Lodz

Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Pertinho de Alphaville (Close to Alphaville), 2010, slide projection, color, sound, 20 minutes.

Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Pertinho de Alphaville (Close to Alphaville), 2010, slide projection, color, sound, 20 minutes.

Céline Condorelli and Wendelien van Oldenborgh

Muzeum Sztuki | MS1

Céline Condorelli and Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s “Work, Work, Work (Work)” opened with Condorelli’s wall vinyl Credits, 2021, acknowledging the dozens of people involved in mounting the two-artist show. Also noting the time (sixty days), the space (476 square meters), and the materials (digital files, paper, paint, and so on) that went into the exhibition’s production, the piece was emblematic of the show’s ethos: a concern with orienting infrastructure to facilitate collectivity. Echoing film credits, the piece anticipated the way in which many of Condorelli’s sculptural works appeared to shape themselves around Van Oldenborgh’s films and slide projections, functioning as both framing devices and seating. This symbiotic approach to the two-person presentation operated as an extension of both artists’ practices.

The interwoven installation of mostly recent works was particularly effective when it interacted with the history of the institution. Lodz’s Muzeum Sztuki is one of the earliest modern-art museums, founded in 1930 by a group of avant-garde artists including Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro. The institution’s Neoplastic Room, designed by Strzemiński in 1947 to display the works of artists of the avant-garde, here played host to Condorelli’s Average Spatial Compositions, 2015, a configuration of benches in red, yellow, and blue that mirrored the rectangular colored blocks on the Neoplastic Room’s walls. Condorelli’s benches also served as seating for viewers of Van Oldenborgh’s digital slide projection Pertinho de Alphaville (Close to Alphaville), 2010, channeling Strzemiński’s aim of creating a space for the work of other artists. 

Forms of work, particularly women’s work, were a recurrent theme for Van Oldenborgh. In Pertinho de Alphaville, a montage of stills slowly fades in and out: pictures of female employees of a blue-jeans manufacturer in São Paulo at the factory, images of the same women gathered on the stage of a nearby theater, and shots of the architecture of both spaces. As the photos appear, various women reflect on their vocation in voice-over, though the connection between voice and image remains deliberately unclear: “And your family, Lilian, they all worked here. Only your cat didn’t work here,” or, “You might act on your own or perform a more collective action. With greater goals.” When one woman describes how her work took on a performative element, as corporate visitors from the likes of H&M observed the production floor as though viewing a spectacle, the distinctions between factory and theater, theater and museum, and museum and factory collapse; each is an abstract stage for cultural production. Meanwhile, Condorelli’s series of places to sit—that is, to rest—seemed to suggest that the act of bearing witness to such labor struggles, especially in the context of the museum, has become a form of leisure.

The works on view repeatedly evoke ideals of community associated with modernism and the avant-garde: Van Oldenborgh’s use of montage hearkens back to Walter Benjamin’s idea that the technique anticipates a utopian shift in the experience of historical time, while Condorelli’s Holes of Paris, 2016, a print on polyester drafting film, transforms the graphic design of Le Corbusier’s 1956 book Les Plans de Paris 1956–1922 into amorphous green wax shapes. In her effacement of the book’s text, drawings, and photographs—so that its source only became clear thanks to the explanation in the exhibition booklet—Condorelli called out the proposed obliteration of Paris that undergirded the architect’s supposedly community-oriented proposal. But neither artist is preoccupied with these legacies. They attempt to situate themselves instead within a globalized web of working people, ranging from the Egyptian cotton worker in Condorelli’s White Gold, 2012, to the camerawoman in Lodz in Van Oldenborgh’s obsada, 2021. Despite some common threads—a sense of self-actualization through work, the consideration of artistic production as a labor form—the exhibition’s imagined commonality remained similarly vague, as the artists themselves were the one tangible touchstone in the show’s jumps across geography and context.