Friday, February 26, 2016

Anri Sala: Answer Me, at the New Museum

Anri Sala: Answer Me consists of three floors exploring the relationship between sound, architecture, and politics. Sala has a deep understanding of the cultural and symbolic values imbued in architecture. Raised in pre- and post-Communist Albania, where poverty and war have decayed buildings and destroyed public space, Sala’s early works drive through Albania’s desolate streetscapes of strange and intermittent noises.

The relationships between sounds in a public space is further explored through five video works looped on either side of a screen that bifurcates a large room. Each film intersects space, body, sound, and culture, and the audio from each film bleeds to the other side: two works fighting for presence. The muddled soundscape reflects the war torn architecture of the films. Conversely, two later works play in separate screening rooms, the only works housed in sound-proofed spaces. Both works combine multiple recordings of the same song into one film, revealing the looseness of each recording in its inability to synchronize, heightened by the related works’ spatial separation into two sonic hemispheres.

Answer Me grounds Sala’s work in terms of acoustic politics. The politics of space is understood when sound is spatially controlled, mixed, and materialized. These haptically understood conditions expose relations in public political space: sometimes violent, sometimes messy, sometimes alone.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Anri Sala: Answer Me at New Museum

Anri Sala turns the architectural structure of New Museum into a cochlea. Due to the artist’s experience of political complicity of Albania, this cochlea presents a dysfunctional status that each piece of work is so loud and dominating, and is mostly impossible to communicate to others. Just like the title of the show: Answer Me, every characteristic is making noise and trying to gain attention, but yet, no one is answering anyone.

By beginning at the top floor of the show, the music guides viewers into each installation and floats them down the spiral stairs. Two hands of the pianist, which are separately displayed, are competing each other to gain dominance of the music in a spiky room. A DJ is playing her music in a white, empty, monumental space. Two giant projections are displaying two perspectives of a musical performance in opposite corners. Drums installed on the celling are playing by themselves. Several double-sided tabs are on the wall with skulls feebly hitting the drum at the front. Two projections on both sides of a huge board present a wall with a saxophone player and the shadows of the audience on both sides.

There is a solid structure within individual piece. However, by putting all the strong pieces together, the artist actually creates a mess. Moreover, the bilateral aspects of each piece welcome visitors to inspect the environment. Ambiguity is created by the conflicts. The title Answer Me lingers in the museum space to visitors.

Fischli and Weiss, How to Work Better, The Guggenheim

“Is my brain a poorly furnished apartment?”
“Who will pay for my beer?”
“Where are the galaxies moving to?”
Fittingly, the last room in the Fischli and Weiss retrospective at the Guggenheim is dark and silent, filled with projections of overlapping questions. Old questions fade out only to let new ones appear.
Within the world of Fischli and Weiss nothing is certain, yet that lack of certainty, while de-stabilizing, is by no means frightening. Instead, their work creates an extraordinary world where fiction is fact, an ordinary object is mythic and the mundane is fascinating.
Discarded pizza boxes and cigarette packs litter the artist’s studio that Fischli and Weiss create in Polyurethane Objects (2014). The objects are impeccably carved and entirely convincing, begging us to question our trust in sight. The artists also question the value of time, spending hours painstakingly recreating objects that they see everyday.

Wasting time seems paramount to their process, not in a negative sense, but more akin to how bored children spend hours creating their own worlds when stuck inside without toys to distract them: everything becomes a potential toy. Toys, costumes, and stage sets are all avenues through which we experience a version (though fictive) of reality. It is a similar fictive reality we experience in the work of Fischli and Weiss, bringing me to believe that perhaps it is by mimicking the world that we can see it most clearly.

The cave of Fischli and Weiss

The work of Peter Fischli and David Weiss does not escape the Platonic paradigm of art being imitation of reality. They acknowledge it and play with a system of values addressing the duality of concepts like reality and fiction. The retrospective at the Guggenheim literally escalates to a point where art is nothing more than imitation: the top floor displays objects made of polyurethane that are perfect reproductions of real objects.

The artists make use of humor in the videos, photographs and sculptures. The exhibition implies the duo was committed to constructing an epic and farcical attempt to capture reality in its entirety, which can be understood through the series of small sculptures representing everyday situations in a lifetime. This show successfully conveys a strange sense of the unreal especially because the final sculptures appear to replicate reality but are all entirely made of rubber. The eye is fooled, the work almost demands you touch it as the senses are struck by curiosity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better

This retrospective is titled after the name of a piece of Fischli and Weiss's artwork which  also appears on the streets of New York from February 5 to May 1 as a part of this show. That  is a readymade artwork which has been hand-painted on a building.

When you first step into this exhibition, you see the sculpture Rat and Bear placed in the middle of the hall. These two characters were used in other works of Fischli and Weiss’s. Follow the spiral of Guggenheim Museum and you can see the artists' works in sequence: Walls, Corners, Tubes; Suddenly This Overview; The Way Things Go; Visible World; Polyurethane Objects and Rubber Sculptures. From these works, you can easily perceive the key elements of their works: their subject is based on insignificant ordinary things to discuss serious questions and they prefer to work in series. All of them are really stimulating people to involve into the thinking of art and making this process of thinking into their art works.

The curators didn’t place the works  in chronological order in this retrospective. This decision in some degree fits the artists' idea very well: they are not constantly changing their idea of art but keep finding new things to enrich it. Anyway, if you felt that art is not that serious and even got the impulse of making art after you saw it,  this means  their art really works.

Rat and Bear
Photo: David M. Heald

Suddenly This Overview
Photo: David M. Heald

Walls, Corners, Tubes
Photo: David M. Heald

Polyurethane Objects and Rubber Sculptures
Photo: David M. Heald