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View of “Nairy Baghramian: Déformation Professionnelle” (Occupational Hazard), 2016–17. On wall: Portrait (The Concept-Artist Smoking Head, Stand-In), 2016. On floor, from left: Flat Spine, 2016; Mooring (standing), 2016. Photo: Timo Ohler.

Nairy Baghramian

Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK)

View of “Nairy Baghramian: Déformation Professionnelle” (Occupational Hazard), 2016–17. On wall: Portrait (The Concept-Artist Smoking Head, Stand-In), 2016. On floor, from left: Flat Spine, 2016; Mooring (standing), 2016. Photo: Timo Ohler.

NAIRY BAGHRAMIAN gives her audience nothing less than an aesthetic reeducation. Her starting point is an academic understanding of sculpture as a modernist art medium—in other words, as an autonomous form, one that is by definition of no use. But she submits the well-worn modernist trope of medium specificity to a series of multifarious overextensions. Baghramian’s work presents the notion of autonomy as a physical challenge, one that each sculpture has to meet individually. Rather than defying use per se, Baghramian’s works ultimately defy us. Again and again, the artist alludes to braces, crutches, stabilizers, and spines, suggesting that the sculptures might gain a purpose precisely to the degree that they imply the impairment of our own bodies’ functions. In this way, she traces the outlines of an alternative, twisted mode of sculptural practice—what we might call

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