1. PORTRAIT OF MARCEL DUCHAMP
Galerie Thomas Fischer in Berlin is a regular stop on my gallery rounds. Fischer’s approach is curatorially precise and since the launch of his space in 2011 has created intriguing conversations between conceptual practices of the last five decades. The solo exhibition during April 2012 by Brian O’Doherty (of ‘Inside the White Cube’ fame), is a case in point.
‘Portrait of Marcel Duchamp’, 1966, installed in a narrow room at the back of the gallery still haunts me. The anecdote goes that Duchamp and his partner came over to the O’Doherty’s for dinner in New York in 1966, and O’Doherty, a qualified medical doctor, took his EKG. O’Doherty translated the resulting graph into a kinetic light box – animated by a small motor that moves a light source past a wave etched into a dark glass surface. The impression is of a sustained and unending heart beat. It is a moving homage to Duchamp and his legacy.
2. AN INTELECTUAL PISSING CONTEST
Vlado Martek is an important Croatian conceptual artist, however largely unknown outside his home country. I encountered his work first at the booth of Aanant & Zoo during the Cologne Artfair, and then later in the year during his first solo exhibition at the gallery in Berlin. ‘Baudrillard – Duchamp’, 1995 is part of an ironic and subversive series of graphics, ‘Theoretic Prints’. This work pits two intellectual giants against each, both who grappled with the philosophical meanings and value of objects. More on Martek here.
3. I PUT IT THERE YOU NAME IT
I loved artists Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian’s riotous, over the top collaborative installation at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde in Dubai in March 2012. They converted the cavernous venue into a replica of their home, and transplanted their furniture, art collection (Louise Bourgeois, David Hockney, Bahman Mohassess, Jake and Dinos Chapman amongst others) and installed new paintings, collages and sculptures. Not a single inch of the gallery remained untouched, with objects and paint flowing and spilling between rooms, from walls to floors. Infused with self deprecating humour, the subversive camp aesthetic and strategies of the artists felt like a breath of fresh air. More on their process here.
4. HAUS DER KULTUREN DER WELT
I encountered two brilliant exhibitions at Haus der Kulturen der Welt during the year, the first curated by the incoming Head of Visual Arts, Anselm Franke, and the second by the outgoing incumbent of the position, Valerie Smith. Franke’s show, ‘Animismus’ was a long term exhibition project that originated at the Extra City Kunsthal Antwerp, and its last iteration was presented in Berlin. Smith’s ‘Between Walls and Windows: Architektur und Ideologie’ used as starting point the building that houses the institution, by restoring in many ways the public and congregational intentions of its architecture, and inviting artists to engage with various spaces and site specific installations in the large venue. In no way is my intention here to connect the shows or make a comparison, other than to say that these two visions encapsulated an approach by two remarkable curators, each who will and have contributed to the legacy of the institution.
5. FUCKED-UP HISTORY PAINTING
Stumbling across the work of Andrew Gilbert at the booth of Power Galerie at the rather staid and boring Cologne Art Fair 2012, was a bit of a shock and also confusing. Why would a Scottish artist based in Berlin be so obsessed with Africa? An important influence in his practice is the British film ‘Zulu’ (A 1964 ‘historical’ war film depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and Zulu warriors in January 1879, during the Anglo-Zulu War). Gilbert’s historic fictions stem from an internalised obsession with its depicted horror and violence, and the uncritical consumption of the film’s unbalanced and problematic viewpoint. Gilbert’s brutal and visceral practice centres on the creation of complex and contradictory positions, defying easy readings, combining historic fact with fictional impersonations, and is intended as a devastating critique and commentary on the UK’s colonial project.
6. IAN HAMILTON FINLAY
Another Scott that made a major impression was the understated, minimal and elegant installation of mostly wall paintings by Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925 – 2006) at Galerie Nolan Judin in November 2012. His work, a life long dedication to the unraveling of the connections between language, nature and monuments found perhaps its best expression in a life long project, a sculpture garden Little Sparta in Southern Scotland.