Some Thoughts on Entries #1-2,4-10
#10: Julie Mehretu
More paintings — but for a change, they're actually good. Mehretu's diagrammatic abstractions are bursting with energy, giant swirls of motion resembling a traffic flow map or the internal dynamics of an advancing storm front. You could stare at these paintings for hours and still not see everything.
#9: Harun Farocki, "Eye/Machine I-III"
"Eye/Machine" plays on two video monitors which alternate between text and documentary footage of smart bombs doing their duty. It's an interesting technique that allows Farocki to comment on an image without interrupting the flow of the image with audio. But it's wasted on this installation, which is just dull. The text moves forward at such a slow pace that you become impatient as Farocki dances around the point he's trying to make, which is apparently about "the industrialization of thought." An interesting topic for an episode of Nova, perhaps, but a dud as video art.
#8: Fernando Bryce, "Revoluciòn"
Peruvian artist Fernando Bryce's contribution to the International is a room filled with redrawn newspaper clippings, most of them focusing around the concept of revolution. There are images of the Cuban revolution, ads featuring "revolutionary" new products, movie posters about revolution... It certainly drives home how overloaded the word is. By redrawing the images, Bryce gives everything a equal weight and a thematic unity that newspaper clippings alone can't achieve.
#7: Neo Rauch
Neo Rauch paints mildly surrealistic paintings in the Socialist Realist style. They're just as pretty and exciting as most Socialist Realist paintings.
#6: Saul Fletcher
Saul Fletcher apparently loves mats. Each of his tiny photos has a humontous, four or five inch mat running around the outside. I suppose this is an attempt to give his images some grandeur, and it works to some extent — the framed piece has a much larger presence than the individual photos could claim on their own. But the photos themselves are pretty slight — half of them are unrelated images and the other half seem to depict some weird sex ritual. Whatever.
#5: Kathy Butterly
Kathy Butterly turns simple clay vessels into strange, twisted little creaturs. They're very quirky and neat to look at, but leave no lasting impression.
#4: Robert Breer, "What Goes Up"
This is the last pure film in the Gallery Guide, and it's just as terrible as the rest. Crude animation, rapid cuts between photographs, obscure symbolism existing side-by-side with banal triviality, "What Goes Up" has it all. Artist/Filmmakers beware — you can't all be Stan Brakhage, and much of what you make is only art because it's being displayed in a museum. Think about it.
#2: Mamma Andersson
More paintings. Mostly domestic scenes, with the occasional surrealist touch or some bizarre symbolism or a coat of spraypaint obscuring some of the elements of the frame. Yawn. Painting may not be dead, but it's certainly on life support.
#1: Kutlug Ataman, "Kuba"
Turkish artist Kutlug Ataman visited a shanty town in Istanbul and interiewed the residents, and put the forty of them on display as "Kuba," the only successful video piece in this year's International. The interviews are being displayed on vintage TV sets (complete with grainy static and bad vertical hold), paired with well-used but still comfortable chairs. The rows of TV sets at first look imposing, but once you get seated they're actually quite cozy and inviting.
It almost seems like Ataman interviewed every resident of Kuba — there are former radicals, budding criminals, grieving fathers, nervous housewives. Each has some fascinating insight into their environment, which interlocks with other revelations to produce a well-rounded portrait of an environment foreign to most Americans. It's gripping stuff.
The only problem with "Kuba" is that to appreciate it all you'd need an entire afternoon. And that's not much of a problem at all. I've only watched about a fifth of it, and I'm already planning repeat visits to catch the rest.
Tomorrow: Entry #3 (R. Crumb).