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Reading Rämistrasse #114: Jason Rohr off on a tangent touching Silvie Fleury and Walter de Maria at the Bechtler Stiftung - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #114: Jason Rohr off on a tangent touching Silvie Fleury and Walter de Maria at the Bechtler Stiftung

The sediment encrusting and aging a work is not a physical one anymore, but has become an endless record of installation views, critical reception, and ever-increasing provenance.

When asked about the red dress in the show, Sylvie’s anecdotal reply about why the private and the public mix in unfortunate ways amused me. She was recognized on TV in it by someone who shouldn’t have seen her in the company of someone else, because the camera panned in on her, seeing in her a face for the screen. And when a medium sees reproducibility in you, stardom or infamy usually results. It also leads to having one’s private desires exposed by the public’s craving for content. What really makes the public discontent is when the media stream of mishaps and mistakes by those separated through fame or geography dries up. Not too close, not too relatable, so that domestic viewers don’t have to reflect on their own personal scandals and self-denial.

It’s not about the news though. I want to talk about the two works.

Sylvie did not show magazines, shoeboxes, or paintings. The foundation is in an unexpected spot. It’s located amidst a residential development with a large parking lot in front. Three rectangles of neutral white light are broken only by the crowd in front of them, reflected and bent over the car hoods parked in proximity. When you come inside there’s a reception desk, all white of course, from where you can go left or right to see either work.

I turned right towards The 2000 Sculpture by De Maria as I had already seen it at the Kunsthaus Zürich. Here follow my notes from the first encounter:

Walter de Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, 1992, Installationsansicht Bechtler Stiftung, 2022

Foto: Flavio Karrer, Walter A. Bechtler-Stiftung © 2022 Estate of Walter de Maria

2000 rods of plaster, with a rhythm of militaristic processions.
A terracotta army for Modernism. Erected to protect its legacy beyond its death.
Having been realized in 1992 it might just as much be an effort to announce Modernism’s demise and arm it at once for its future reception. For a time when Modernism isn’t around to protect itself anymore.
And it does so well.
The equidistant rods lie heavy on the floor, with a stillness that calms from all angles.
This static mass, in its immobility, would be perturbed if only one of the rods were off by a few degrees. A proud and rigid structure, so visually susceptible to the slightest divergence of its constituents.
The only thing troubling its calm is its obsessive-compulsive orderliness.
A similar beauty that a reflective Koons possesses. Both are precisely executed, produced, and placed. Both hint at the importance of the viewer. Undressing for them, to give way to Duchampian voyeurism. Their visual content changes with and for the viewer depending on their angle. Both sculptures stress the importance of the observer and deflect their megalomania. Whereas Koons’s reflectance mirrors the gaze of the masses, De Maria’s work gives up power over its geometry to the viewer and formally denounces the artist’s signature while deflecting from its dominant presence and sheer dimension. The very paradox of minimalists before post-minimalists like Eva Hesse was between the visually ascetic renunciation of an expressive mode of signature and mark-making and the resulting idiosyncrasy of the resulting work. The almost fungible nature of minimalist work relative to their authors has resulted in reinstating the importance of the author or the person associated with it, as art history analyses visually converging practices by differentiating what sets their makers apart.
The (performative) denunciations of author- and ownership are sacrifices to a future accreditation by art history, to be known as those who have abstained from the vice of authorship in their trance to equity. Even collaborative efforts most often only distribute and share it among its collaborators.
Beyond these questions, I would like to note how sensitively the sculpture anticipated the shaking legs on which Modernism came to stand under our contemporary scrutiny. A Terracotta Army might certainly help with that.

There’s a Mugler leather jacket with a star for a zip, a rainbow dress, and a safari jacket with a hat, all hung on golden clothes racks. Their black garment covers have Double Positive written on the front. The pieces are from Fleury’s personal collection and are supplemented with a short description of their designer and which year’s collection they belong to. In Fleury's matrix, each dress is a point of departure towards a bodily experience lived within it. I like to think of petrochemical deposits from sweat, perfume, and general wear to give the garments the notion of being proxies for these experiences.

Sylvie Fleury, Double Positive, Installationsansicht Bechtler Stiftung, 2022

Courtesy die Künstlerin, Foto: Jonathan Dirlewanger

Time spans sliced from the linear loaf of space-time side by side like a good continental breakfast. The butt, body, and front end of the loaf buttered and jammed synchronously. Dresses that hang next to each other, hugging the figure of their decade’s production, connected and brought together by the very subject which they will outlive if preserved. De Maria’s approach is diametrical in as much as it gives the units of the grid complete insignificance compared to Fleury’s matrix. I become aware of how I am experiencing the opening in my chosen fit of all beige with a red ascot, sweat infusing my pullover. Inscribing the visit and experience into my clothes until washed.

A nausea accompanies the linearity swirling into spirals around the hole in my sink. It’s the same kind that hits me when I see works from different decades immaculately preserved and hung together in a space. The only thing preventing my experiencing the canonical gathering as atemporal are the little tags and texts referencing the year of creation, name, and the general webbing of context between the pieces. The sediment encrusting and aging a work is not a physical one anymore but has become an endless record of installation views, critical receptions, and ever-increasing provenances.

The perfect preservation ensuing from improvements in tech and the esteemed importance of contemporary art makes any trace of historicity in their physicality disappear, making their age an emergent property of the style and content rather than of the object itself. Except maybe for Frankenthaler’s browning oil stains and Roth’s bread or chocolate rotting away in their encasements. In an institutional environment, it is only a logical conclusion that a lot of work being done now feels and looks like anachronisms, as the hermetic anti-aging measures of the spaces make for a perfect postmodern infrastructure with an aimlessly spinning arrow of time, nostalgically targeting past decades at random. In its perfect execution of its duties, the space meant to generate a sense of historicity and chronology through preservation and display does exactly the opposite for me.

Silvie Fleury, Double Positive, 8 October 2022 — 2 April 2023 und Walter de Maria, The 2000 Sculpture, permanent installation, Bechtler Stiftung, Uster

Reading Rämistrasse

Geht der Raum für Kunstkritik verloren, müssen wir handeln. Deswegen schaffen wir diesen Ort für Kritik – Reading Rämistrasse – auf der Webseite der Kunsthalle Zürich und veröffentlichen Rezensionen zu aktuellen Ausstellungen in Zürich. Diese geben nicht die Meinung der Kunsthalle Zürich wieder, denn Kritik muss unabhängig sein.

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