Which exhibitions, events and publications were most important, incisive or poignant in 2016? In Kunstkritikk’s best of cavalcade, invited guests join our own writers in summing up the year 2016 in art. Today’s contribution comes from Kunstkritikk’s Copenhagen editor, Pernille Albrethsen.
Tino Sehgal, Carte blanche to Tino Sehgal, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Curated by Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel.
I’m not really that crazy about Tino Sehgal, but I am crazy about large, public institutions that have more than 13,000 m2 of exhibition floor space at their disposal and still have faith that large audiences are ready for experimental exhibition formats. That was why I happily surrendered to Palais de Tokyo’s retrospective featuring Sehgal and friends (Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, Daniel Buren, Félix González-Torres etc.). After being received in true Seghal style by performance hosts holding each visitor in a firm grip, the situation loosened up considerably in the lower levels. In fact, the exhibition not only dispersed out into works by other artists, but also out into the rough concrete architecture. This happened most radically with head poet Huyghe’s new Cancer, which consisted partially of puddles of water hidden in the darkness of the basement in such ominous fashion that most museums would not have been up for it. Sehgal’s exhibition was a palimpsest that continued writing onto the collective memory that has been embedded in the institution’s cold concrete walls since Philippe Parreno’s radical retrospective in 2013. But it was also a zombie exhibition that feasted on a Parisian collective memory, stretching its tentacles out across the city and back in time, to Centre Pompidou’s exhibitions of Pierre Huyghe in 2013 and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster in 2015. It’s all enough to make you dizzyingly, ferociously high.
Edward Krasińskis’s studio, Instytut Awangardy, Warsaw, founded in 2004 by the Foksal Gallery Foundation.
I had my first date with the Polish art scene this spring, and I’m ready for many more. There are so many public institutions with such brightly executed, well-researched and serious programmes that it beggars belief. Muzeum Sztuki, Warsaw’s modern museum, quite undoubtedly belong in the top ten of any list of the coolest institutions in Europe. But I lost my heart to Edward Krasiński when I visited his former home on the top floor of the tall block of flats in which he lived from 1970 up until his death in 2004 – one of the studio flats that the Communist regime had set aside as artist studios. If I have previously been somewhat indifferent to his neo-avant-garde trademark – blue tape attached at a height of 130 cm from the floor – this was before I had seen that blue line cut across his own home: through the kitchen, above the bed, on the windows and across the book shelves. Krasiński crush.
Gelitin, performance at Cabaret Voltaire, Manifesta 11, Zürich.
After the rather limp handshake that was Manifesta 11, Gelitin’s action at the legendary Cabaret Voltaire was pure catharsis. Good old-fashioned hard-working performance bodies created a beautiful mess with cardboard, sand, plaster, spritz and pee. True to its Viennese Actionism roots, but also with a tongue-in-cheek mischievousness, this event was a party that many joined whole-heartedly.
Superslick Surfaces – Visual Art and The Digital Contemporary, Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst. Arranged by Andreas Schlaegel, 13 October and 18 November, 2016.
It is always quite a task to sum up things when you’re standing in them up to your ankles. Superslick Surfaces sought to do exactly that: an ambitious two-day conference focusing on post-Internet art. The fact that the two sections took place on either side of the US election added an extra frisson and crescendo to the experience. During the first section everyone was in an exalted concluding-the-Berlin-Biennial mood, but during the second instalment terms such as deep cable, drones, post-factual and infrastructural critique buzzed through the air. The cool line-up of artists, curators and theorists, bound together by Schlaegel’s insightful moderation, was a reminder that exciting conferences never arise on their own, but must be thoroughly curated and carefully nurtured through to their completion.
Susanne M. Winterling, Susanne M. Winterling, Mousse Publishing, Milano. Texts by Anja Casser, Chris Kraus, Susanne M. Winterling and Susanne Østby Sæther.
A braid of hair tumbling down the neck of a young girl. A small feather in a leather bracelet around a skinny upper arm. Susanne Winterling genuinely moves me. These are coming-of-age images, or perhaps coming-into-form images, regardless of whether the subject is teenage girls huddling in groups, the young woman on horseback or Modernist pioneers such as Eileen Gray and Annemarie Schwarzenbach.
It began the day after the US election: WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE were the words on the first gouache that Lisa Anne Auerbach posted on Facebook on 9 November. A few days later the Los Angeles-based artist returned with another work, LOOK FORWARD IN ANGER, and an activist project was born: “Fuck gratitude and positivity; anger goes a long way, sometimes all the way to the White House. If you want this drawing donate $500 right now to an organization working against racism, for women’s reproductive rights, for the environment, to help immigrants, etc. Send me the receipt and it’s yours.” As yet Auerbach has posted twenty-one pictures of gouaches responding to the post-election situation. Unlike all the charity auctions that artists are constantly asked to donate works to, I am highly sympathetic to this simple, activist model that is more tightly controlled by the artist. I have now transferred a donation to The American Civil Liberties Union and am excitedly awaiting Christmas and NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF.