Julekalender 11.12.14

11 december – Matthew Rana

What were 2014’s most interesting exhibitions, events and publications? In Kunstkritikk’s advent calendar our writers and invited guests share their highlights of the year in art. Number 11 is the artist, critic and poet Matthew Rana who lives in Gothenburg and Berlin. Rana’s writing has appeared in Art Agenda, frieze and Paletten, among other places, and he had his debut poetry collection The Theory of the Square published earlier in the year by Torpedo Press.

Events

Caroline Bergvall at Poetry Made By All! at the Luma foundation in Zurich.

Caroline Bergvall at Poetry Made By All! at the Luma foundation in Zurich.

Audiatur, Franco "Bifo" Berardi, Audiatur poesifestival 2014, Bergen.

Audiatur, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Audiatur poesifestival 2014, Bergen.

In 2014, my artistic and literary world turned almost exclusively around poetry. So my contribution to the advent calendar is more or less made up of things that fall along that axis. One of these – although by no means the best – was Poetry Made By All! held at the Luma Foundation in Zurich as part of the 89+ project headed by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Although it featured a number of impressive readings by the likes of Etel Adnan, Eugen Gomringer, and Caroline Bergvall, the two-day event that opened the show also highlighted the reductive manner with which the art world has taken up poetry in recent years. In contrast to this was the Audiatur – Festival for ny poesi in Bergen, which was premised on inviting specific works, rather than individual authors, to gather for an expanded conversation. The discussions that emerged – for example, between Franco “Bifo” Berardi, and poets Lisa Robertson and Jean-Marie Gleize on the status of the image in poetry and the critique of the Saussurean sign – have stayed with me for months. As have the multi-layered, quasi-shamanistic performances by Cecilia Vicuña, and the Lecture on Sculpture by artist Jason Dodge.

Exhibitions

Philip Guston, The Cellar, 1972.

Philip Guston, The Cellar, 1972.

In terms of exhibitions, I write with a tinge of regret, inflected by opportunities squandered, and of things I wish I’d seen, such as Simon Dybbroe Møller’s Apertures and Orifices at Berlin’s now-defunct Galerie Kamm, and Le Corbu et La Renard: The Revolt of Language with Marcel Broodthaers at Kunstmuseum Basel. Of the exhibitions and events that I did visit, one standout show was Philip Guston’s Late Works, which I saw after it had traveled from the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt to the Falckenberg Collection in Hamburg. The paintings were formidable, but it was the show’s extensive collection of “poem pages”, which the artist made in collaboration with poets Clark Coolidge and Musa McKim, that most sparked my interest. Unlike Guston’s paintings, the “poem pages” are never so irreverent that they become ironic, parodic or grotesque. Instead, they’re dialogical and fragmented, a medium for thought, including this one from Coolidge: “The road to excess leads to one’s own forms.”
Karl Larsson, The Dangerous Beauty of an Empty Room, från utställningen North Western Prose på Hamburg Kunstverein.

Karl Larsson, The Dangerous Beauty of an Empty Room at Hamburg Kunstverein.

Falke Pisano, Instrument For A Spatial Conception of Repetition, at PRAXES Center for Contemporary Art.

Falke Pisano, Instrument For A Spatial Conception of Repetition, at PRAXES Center for Contemporary Art.

Also in Hamburg, at the Kunstverein, was North Western Prose by Karl Larsson. The show brought together an array of works in various mediums, including a wall-drawing and even a painting. But I was particularly taken with Larsson’s sculptures, which gently withdraw from communication into the inscrutability of silence. His lovingly titled Washing Rimbaud’s Heart, for example, is a 4×3 meter copper frame in the shape of Rimbaud’s profile and filled with beach stones. On a different register, Falke Pisano’s spring cycle at PRAXES – specifically its first iteration (cumbersomely titled Rehearsal One, Take One : Parts that Do Not Go Together), which featured a series of cut up single-panel cartoons, Repetition and Dispersion: Four Jokes Become Five – seemed to open up her entire project.

Publications

Natalie Haeusler, A Virus Can be on a Mussel or in Some Liquid on This Salad           Leaf or That Tomato or in This Person's Mouth or Not, Mousse Publishing.

Natalie Haeusler, A Virus Can be on a Mussel…, Mousse Publishing.

Another wordy title came from the German artist and poet Natalie Haeusler. Her book, A Virus Can be on a Mussel or in Some Liquid on This Salad Leaf or That Tomato or in This Person’s Mouth or Not, has a curious, exploratory quality. Haeusler’s long poem Impressionisme, which in many ways attempts to write its way through the rift separating visual art and poetry, is as inventive as it is discursive. To borrow one of her lines: funny, she takes us off the cliff.
Lastly, I want to mention Lisa Robertson’s latest book Cinema of the Present.  Written during 2008–2012, between Oakland, Berkeley, Vancouver and the French village of La Malgache, the book is comprised by a single poem, with an index by Pascal Poyet and cover art by Hadley+Maxwell. Robertson’s poem is astoundingly smart, and the language highly sensual – a montage of images and textures. Basically, the sentences set me aflutter. And thusly, I plan to drift into next year.
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