Review: Oliver Laric's Kopienkritik at Skulpturhalle Basel

Kopienkritik, German artist Oliver Laric's summer solo project at the Skulpturhalle Basel, waxes upon the politics of the reproduction of images while drawing upon the Swiss museum's collection of plaster cast copies of sculptures from classical antiquity. Laric collaborated with the museum's staff to reinstall and arrange their collection of casts, interspersing his own sculptures and video works shown on monitors and projectors throughout the museum. That Kopienkritik largely comprises works of art not created by but rearranged by Laric calls into question the functionality of the artist as not a maker of things, but a producer of ideas.

Kopienkritik (“copy criticism”) is the process of analyzing copies of classic sculptures —typically Roman reproductions of lost Greek versions — to arrive at a greater understanding of the originals. Within the art history community, the practice is seen as a last-ditch way to study ancient Greek sculpture — and one bearing many discontents. For example, ancient Greek sculptor Polykleitos, active in the 5th and early 4th century BCE, made major contributions to sculptural practice with his “invention” of contrapposto, but as his works are all lost they may only be studied and understood through lesser-quality Roman copies. To illustrate this principle, Laric grouped sculptures together similar in appearance and posture, creating visible aesthetic lineages between each work. These groupings are put into a theoretical framework by Laric's essay-video Versions, projected onto two similar plaster casts in the Skulpturhalle installation, the video attempting to fast forward discussions surrounding the authenticity and proliferation of images to an internet-sensitive context...

Internationalism and Nationality; Antiquity and Contemporaneity at the 54th Venice Biennale

Details of Thomas Hirschhorn installation at the Swiss Pavilion, Giardini
Details of Thomas Hirschhorn installation at the Swiss Pavilion, Giardini
What always seems urgent and perhaps ineffable to curators is how notions of nationality come to pass in a biennial setting. Look at the last Daniel Birnbaum-curated Venice Biennale for evidence, his “Making Worlds,” or the last documenta in 2007 curated by German couple Roger Buergel and Ruth Noack, which, similar to Okwui Enwezor’s preceding documenta, displaced the exhibition in lesser-known, sometimes third-world locales. We now find French curator Bice Curiger’s comparatively breezy ILLUMInations inhabiting Venice, looking to the aesthetic experience as one of transcendental enlightenment while also meditating, somewhat confoundingly, on how an artist’s nationality effects the production of their work.

Although there exist many a pleasant moment in Curiger’s biennale, the curator stumbles over contextualizing it, and often relies upon generic ideas to band together ideas with no real curatorial thesis. Curiger writes, “The term ‘nations’ in ILLUMInations applies metaphorically to recent developments in the arts all over the world, where overlapping groups form collectives of people representing a wide variety of smaller, more local activities and mentalities.” I take this wily statement to mean that recently, artists of varying locales band together to represent their nationhood in larger groups—a sentiment not exactly illuminating.

In a further attempt to explain what needn’t be explained, Curiger writes, “ILLUMInations emphasizes the intuitive insight and the illumination of thought that is fostered by an encounter with art and its ability to sharpen the tools of perception.” Here I was under the impression that it was part and parcel of successful art works to “enlighten” its viewer through an aesthetic experience, how that is emphasized, I’m not sure. My guess is that this throwaway concept is one Curiger found to unify an essentially un-unifiable group of works. Perhaps the sole phenomenon unifying all works is Curiger’s propensity to pick out the most hot artists of a given moment: R.H. Quaytmann and Seth Price in New York; in London, Klara Liden, who just had a solo show at the Serpentine, Elad Lassry in Los Angeles, Sharyar Nashat in Berlin, among others. Although Curiger falters in her apparent subscription to cool internationalism, much of the work comprising the Biennale—particularly in the exhibition’s Central Pavilion in the Giardini—is worth consideration.

Report from BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) Venezia

video by Rafaël Rozendaal

The 33rd edition of BYOB took place Friday evening on the small Venetian island, San Servolo. For those unfamiliar, the exhibition format brings together internet- savvy artists showcasing their work on their own projectors (“beamers.”) BYOB first launched last year in Berlin by Dutch artists Rafaël Rozendaal and Anne de Vries to combat the reliance upon institutions for the facilitation of new media exhibitions. With BYOBs around the globe, it has quickly gained notoriety as a meet-up point for socializing among new media artists as much as a viable form of exhibition. While Rozendaal now carries the torch for BYOB and has ushered it into a worldwide phenomenon, the question remains: is BYOB a viable form of resistance to institutional reliance or just a big party?

Keller/Kosmas (Aids-3D) at T293, Naples, Italy

The infamous, brackishly titled Berlin-based duo Keller/Kosmas (Aids-3D) have exhibited widely from an extremely young age. Dropping out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and moving to Berlin at age 20, Keller and Kosmas became known in the late naughts for their dirt-style website documenting static works with a fantastical, conspiracy theorist sci-fi sensibility, in addition to weed-infused performances of laser shows and naked babes. As an artistic entity, Keller and Kosmas essentially grew up online, and for better or worse, in the public eye. Now barely 25, Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas enjoy exhibition opportunities throughout Europe and the United States, albeit with a more concerted sense of art historical sensitivity, production know-how, and overarching artistic maturity.

The Migration and Conflation of Forms

What has happened to “underground” film after the advent of Netflix, file-sharing and the Internet? This veritable, thriving counter-cultural force, building community by way of the distribution of cultural artifacts, has definitely undergone some changes as hard-to-find movies have become easier to locate and view. The transformation of underground film in the face of these factors emblematizes the shift in perspective defining the New York Underground Film Festival (1994-2008), from its offshoot Migrating Forms, programmed by NYUFF veterans Kevin McGarry and Nellie Killian, now in its second year. Migrating Forms shouldn’t be understood as NYUFF with a facelift—such would imply a new identity covering up an old ethos. Rather, if NYUFF combated the poor distribution of alternative cinema with a punk sensibility, Migrating Forms broadened its scope to celebrate works made in the preceding year by artists and filmmakers, somewhat in the vein of an (annual) art world biennial.

Its title, taken from a James Fotopolous film, further evinces the slippery character of pictures shown within McGarry and Killian’s program. Anything on video or film is fair game. The disparate line up includes work of contemporary video artists, anthropologically inclined documentaries, and formalist ruminations by an array of artists and filmmakers. Also shown was a mini retrospective of Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin and the only two, extremely rare films ever produced by Ed Ruscha. The festival brochure touts its ten day massive program, “Across 23 programs, Migrating Forms showcases films and videos by 62 artists living and working in 21 countries—plus 9 special retrospective screenings and special events.”

The conceptual and physical vastness of Migrating Forms’ programming makes it difficult to identify any concerted or intentional leitmotifs. McGarry and Killian composed the festival with no obvious overarching theme other than the charge of presenting new film ...