Contemporaneous Extension


Stirring the Pot at Swiss Institute

I was immediately intrigued by the Swiss Institute’s three-part exhibition Under Destruction. Although the show was originally realized in a singular swoop at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, the segmentation in New York allows more room for the pieces to breathe, and more freedom in conceiving the dialogue. Under Destruction I closed on May 8th. Part II is currently on view through June 19. This first incarnation implies the extent and variety of destruction that Chris Sharp and Gianni Jetzer took into consideration. This first chapter is the most subtle intonation of destruction. It unveils catalytic destruction, and the creation that lingers closely behind demolition.

Each work is incited, controlled, and interrupted by the artist. My two favorite pieces preyed upon my soft spot for process. Alex Hubbard’s ‘Cinepolis’ (2007) mercilessly defames a traditional pull-down movie screen. The originally functional object, spoiled by its inactivity and Hubbard’s intentions, transforms into a battered prisoner of references. It is slashed, tarred and feathered, and splattered with silver balloons a la Warhol as the camera neutrally captures everything from above. Hubbard infuses Pop Art, action painting, and even a foreign soundtrack into his piece. His utilization of a film screen rather than a piece of stretched canvas or a piece of paper moves his critique outside of a self-reflective ‘art’ reference. In the land of television, iPads, and computers, a screen not in a theater or backyard is unnecessary. Rather than recycling, Hubbard reconstructs the purpose of the screen and makes its initial purpose obsolete. I immediately summon an image of a 13 year old beezy, probably named Nora or Marie, destroying every component of an ex-friend’s reputation from her Silly Band collection to her nickname. The historical reputation of getting ‘tarred and feathered’ also adds an air of aggression, of hate and chaos, to the piece that binds it to destruction. Hubbard is cleaning out his closet, one action and one object at a time. The video is only several minutes long, and the jumpy cuts between processes kept me tugging at Hubbard’s baited string. It is one of the most blatant supporters of the creative power of destruction in the exhibition, and even manages to neutralize the destructive nature of the act through repetition.

Nina Canell’s ‘Perpetuum Mobile (40 kg)’ (2009-10) functions similarly but on the molecular level. A small bowl of water hums with sonic vibrations that transform the liquid into free-floating hydrogen and oxygen haze. A slashed bag of cement on the floor sits next to the overflowing basin of mist. This piece is so thoroughly satisfying for me, from concept to execution, it gives me goosebumps. The H20 bonds are liberated! The cement is solidified! Both substances (the H20 and the cement powder) are rendered completely useless while still serving a natural function of each substance. Only through Canell’s action does this poetic process blossom, which lingers between creation and demolition.

Destruction is a roaming concept in Under Destruction I, no longer adhered to a garish physical finale or explosion. The show summoned thoughts of danger in its emphasis on potential energy, on the sluggish surge of destruction. Each piece presents a finite degree of destruction that’s palatable and singularly spurred by the artist. The audience remains on the observation deck. The risk remains at bay, the presentation is ephemeral. This first segment presents destruction with fragility and tact, counteracting the predictable brawn of the action.

Nina Canell, 'Perpetuum Mobile (40 Kg),' 2009–10. Bag of cement, water, electric pulse.

Nina Canell, 'Perpetuum Mobile (40 Kg),' 2009–10. Water bucket, steel, hydrophone, mist machine, amplifier, cable, and 40kg cement.

Nina Canell, 'Perpetuum Mobile (40 Kg),' 2009–10. Water bucket, steel, hydrophone, mist machine, amplifier, cable, and 40kg cement.

Nina Canell, 'Perpetuum Mobile (40 Kg),' 2009–10. Water bucket, steel, hydrophone, mist machine, amplifier, cable, and 40kg cement.

Left (on floor): Nina Beier and Marie Lund, 'History Makes a Young Man Old,' 2008, 4 inches in diameter, crystal ball rolled to destination (site of exhibition). At Right Foreground: Michael Sailstorfer, 'Untitled (Bulb),' 2010, 16mm film (color), 1 minute loop

Left (on floor): Nina Beier and Marie Lund, 'History Makes a Young Man Old,' 2008, 4 inches in diameter, crystal ball rolled to destination (site of exhibition). At Right Foreground: Michael Sailstorfer, 'Untitled (Bulb),' 2010, 16mm film (color), 1 minute loop

Alex Hubbard, 'Cinepolis,' 2007, 1 minute 51 seconds looped. DVD (color) and sound.

Alex Hubbard, 'Cinepolis,' 2007, 1 minute 51 seconds looped. DVD (color) and sound.

Alex Hubbard, 'Cinepolis,' 2007, 1 minute 51 seconds looped. DVD (color) and sound.

Alex Hubbard, 'Cinepolis,' 2007, 1 minute 51 seconds looped. DVD (color) and sound.

((there will be further coverage of the last two increments of the show, followed by less of a summary/reflection and more of an analysis. Happy Weekend!))

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