Reversibility A Theatre of De-Creation Chapter III

Six Ways to Sunday #03 – CAC Brétigny

Reversibility. A Theatre of De-Creation

11 April – 19 May, 2012 slaven-tolj-img

Opening 10 April, 2012. Performance by Esther Ferrer at 7.00 pm

Peep-Hole and CAC Brétigny in the context of Six Ways to Sunday present

A play by Pierre Bal-Blanc, staged by the author with Andrea Büttner, Esther Ferrer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Sanja Ivekovic, Ben Kinmont, Jiri Kovanda, Marcello Maloberti, Teresa Margolles, Emilie Parendeau, Martha Rosler, Santiago Sierra, Slaven Tolj, Isidoro Valcarcel Medina.

Reversibility: A Theatre of De-Creation explores, in exhibition form, the “promotion and display” of artworks by proposing their “de-creation” or temporarily conversion into an alternative cognitive model, in order to allow the public to examine the work of a group of artists. The aim is also to show the reversibility of two movements of creation and de-creation that are at work in all circumstances: in the moment when the creative process comes to be qualified as an artwork, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the moment when an artwork is disqualified in the form of a commodity or cultural fetish.

The prologue to Reversibility took place in 2008 at the stall of the Fair Gallery (gb agency, Paris; Hollybush Gardens, London; Jan Mot, Brussels; Raster Gallery, Warsaw) during the Frieze Art Fair in London. It was further developed in a public institution in 2008 at the CAC Brétigny (The Center for Contemporary Art in Brétigny, France) and concluded in 2012 at Peep-Hole, in Milan, within the context of an independent non-profit structure financed by donations from artists.

The actantial structure of Reversibility: A Theatre of De-Creation in three parts takes the form of classical drama: exposition, climax and denouement. For each chapter and among each group of works, a particular piece is specifically related to each setting (in turn, commercial, institutional and private) in a principle of functional and symbolic equivalence: Dos Espacios Modificados (1967/2008) by David Lamelas during the Frieze Art Fair in London; Floating Wall by Robert Breer at the Centre d’art contemporain in Brétigny, France; No Necesita Titulo (1990/2012) by Isidoro Valcarcel Medina for Peep-Hole, a non-profit art space in Milan.


“No Necesita Titulo (1990/2012) by the Spanish artist Isidoro Valcarcel Medina is an installation of restaurant tables, set and placed in the exhibition space. Tablecloths, plates and glasses are arranged to receive six to eight meals. The absence of cutlery and napkins at each place indicates, by default, that the visitor is invited to visually consume the plates and not sit and eat. The meals are however freshly cooked and edible, since a label placed next to each plate specifies the origin of each meal, which is otherwise distributed daily by as many charity organizations situated around the city as there are places around the tables. These are the same meals that are offered to people who benefit from the donations of public and private social organizations. In taking as its coordinates the facilities that compensate for the lack of resources of certain of the city’s inhabitants, No Necesita Titulo draws up a living map of the city where the work is exhibited. This cross section of the city and its chaos restores the immanence of a work that attempts to escape, through a direct mapping of reality, from a predetermined representation. If the installation has no need of a title, this is because it sets itself apart from a metaphorical work that would otherwise mirror its double in reality. Yet, at the same time, it is not simply “untitled” in order to resist the artistic convention that subjects the work to a regime of identification through resemblance. No Necesita Titulo is entirely consistent in this sense: it represents a tangible reality, in that the meals come from nearby and that they exude a familiar smell — it is in this way that it bears its title as a work of art. The reality that Isidoro Valcarcel Medina generates in his works arises, in real time, from social organizations that govern the city. The community is present in the action that it undertakes in order to compensate for the lack of resources of certain of its members. With No Necesita Titulo, the reality of public space invades the space of the exhibition in that each day that reality fills the plates with the lack it produces.


Coexistent with the work of Isidoro Valcarcel Medina, which introduces the exhibition in the non-profit context of the social space at Peep-Hole, Felix Gonzalez-TorresUntitled (A Corner of Baci) (1990) emerges directly from space’s past. Before this non-profit space was established, the commercial gallery, Massimo De Carlo, organized, on the same site, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ first solo exhibition in Europe. The chocolates that make up the work, loaned for this occasion by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, originate as stipulated from a particular factory in Italy. The candy, which gives the sculpture its form as a corner piece, is freely offered to the viewer. The work created during the Reagan era in the 1990s resurrects the donation and communion with the viewer, an era that otherwise lacked such signs of altruism. If the work borrows from a Christian ritual, it is also strongly inspired by the prevailing AIDS epidemic at the time. As can be observed in all his works, Gonzalez-Torres sets up an ambivalent game in underscoring the sensual aspect of the experience (in this case the Italian brand name translates as “Mouth”), both for the artist and the viewers, the latter literally being invited to consume the artist’s work.


Comparable to both No Necesita Titulo and Untitled (A corner of Baci), Ben Kinmont regularly adds to his work throughout the duration of the exhibition. Congratulations (1995) arose from an intervention in a space in Houston in the US that could not provide for the artist to travel to the exhibition. For Reversibility, Kinmont repeats the same procedure in using his production budget to regularly send a bouquet of flowers, commissioned and arranged by a florist in Milan, to the exhibition at Peep-Hole — accompanying the flowers is a card signed “congratulations.” The custom of sending a gift in order to compliment someone for an act or an event is, in this case, reduced to the gesture alone. Is this the reversal of the artistic act in the form of diversion? Is it intended to foreground once again the negligible part that the artist’s physical presence represents in the production of the exhibition, which privileges objects as opposed to people? Is the bouquet addressed to the space in order to congratulate the curator for the spectacle of the exhibition or the visitors for their visit?


A Louer # (For Rent) is a mechanism proposed by Emilie Parendeau whose aim is to activate programmatic works by other artists. She chooses each work or works, conceived in linguistic form by their original authors, according to the particular context in which she is invited and goes to the trouble of arranging for their loan from the artists or their representatives. She considers them as scores available for use. In producing one or more of these works in material form, Parendeau activates her own work. The process she proposes, in which questions of authority, legacy and gender are raised, culminates at the end of the exhibition in the production of a documentation of her experience. A Louer #8 created for Reversibility consists in activating a work by Jiri Kovanda, Untitled (2008) and IN AND OUT. OUT AND IN. AND IN AND OUT. AND OUT AND IN by Lawrence Weiner (1971). The artist has chosen to use sugar cubes, as required in the directions to Kovanda’s Untitled, to produce both works.

In the photograph of an action undertaken in Mexico City in 1996, Collection of Rotten Vegetables to Be Suspended at the Entrance of the Subway, Mexico City, May 1996, which takes the form of a police report, Santiago Sierra can be seen salvaging unsold food at one of the largest markets in Mexico. He subsequently puts it back into circulation, this time free of charge, in front of the entrances to the public transport system. Sierra created a physical installation in which packed vegetables were suspended in order to display their availability, at the same time that they reconceived the exhibition by transforming it into a means of distributing foodstuffs.


The funereal tendency of photography as a medium is accentuated in an image whose caption reads Vracam se za 5 minuta (Come Back in 5 Minute, 2010). The image documents Slaven Tolj‘s participation in a performance festival in which he limited his contribution to a commonplace message, “I’ll be back in 5 minutes,” scribbled on a piece of paper and left in the space allocated to his performance. In the physical absence of the author, withdrawal replaced action, leaving narcotics, cigarettes and a glass of alcohol, to reveal the tormented passion of passivity. In BIRRA, MORE E FANTASIA/ “OH” u OHA (Beer, Love and Phantasy/“He” and Her), part of a series entitled Sweet Life (1975-76), Sanja Ivekovic compares the photographs from her private life in Zagreb, in former Yugoslavia, with photographs that appeared in magazines during the same period. The normative character of photography is, here, associated with the media conditioning of intimate behavior, in which it becomes impossible to distinguish whether the latter is the result of an erotic relationship or a marketing slogan purportedly claiming the anesthetizing properties of alcohol. In the case of Jiri Kovanda‘s Bez Nazvu (Ohne Titel/Untitled, 2009) it is no longer the photograph that establishes the body’s absence; rather it is the corner of the exhibition space itself that encapsulates the fumes of the artist’s drunkenness — an alcohol breath test, on the one hand, and a corner of a room, on the other. The repressive use of the latter in education can be find in a drawing by Andrea Büttner, D. Roth and M. Kippenberger Are Meeting at the Bridge of Sighs (2006). The drawing refers to Martin Kippenberger’s Martin, ab in die Ecke und scham Dich (Martin, into the Corner, You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself) (1989) and to Kippenberger’s dependency on drugs which he shared with the artist Dieter Roth.


The anti-repressive import of Isidoro Valcarcel Medina’s No Necesita Titulo places the third chapter of Reversibility: A Theatre of De-Creation in a reality that raises the curtain, for the epilogue, on the anti-theatrical intentions at the origin of the project. The terms “theatre” and “performance” are employed counter-intuitively with a view to confronting the “artifice” with its own weapons and on its own territory. Reversibility is very much an exhibition governed by the idea of situating a curatorial practice in “a field of immanence,” one that is populated by works that involve materials as opposed to substance, function as opposed to form. “This is not a phantasy, it is a program” of artists that establish relations through contagion rather than filiation. Thus, Teresa MargollesPlato de fruta (2004), is not the result of traditional craft-based practice, but produces a metabolism combining a technique of manual labor with the toxic conditions (in Mexico where the plate was made) of the life that surrounds it. Awaiting fresh fruit, the plate, like the exhibition itself, does not serve to paint a still life, but rather offers to restore the living chaos of nature.


A Theatre of De-Creation is more a theatre of operations, in the military sense, than a stage for the expression of imagination. Its epilogue is a composition of speeds and affects on a plane of consistency (the exhibition), a program that applies just as well to the inanimate and the animate, the artificial and the natural; a diagram that allocates the determined roles of the artist, curator and viewer in order to challenge their status; an exhibition that, in short, encourages heterogeneous combinations in which the terms are only distinguishable by way of speed and delay, actions and passions; like the postcard image of glowing embers of the sun plunging into water, carried along by the spiraling lines on a packet of Cleopatra cigarettes, in Marcello Maloberti‘s Cleopatra (2012); or the animals that drink like humans in a world without people in Andrea Büttner‘s drawing, Trinkende Tiere (Drinking Animals) by Friedbert Büttner (2007).


The epilogue of Reversibility: A Theatre of De-Creation opens with a performance by Esther Ferrer, Intimate and Personal (1970s). Offered here and now, Intimate and Personal also returns us to the era in which it was conceived: the political context of Franco’s Spain. The score for this work, dictated by the totalitarian regime’s standards of beauty at the time, requires taking the measurements, unrelated to the physiognomic functions of the organs, of a living body (whether male or female) standing naked before an assistant. The measurements taken from this bodily study are marked on a wall in the exhibition space, on which the outline of an anatomic entity has been drawn, before being converted into mathematical calculations that are subsequently announced to the public.


The exhibition punctuated by the works described above ends with Martha Rosler‘s video, Semiology in the Kitchen, from 1975, presented here in the gallery’s storage space surrounded by the tools used for mounting exhibitions. In this film made in her own kitchen, Rosler is seen standing in front of her kitchen table, reciting out loud an alphabetical list based on the common names of kitchen utensils. The artist demonstrates the action of each utensil, often handling it several times in order to reveal its erotic and omnivorous energy. Nothing separates these two performative experiences (in opposition to the criteria of artistic disciplines) even if one is presented in real time before an audience, while the other is played back in delayed time from a domestic environment. Only movement and rest, slowness and speed distinguish them in their program, which breaks with filiation and genre in favor of an alliance between intimacy and collectivity.”

(Pierre Bal-Blanc)

On the occasion of the exhibition a catalogue containing the entire Reversibility – A Theatre of De-Creation project will be published by Mousse Publishing.

Reversibility – A Theatre of De-Creation is part of Six Ways to Sunday, an annual programme in which Peep-Hole dedicates an event to a partnership with a foreign art institution, becoming its temporary satellite project room. After Museion Bolzano in 2010 and CAC Vilnius in 2011, the 2012 event is devoted to CAC Brétigny.

CAC Brétigny – the art centre of Brétigny is a place for contemporary art. The definition and the development of its missions have influenced the functions of its space that shall be devoted to production, exhibition and documentation and kept on being in a movement of permanent evolution. All along the programming of shows, collaborations with artists kept on developing new projects as means of creation and education, facilitating social relationships between the inside of the art space and the neighborhood. A significant number of art works realized for the art centre and organized around the idea of “Phalanstère” are permanently or alternatively visible.

The exhibition is part of Shrinking World, a project set up with the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo.

We are grateful to Baci Perugina.

Thanks to: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Generali Foundation Collection, Vienna, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York, The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, New York, FRAC Lorraine Collection, Metz, Air de Paris, Paris, GB Agency, Paris, Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan, Hollybush Gardens, London, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, ProjecteSD, Barcelona, Prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan/Lucca.

Special thanks to the charities involved in Isidoro Valcarcel Medina’s piece: Centro Sant’Antonio, Convento dei Padri Cappuccini, Opera Messa della Carità, Opera Pane Sant’Antonio, Opera San Francesco per i Poveri, Opera Pia Pane Quotidiano.



Isidoro Valcarcel Medina
No Necesita Titulo
1990 Madrid – 2012 Milan
Courtesy the artist

Sanja Ivekovic
from the series “Sweet Life”
paper and photo montage
Courtesy Generali Foundation Collection, Vienna

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Untitled (A Corner of Baci)
Baci chocolates individually wrapped in silver foil (endless supply)
Courtesy The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Esther Ferrer
Intime et personnel
Courtesy the artist and FRAC Lorraine

Andrea Büttner
D. Roth and M. Kippenberger Are Meeting at the Bridge of Sighs
woodcut on paper
Courtesy Hollybush Gardens, London

Emilie Parendeau
Courtesy gb agency, Paris and Ghislain Mollet-Viéville Collection / Mamco, Geneva

Andrea Büttner
Trinkende Tiere, (Drinking Animals) by Friedbert Büttner
4 x A4, pencil and ball pen on paper
Courtesy Hollybush Gardens, London

Slaven Tolj
Vracam se za 5 minuta (Come Back in 5 Minutes)
Courtesy the artist

Teresa Margolles
Plato de Fruta
Ceramic object
Courtesy the artist and Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich

Jiri Kovanda
Bez názvu (Ohne Titel / Untitled)
Bottle of cognac, emptied into a remote corner of the gallery
Courtesy the artist and gb agency, Paris

Ben Kinmont
Courtesy the artist

Martha Rosler
Semiotics of the Kitchen
video b&w, sound, 6:09 min.
Courtesy FRAC Lorraine and Electronic Arts Intermix, New York

Marcello Maloberti
found postcards, packets of cigarettes
Courtesy the artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan

Santiago Sierra
Collection of Rotten Vegetables to Be Suspended at the Entrance to the Subway. Central de Abastos Market and Glorieta de Insurgentes. Mexico City, Mexico, May 1996
Courtesy Prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan/Lucca

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