Art Histories

Rodney Graham, The Gifted Amateur, Nov. 10th, 1962, detail, 2007, 3 painted aluminum lightboxes with transmounted chromogenic transparencies. Courtesy of the Rennie Collection, Vancouver.

Gerard Byrne, A Thing is a Hole in a Thing it is Not, still, 2010, HD video installation. Co-commissioned by Lismore Castle Arts 2010, Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. Courtesy of the artist.

Sorel Cohen, The Shape of a Gesture, 1978/2012, triptych: laserjet colour prints. Courtesy of the artist.

Walter Benjamin, Mondrian ’63-’96, still, 1987, video, 25 min. Produced by TV Galerija and broadcast by TV Belgrad. Courtesy of the artist.

Michael A. Robinson, End of Career Privilege (detail), 1998/2012, installation. Courtesy of the artist.

Bik van der Pol, Past Imperfect (detail), 2005, installation (120 pages). Courtesy of the artists.

Guillaume Désanges, Signs and Wonders, still, 2009, video, 57 min. Performance-conference presented at the Centre Pompidou, Paris during the Nouveau festival. Courtesy of the artist.

Marcel Duchamps, Boîte-en-valise (G Series, 47 copies), 1936/1968. Outside green leather, cardboard box containing 80 items: miniature reproductions of works, photos, facsimiles. Private collection.

Mario Garcia-Tores, What Happens in Halifax Stays in Halifax (In 36 Slides), 2004-2006, detail, installation, 50 black and white slides, 9 min. Courtesy of the artist.

IRWIN (Marina Gržinic and Dusan Mandic), Cindy Sherman (Cindy Sherman or Hysteria Production Presents a Reconstruction of Sherman’s Photographs), 1984, video, 3 min. Produced by SKUC-Forum, Ljubljana. Courtesy of the artists.

Laibach, Opus DEI (Opus), still, 1987, video clip, 4 min. 30 sec. Courtesy of the artists.

Louise Lawer, Arrangements of Pictures, 1982, documentation of the installation. Courtesy of Metro Pictures, New York.

Kazimir Malevitch, view of the exhibition Autobiography, Galerija Gregor Podnar, Berlin, 27 June to September 19, 2009. Courtesy of Galerija Gregor Podnar.

Paul McCarthy, Painter, still, 1995, video, 50 min. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth, Zurich.

Ron Terada, Jack, excerpt, 2011, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Art Histories, VOX, from March 16 to May 19, 2012.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.
2012.03.16 - 05.19

Michael A. Robinson, Walter Benjamin, Bik Van der Pol, Gerard Byrne, Sorel Cohen, Guillaume Désanges, Marcel Duchamp, Mario Garcia-Torres, Rodney Graham, Marina Gržinić, IRWIN, Laibach, Louise Lawler, Kazimir Malevich, Paul McCarthy and Ron Terada

Curator
Marie J. Jean

Opening March 16, 2012


Join the artists and curator for a guided tour of the exhibition on Saturday March 17 at 2 p.m.

With: Michael A. Robinson, artist, Bik Van der Pol, artists, Sorel Cohen, artist, Marina Gržinić, videographer and researcher, Tevž Logar, director of Galerija Škuc, Ljubljana, Dusan Mandić, artist, Ron Terada, artist, Marie-Josée Jean, curator

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia, Ottawa, and the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam.

Art Histories: Artists’ Temptations

MARIE J. JEAN

Of the countless artists who have engaged in institutional critiques, few have paid much heed to art history. And yet the history of art imposes, far less innocently than one might think, the great narratives that will surely influence future generations. Historical statements carry a power that retain great impact through to the present, where they continue to play determining roles in every aspect of the system of art, including the milieux of academia and criticism, museums and art markets. This is perhaps not so surprising, if one stops to think about it, since art history, in its methods and its strategies, proceeds with a selection of emblematic specimens—and their canonization. That production of canonical knowledge is of course ineluctably determined by factors cultural, economic and political. It also rests, as does all historical production, on a complex narrative structure.

While art’s historians and theoreticians have dedicated themselves to the deconstruction and reconstruction of the narratives produced by the universal history of art, many artists, for their part, have made efforts to expose its successive determinisms and in so doing imagine alternative histories. The goal of the exhibition Art Histories was to understand how artists contribute to acting on the great narratives that art history produces. This attitude, described as meta-narrative, retro-avant-garde or simply critiquing, aims to restore notions of fiction and politics to the ideal museum that is art history. These artists’ propositions have demonstrated a penetrating understanding of the historicization of art and its processes, reminding us that historical knowledge implies not merely the reconstitution of past reality, but its continual [re]construction. That said, artists only rarely position themselves as producers of History—in the sense that their practice does not seek to elucidate formal, social or explanatory consistencies—more likely, they are archaeologists of historical knowledge, more intent on disclosing the unspoken or reflecting on discontinuities and displacements. They do not conceive of History as an entity, but as material undergoing perpetual change—theirs to appropriate, reinterpret and reshape. Often they employ anachronism as a conceptual tool, using the “retro” lens to work backward in time from their perspective of the present, a method many of them consider to be a necessary condition of “historical agency.”

In the course of the exhibition, we also discussed the fact that, since the 1980s, many artists have made art that takes a critical rear view of its history, by problematizing the expositional value of the work. This was visible in the preponderance of artist projects or documentation that involved reactivations of earlier exhibitions in the exhibition. Marcel Duchamp played—yet again—a pioneering role, having designed as early as 1936 a permanent, portable touring exhibition of his main works, reproduced as miniature replicas and photographs; he eventually produced them in a boxed-set-in-a-suitcase edition, the Boîte-en-valise. Louise Lawler’s 1982 installation at Metro Pictures Gallery in New York re-exhibited works that had earlier been shown by other appropriation artists in the same space. In 1984 at Galerije ŠKUC in Ljubljana, the Slovenian collective IRWIN mounted the exhibition Back to the USA as a shamelessly ironic copy of a show by American contemporary artists touring Western Europe at the same time—including a video adaptation of Cindy Sherman photographs. The original exhibition, for economic reasons, could not be shown in Yugoslavia. In a 1986 letter to Art in America, Kazimir Malevich (Belgrade) expressed surprise at the recent interest in “his” Last Futurist Exhibition 0,10 (1915). He then undertook to create a faithful copy of the exhibition exactly 70 years later—reconstituting it with the help of the only surviving photograph of the original—but in a Belgrade apartment. More recently, in 2009, Guillaume Désanges proposed a conference in the form of an exposition racontée in which he revisited Modernism, Minimalism and Conceptualism, laying bare the mystical origins of the shapes and signs recurrent within those genres for more than a century.

Considering that art is generally received, interpreted and historicized through exhibitions, it is not surprising to find artists increasingly interested in that discursive mode. After all, do copying, appropriation, reactivation or reconstitution not aim to shake up perceptions of a universal meaning, perpetually reconveyed by art history (which very rarely accounts for the context in which the work appeared)? Are such strategies not employed so as to disclose motivations that are rarely exposed, yet continually repeated within historically and culturally institutionalized chains of meaning? In her analysis of ideological exhibition modes employed by socialist and post-socialist regimes, the videographer and theoretician Marina Gržinic has set down some essential thoughts on the subject:

As Peter Wollen noted, Jacques Lacan demonstrated, in his notorious seminar on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter,” how a display might be the best method of concealment. Whereas in “The Purloined Letter” the police chief overlooks and misses the incriminating letter (the signifier on display), the uncanny Dupin (the figure of the Lacanian psychoanalyst himself) immediately sees the signifier displayed in full view, just as it desired. This demonstrates (despite Guy Debord’s contestation) that in modern times an excess of display has the effect of concealing the truth of the society that produces it, and for which it can still have a revelatory power.1

If artists are tempted in these ways to engage in [re]formulations of art history’s narratives and the [re]productions of past exhibitions, it is perhaps because they too are seeking to reconstitute the chains of meaning—social, economical, institutional or ideological—hidden in them.

1.“Synthesis: Retro-Avant Garde or Mapping Post-Socialism,” in Pavilion: Contemporary Art and Culture Magazine, Nos 10-11, 2007, pp. 81–91. Online: http://www.pavilionmagazine.org/pavilion10_11.pdf (accessed May 10, 2012). Marina Gržinic discussed her ideas in a conversation about retro-avant-garde practices with Dusan Mandic and Tevž Logar at VOX on March 17, 2012.

Event

Conference by Nicolai Punin
2012.04.19

VOX is delighted to welcome Nicolai Punin in Montreal. In the context of our inaugural exhibition Art Histories, he has kindly accepted our invitation to give a conference on Kazimir Malevich.

Read more

Journal # 34 - 05.2012

Read the Retro-Avant-Garde journal online

Journal # 35 - 05-2012

Read the online journal for the exhibition Art Histories 

Boîte-en-valise

See the photographic documentation of the Boîte-en-valise by Marcel Duchamp, presented during the exhibition Art Histories.