exhibition’s thematic recapitulations and scenic organization around a central axis, not to mention the inclusion of several objects displayed in a single video, Inbetweening, 2008, could easily have aroused such a desire—that wish necessarily remained unsatisfied, given the artist’s fundamental interest in incompleteness.

This fascination with the unfinished has less to do with a natural reticence or reluctance to come to a conclusion than with an acute attention to the accidents of process, chance mishaps, and organic unfoldings. Testifying to this taste for contingency are two panels that, from a distance, appear to be two soft abstract paintings; close up, however, they are revealed to be a plaster plaque eaten away by humidity and a forgotten canvas gathering dust—Hochwasser, n.d.–2009 and Zen for Beginners, 2009, respectively. More proof is found in Isofollies, 2007, complex volumes wrapped in black plastic, asteroids whose weight or lightness is impossible to discern, containing, in this case, detritus from Kinoshita’s installation at the Eighth Sharjah Biennial. Or Couple, 2008, an ornate water clock filled with a yellowish liquid placed delicately on its side on a small, padded display. Thus what formed in the exhibition space was a constellation of deposits, a multitude of singular rhythms that coexisted in joyous tumult.

After studying contemporary music in Cologne, Kinoshita worked for a theater company whose operation relied on a total sharing of tasks, each person acting as director, usher, or set designer in turn. Hence her use of musical and theatrical motifs and decor (curtains, spotlights, disco balls, the evocation of a drum roll) but also and above all her sense of performative and visual power. Open and expectant, her pieces escape the fixity of the beautiful object of contemplation and of the relic of performance.

But where one’s gratitude was joined by a sort of intoxication was before a new work, Expo 2009, placed at the entrance—a veritable exhibition in itself: On a round Formica table sat twenty-six small slide viewers, each with a single peephole whose chamber the artist has filled with small objects (marbles, buttons, fluorescent erasers, candles, etc.). With this piece, one traveled jubilantly and sometimes incredulously from imaginary landscape to Duchampian trompe l’oeil, from threatening visions to psychedelic constructions—a multiplicity of worlds made of odds and ends and delivered without airs, and one of the most prodigious artistic gestures of the year.

Olivier Mignon

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.