June 05, 2009

Little Theatre of Gestures

The current show at Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel,
http://www.kunstmuseumbasel.ch/en/exhibitions/current/little-theatre-of-gestures/ was an unexpectedly depressing affair in an otherwise very pleasant day (Basel continues to be delightful - pictured waiting for the river-powered boat). As the exhibition copy ducks out of claiming anything too portentous for the show "not aiming to give an overview on the formal and informal codes that constitute our communiciation
in daily life, but instead to gather artistic positions for a mutual play on smaller or larger deeds." The dismay lay not so much in the artworks themselves, though some warranted little attention, but rather in the curation of that 'mutual play'. The spaces of the Gegenwartskunst Museum are quite dynamic and possibly challenging to work with as not many rooms seem to have much in the way of a right-angle, but the juxtaposition of the works often seemed arbitrary or too obviously clumsy. The only set piece that worked was Sol le Witt's pencil wall drawing of circles and grids opposite Bruce Nauman's "The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths"; but what was a white painted geometrical frame by le Witt doing in dialogue with a Roualt painting of clowns. There were a number of occasions where artists reappeared on different floors of the gallery, implying a spatial dialogue that transcended a reading of the mixing as incoherent, but this was then countermanded by the top floor being given over exclusively to Joseph Beuys. They may have been positing him as the apotheosis of artist qua gesture but this cut across any non-linear, non-hierarchical, ahistorical reading that may have been proffered in the rest of the layout.

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