Sitting at home in the weekend thinking back a bit on end of last years events and the upcoming challenges. Traveling to New York to do research for my dissertation on collection display in December last year, and to Linz to do preparation for the exhibition ‘Where We Are’ summer 2009. This week picking up the thread after the Christmas-New Year interval discussing new ideas for the big (14 months!) exhibition we’re opening november 2009. Let me focus here on the trip to New York, later more on Linz etc.
For New York, the focus was on the exhibition ‘The Anyspacewhatever’ in the Guggenheim Museum, which is/was a remarkable retrospective exhibition on the art of the 90s, loosely organized around what can be called the ‘relational aesthetic’-movement. These artists were less interested in creating objects, but more in organizing social situations. Perhaps Tiravanija’s ‘free curry’ (distributing curry as art project) has unwillingly become an icon for this art that sought not to question anymore what ‘is’ art, but was more interested in investigating the potentialities of situations offered.
Seeing this art in a museum in a retrospective model puts an complicated and perhaps even at some points uncomfortable pressure on these artists. For what the retrospective model introduces is one element to which this type of artistic practice has a complicated relationship: time. The historical nature of such an exhibition, suggests to the visitor that one is looking back, evaluating something that has happened. The difficulty here being that the generation of the 90s was living in period ‘beyond’ history, since history was thought to have ended with the cold war, which was understood as the last great opposition in systems to organize society.
Therefore this generation of the 90s had difficulty to think in terms of ‘time’ and ‘history’. The focus on situations and relations was a creative way out of this paralysing moment, suggesting that one should not think ‘time’ or ‘history’ any more in the large sense as a succesion of large systems, but as small and private element that only in the conglomerate of all the time of everybody installs a historical effect. The main difference therefore between this type of art and the art of the preceding generations was that here art was no longer a model or a suggestion, but a real social situation. In a sense one could even a state that they stopt considering themselves to be ‘avant’ the ‘garde’ for there was not future space of radical difference into which one could imagine oneself.
In New York the complexity of this position became evident within the framework of a retrospective show. In a way the artists remained loyal to themselves by not exhibting old work, but by creating new works, for this new situation. However, the context of the Guggenheim – one of the oldest and most renowned collections of modern art – almost silently forced the works to ‘objectify’. Perhaps in an ambigous way the current policy of the Guggenheim to create more events and experiences than academic, art historical exhibitions, did open up the space of the museum more towards an ‘situation’ and a ‘relation’, but here many question formed in my mind, for which I will need more time to answers. Especially the question: what type of experience the Guggenheim is instigating is difficult for me to say. Am I an a member of a public, moving to a social space, where I can encounter a fellow citenzen, or am I a customer, buying a product, and as such only interested in satisfying a personal demand? Answers to these questions can only come later (and perhaps will surface here in this space, on the blog).