Wake up: Conceptual Art is Killing Us!



Alicja Kwade and Saskia Noor van Imhoff at de Appel Arts Centre – feeling disappointed.

I did not think of it much last night, but somehow woke up feeling disappointed. That same spiraling door, again those highly polished brass and stainless steel timelines of the world propped in the corner, which were already shown before laying flatbed picture planed jewelry like glistening at the Johann Koennig booth back in Miami some Art Basels ago, where they were the central selling piece and you were on the cover of was it Art Review? Those were exciting times, to have made it finally on that glitzy side of the world, but seeing the same things now, some years forward, institutionalized, somehow feels stale. I guess I expected more.

We circled through the ground floor; the emptiness of the interior felt more apparent than its content. You told me that you spent more time rebuilding the inside of their inside to make the perfect space. You did this to create the ideal white cube structure situation in which to display your sculptures I guess, but I wish you spent more time conceiving newer works instead. A little banana peel frozen upright in bronze in the corridor, too small to make a statement, the huge rotating rock, programmed to circle at the same speed of the Earth just counter-clockwise. “The rock can be seen as the only thing on earth that is not moving and as such, exempt from the laws of physics.’ the brochure says, that’s nice. But what is it solving?

Then finally, the central piece caught by the press, the Fahrrad. A bicycle pulverized to its tiniest parts, to form different dry colored particles, carefully sieved, sorted and then divided into glass jars, similar to the ones grandma would collect and reserve to preserve cabbage for the winter months, except these had a more manufactured feel. Identical, hospital like labeled and stuck a top, these must have been ordered especially. Sure, the piece amused. A metaphoric layer cake of puns; a thing broken down to its most elemental parts, the quantum Universe bottled and ready for consumption, the missing artist’s hand, a site specifically relevant joke on the Dutch biking culture, but how does it inspire? Double jarred, behind the glass of the vitrine cabinet, the distanced neatness of it all, so contained, fails to move in any way. And feels so stupid, to miss the current so irrelevantly. We are dumbed down and battered from all sides, stomachs and sockets wide open force fed with synthetics and flooded with visuals of war 24 hour surveillanced and contained in ultimate mind control and all we can expect from artists is a shredded bike in little jars?

Sure after the show the same free flowing wine and food followed so everyone can quickly numb themselves in its immediate satiation to forget just how meaningless what they just saw was. Is that why we are all here, to get stuffed again? I really don’t want anymore to just sit here and chatter mindlessly, are you really satisfied with the suspicious repetition it all? For what, to wake up once again re-wheeled into a drunken stupor and murkiness of mind? I’m bored and tired of these endless merry-go-round rides, even for free.  An apparatus long overdue which seems to have installed itself into the art throne’s head and does not want to budge. Take a look at the work of Ben d’Armagnac from 1971. It hits the hammer right on the head. Two heads squashed by a heavy load of books, brains splattered upon the table of their unfinished chess game. Cause of death: information overload. Seems they were tiring of these rides already back then, so why are we still spinning on the same wheel, conceptually?

Its inaccessibility exhausts. When will we wake up and see that its repetitive gimmicks do not satiate; the whole affair becomes again and again about collective drowning in a carnival of unfulfilled consumption. So dehydrated we are in the current drought which insulates our art in jars so well, that we fail to connect to it at all and instead drown the emptiness in yet another wine. I don’t want to drown any more. And I don’t want to have to read anymore, cold facts, written on the handed out piece of pretty paper by the curator who did not even bother checking in with you. I don’t want any more to use my mind to solve last minute art puzzles, my brain already hurts from all the external outside we have to process daily. I want to be transported, elevated and offer my body some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, out of the fluorescently lit room, flickering painfully reminiscent of the sanitized hospital hybrid, with its over sterilized air and not a sign of window to the outside. I want to be able to just breathe it in again.

Upstairs, the spectacle staged by Saskia Noor van Imhoff was more seductive, perhaps because I never saw this artist before. More behind in the game, it felt like she spent more time in training. The total room installation with its fake elevated floors to show the excavation of the beneath the floorboard, was indeed all very pretty. And I fit right in with my pink cast parked next to her galvanized arm cast; a solution to the transiency of temporary broken state or something like that, the text read. The pink reverberating everywhere instantly swept away into a momentary heaven. Seamless and clean, the slickness of the space seduced, reiterated by the elegantly slithering fog which seeped into the room through an extremely polished upright pipe, so clean, the space resonated polish for a pretty picture magazine. It certainly made for a pretty Instagram picture. And the spatial organization skills seduced as did the neatly laid out pile of A3 sheets of different perfectly-bled colored skins which enticed one to pick them up and take away as is now so common ever since Bruce Nauman started it with his pink do-it-yourself at home body piece to take away in the 60s. It seems all we want today is to consume or take away. Us, insatiable consumer vultures.

Perhaps the most interesting find of the whole thing, next to feeling deflated, was excavating the text “Something Real” by Jasper Coppes, located under the take away sheets, which I only got around to reading the next day obviously. Finally someone real sharing some real thoughts using a language I was able to understand, immediately. Finally something alive, a spirit stacked away amidst the impenetrable vitrines of the  hyper real sleek of the displays. Finally some consolation of the existence of kindred spirits out there, somewhere. – feeling more hopeful.

And, yes that jug of gin and tonic was satisfying, and it would be hypocritical to deny participation in the charade, but how nice it would be to one day wake up sober.

Black & white images above are of an installation by performance artist Ben d’Armagnac with artist Louwrien Wijers and writer K. Schippers for the 6th Sonsbeek exhibition curated by Wim Beeren in 1971, subtitled ‘Sonsbeek Buiten de Perken’ (Sonsbeek Beyond Its Bounds) . The exhibition took place throughout Holland. This piece was located in Almelo. Photographs by Oscar van Alphen


IMG_4102Fahrad (2014), Alicja Kwade

IMG_4114Installation view of #+21.00 (2016) Saskia Noor van Imhoff


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