The Imaginary Museum

When Krijn de Koning had an exhibition at the Musée des Moulages in Lyon, I wrote an essay for an accompanying publication that never saw the light of day. Now Bart van der Heide of the Kunstverein München has used this text, "The Imaginary Museum of Plaster Casts," as a point of reference for his show The Imaginary Museum, which opens on 14 July. Before the war, Munich's collection of plaster casts after antique statues used to be on display in the spaces along the Hofgarten that now house the Kunstverein; Bart is reconstructing one of these spaces and combines the casts with photo and video works by contemporary arists.

My essay relates the phenomenon of the plaster cast collection to Malraux's notion of the musée imaginaire constituted by photography (Malraux himself already made this comparison, but I develop the point). I reworked the text substantially for the Kunstverein's newsletter, including a discussion of artistic practices that were absent from the original version, such as Arnoud Holleman and Gert Jan Kocken's, as well as Sean Snyder's Index project; the latter is also featured in the exhibition. In some ways, the essay is a pendant of the "Viewing Copies" article, and both are part of the research project on objecthood and thingness on which I will hopefully be able to focus a bit more in the coming year(s), once my upcoming book History in Motion is out of the way.

Daan van Golden

The catalogue Daan van Golden: Apperception is out now - published by Wiels and Roma Publications. 

The adjacent image shows a spread from my essay.

On 27 June there will be a book launch at Wiels, with curator Devrim Bayar and Willem Oorebeek among the participants.


A Movie Without the Picture at The Movies

On 12 June, Louise Lawler’s A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture was non-screened at The Movies in Amsterdam. In the case of the original 1979 version at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica and in some later iterations of the piece, the movie shown was The Misfits (1961); in 1983 in New York, it was The Hustler (also 1961), preceded by the Chuck Jones cartoon What’s Opera, Doc? In 2012, the film selection has progressed to the late 1970s: as most audience members will have realized instantly upon hearing the first notes of the soundtrack in the darkened theater, this time the film was Saturday Night Fever (1977). 

The piece’s anachronistic update was one subject of the conversation that I moderated afterwards (in the cinema’s café) with Eric de Bruyn and Andrea Fraser—with Louise herself in the position of “fact checker.” Moving from the dying days of Old Hollywood to a rather remarkable hybrid of gritty 1970s urban drama and neo-“cinema of attractions” blockbuster spectacle that is almost contemporaneous with A Movie will be Shown Without the Picture itself, Lawler gave us much food for thought. 

As Andrea rightly stressed, Saturday Night Fever teems with metaphors of psychological and social projection, and it brings a new form of precarious masculine performance into play. Meanwhile, what was noticeable across a range of audience reactions—from audible snoring, relaxed beer-drinking and talking to smartphone use—was the way in which the non-picture foregrounds audience performance. Andrea once remarked that you don’t simply look at a work by Lawler: you are addressed and interpellated by it. A Movie spawns forms of audience performance without making grand claims about activating or emancipating the spectator. 

While the piece can obviously related back to various avant-garde attacks on the cinema and the filmic image, as a performative intervention in the cinematic apparatus it can also function as an anticipatory critique of much later relational and “social” art practice. Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn allegedly once bowed out of a project with the malapropism “Include me out!”, and the paradoxical effect of A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture is that it does indeed include the spectator out. Or does it exclude her in? If, referencing Louise’s phrase Why Picture’s Now?, we ask “Why A Movie Without the Picture now?”, this gently insidious quality would certainly have to be part of the answer. 

Eric raised the issue of the term picture itself, which is obviously both very specific and heavily connoted in the context of late-1970s art practice. Why the “picture” (as opposed to, say "image") in A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture? We did not get around to fully addressing this, and as usual a lot of loose ends remained. I will continue to work on this piece and the aim is to end this “Performance in Residence” project with a small publication. Many thanks to Louise, Andrea, Eric, Frederique Bergholtz, Tanja Baudoin, Ann Goldstein and the Stedelijk staff members and everybody else who made this possible—including the audience members.

Let's Fake History

Texte zur Kunst no. 86 (June 2012) contains a short text of mine titled "Let's Fake History." It's a response to the current Berlin Biennale, but it does not claim to be a review. In many ways, this show is beyond reviewing. Instead, I comment on one egregious aspect of this Biennale: its historicist (re)presentation of "Big History," particularly of Polish-Jewish-German history, as well as of contemporary Occupy activism. 


Image: A relaxed moment after the Battle of Berlin, which (in its reenacted form) raged for a full twenty minutes.