Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In the Holocene at the MIT List Visual Arts Center

In the HoloceneIn the Holocene at MIT List Visual Arts Center

October 19, 2012–January 6, 2013
Opening reception: October 18, 6–8pm
7pm Florian Hecker performs Speculative Solution,
an 8-channel electroacoustic composition
MIT List Visual Arts Center
Weisner Bldg. E-15
20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
Participating artists:

Berenice Abbott, Leonor Antunes, John Baldessari, 
Rosa Barba, Robert Barry, Uta Barth, Joseph Beuys, 
Alighiero Boetti, Carol Bove, Marcel Broodthaers, 
Matthew Buckingham, Roger Caillois, Hanne Darboven, 
Thea Djordjadze, Jimmie Durham, Terry Fox, 
Friedrich Fröbel, Aurélien Froment, Jack Goldstein,
Laurent Grasso, João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva,
Florian Hecker, Alfred Jarry, Rashid Johnson, Joan Jonas,
On Kawara, Kitty Kraus, Germaine Kruip, John Latham,
Sol LeWitt, F.T. Marinetti, Daria Martin, John McCracken,
Mario Merz, Helen Mirra, Trevor Paglen, Man Ray, Ben Rivers,
Pamela Rosenkranz, Robert Smithson, Hiroshi Sugimoto,
Superstudio, Georges Vantongerloo, Lawrence Weiner, 
and Iannis Xenakis.
In the Holocene explores art as a speculative science, how artists investigate principles more commonly associated with scientific or mathematical thought. The exhibition proposes that art is an investigative and experimental activity, addressing what is explained through traditional scientific means: time, matter, energy, topology, perception, consciousness, etc. In this sense, both art and science share an interest in knowledge and disruptive insights, yet are subject to different logics, principles of reasoning, and conclusions.

In expanding both artistic and scientific speculation, In the Holocene seeks to shift the understanding of aesthetics away from conventional ideas of pleasure, beauty, or taste. As conceived by Alexander Baumgarten in 1735, the term “aesthetics,” as the science of sensible knowledge, attempted to place the realm of perception and sensation under rational principles. As an account of the world, can art expand the potential of scientific investigation? What of those forms of  understanding that transcend, or fall beyond, the domain of any particular discipline?

In addressing these questions, the exhibition draws on a history of speculative propositions as well as the work of contemporary artists. Germaine Kruip’s film Aesthetics as a Way of Survival (2009) documents the male bowerbird arranging colored objects as a part of its courtship display. In Roger Caillois’s investigations of biological mimesis, insects blur distinctions between organic and inorganic matter. On Kawara and Helen Mirra address geological time and extremophile forms of living matter, as well as non-anthropocentric forms of perception. Robert Smithson’s interest in crystallography and entropy are reflected in his Four-Sided Vortex (1965) and Partially Buried Woodshed (1970). Daria Martin’s Sensorium Tests (2012) revolves around a neurological condition called “mirror-touch synaesthesia.” For F.T. Marinetti, abstract mathematical objects quantified the sounds, smells, and motions of modern life, while Iannis Xenakis used complex mathematical operations to create musical compositions.  Alfred Jarry’s “pataphysics,” John Latham’s “Time—Base Theory,” and João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva’s “Abyssology” are examples of speculative systems of knowledge constructed to address gaps in our knowledge of the world.

The exhibition’s title is drawn from Max Frisch’s novella, Man in the Holocene (1980), in which a narrator gathers selections from books to preserve human knowledge as landslides threaten to destroy his village. Of particular concern is knowledge of the Holocene, the geological era stretching from the last glacial period about 11,000 years ago to the present day. The Holocene is our period of geological time, in which humans seek to understand the laws of the universe and the origins of life, while also coping with our own impact on the Earth: from global warming to what will be the legacy of our presence on the planet.
In the Holocene is curated by João Ribas,
Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center. 
The exhibition is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine
Exhibition Award. Additional support has been generously provided 
by the Council for the Arts at MIT; the Massachusetts Cultural Council; 
and the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, with special thanks to Centre Iannis Xenakis; the MIT List Advisory Committee, and the Friends of the List.

In the Holocene at MIT List Visual Arts Center

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Joachim Koester: To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown... on view at the MIT List

The Joachim Koester survey exhibition currently on view at the MIT List Visual Arts Center is previewed by Lars Bang Larsen in this month's issue of Artforum.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joachim Koester at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge

Joachim Koester  
To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown…
May 10–July 8, 2012

May 9, 6–8pm
Conversation with Joachim Koester and João Ribas, 5:30pm
Weisner Bldg. E15
20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
The unknown—in its scientific, metaphysical, and historical variety—has been central to the work of Joachim Koester (b. 1962, Copenhagen) for over two decades. The first US museum survey of the artist’s work, Joachim Koester: To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown… reflects his interest in the limits of “what can and cannot be told,” from pre-modern ritual to the history of countercultures. Koester blurs document and narrative in this exploration of how knowledge, perception, and the body intertwine the rational with the obscure. By tracing forgotten journeys, occult phenomena, and esoteric forms of knowledge through photography, text, video, and film, Koester addresses the legacy of transgressive means for understanding the unseen and the unknown.

Koester’s interest in historical subjects is evident in the early series of photographs, Day for Night, Christiania (1996), which documents the community in Copenhagen founded by squatters in an abandoned military base in 1971. In The Kant Walks (2005), he attempts to reconstruct through images and text the daily walk of the philosopher Immanuel Kant through his native city of Königsberg. Other photographs depict attempts to bridge the world of matter and consciousness, through both magical and sensual means, as well as the ruins of further utopian experiments. Morning of the Magicians (2005) depicts the derelict villa in Sicily at the center of the occult mysticism and drug experimentation of Aleister Crowley and his followers, known as the Abbey of Thelema. The two-channel video installation One + One + One (2006) revisits the Abbey as a place of transgression of all taboos—religious, social, and personal—whose legacy extended into the counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s.

While engaging the histories of such experimentation, Koester’s recent work has looked to bodily practices and altered states of consciousness intended to access experience beyond the rational or empirical. In Tarantism (2007), a group of dancers enact an ecstatic “dancing cure” of convulsive movements that according to folklore, could ward off symptoms caused by the bite of the tarantula. In To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown necessitates an attitude of daring, but not one of recklessness (movements generated from the Magical Passes of Carlos Castaneda) (2009), an actor performs exercises described as atavistic gestures meant to enhance the ability to navigate “the dark sea of awareness.” For Variations of Incomplete Open Cubes (2011), Sol LeWitt’s eponymous variations are performed through a choreography of hand gestures. Other films in the exhibition reflect Koester’s interest in the exploration of both the “uncharted” out there and hidden within, from exchanges between the body and architecture, to the ghostly photographic remnants of 19th century exploration. The installation of these films follows the artist’s interventions in which windows or rooms were covered or partitioned with salvaged wood, first for the Malmö Konstmuseum, Sweden, in 1994, and later at the Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, in 2008.
Joachim Koester: To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown… is curated by João Ribas, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Support for Joachim Koester: To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown… has been generously provided by the Danish Arts Council Committee for International Visual Art; the Royal Danish Embassy; Greene Naftali Gallery; the Consulate General of Denmark, New York; the Council for the Arts at MIT; the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and the Office of the Associate Provost at MIT, with special thanks to the MIT List Visual Arts Center Advisory Committee and the Friends of the List. Media sponsor: The Phoenix Media Communications Group.

*Images above:
Left: Joachim Koester, #1 (from the series “The Kant Walks”), 2003. C-print. 18,5 x 23.5 inches.
Edition of 5. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery.
Right: Joachim Koester, Tarantism, 2007. 16mm black and white film. 6.31 minutes continuous loop film still. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Otto Piene: Lichtballett

Otto Piene: Lichballett, the publication accompanying the recent exhibition at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, is now available. A leading figure in multimedia and technology-based art, Otto Piene was a founder, with Heinz Mack, of the influential Düsseldorf-based Group Zero in the late 1950s. This publication highlights the artist's ongoing exploration of light as an artistic and communicative medium. Piene's Lichtballett (light ballet) performances, first produced using hand-operated lights directed through perforated stencils, became mechanized in the 1960s. The artist's light sculptures consisted of motorized lamps, grids, and discs producing a flow of projected light; these machines evolved into kinetic sculptural environments of mechanized effects through the 1960s and '70s. Featuring Piene's own writings on light as an artistic medium, an essay by art historian Michelle Y. Kuo, and an interview with exhibition curator João Ribas, Otto Piene: Lichtballett documents the artist's pioneering investigation of art and technology. The monograph features a die-cut "light ballet" cover.

Here is a short clip of the exhibition:

And a review of the show from the Boston Globe:

"Hands down the most beautiful room in Greater Boston right now is a gallery in the MIT List Visual Arts Center. The gallery is just a small, windowless room. It’s dark, too - or it would be if it were not for an astonishing and constantly changing arrangement of patterned light orchestrated by 83-year-old artist Otto Piene." (More)

Monday, January 09, 2012

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial) Catalog


The catalog for the 12th Istanbul Biennial, edited by Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa with coordinating editor Pelin Derviş, includes my essay "The Fourth Critique," on the relationship between art and politics in contemporary art. The catalog is one of three publications that accompany the exhibition, and is published by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts and Yapı Kredi Publications. Along with an overview of the exhibition, it also features essays by Jessica Morgan, Julieta González, Chus Martinez, and Aykut Köksal, as well as a number of texts by Hoffmann and Pedrosa. Via e-flux

Sunday, January 08, 2012

On Giuseppe Sacchi

Therefore. Because.
I've contributed a text on Giuseppe Sacchi, a 17th Century Italian painter, for If Mind Were All There Was: Nine Themes on Giuseppe Sacchi, an artist book by Victor Man, published by Kaleidoscope Press, Milan.

The book is a collection of texts inspired by a piece of graffiti in Piero della Francesca’s Legend of the True Cross. A horse depicted in the cycle of frescos bears Sacchi's name on its forehead. Yet no evidence of his work or biography exists apart from a short entry in a 19th century dictionary of painters and engravers. The contributors to the book were invited to "shape a possible (unauthorized) biography for Sacchi," and so "to reconsider the limits and possibilities of art writing." 

Contributors include: Maria Fusco, Massimiliano Gioni, Martin Herbert, Francesco Manacorda, Tom Morton, Alessandro Rabottini, João Ribas, Torsten Slama and Martin Vincent.
The book is available through MOTTO: 
ISBN 978 88 97185 09 3 - published by Kaleidoscope Press, Milan and Tramway, Glasgow