antARTica, November 29, 2009
THE PROBLEM WITH TRIPLE CANDIE
By Paris Ionescu
Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett both acknowledge that if Triple Candie ever does receive canonical recognition (a concept that might itself be increasingly anachronistic in this age of rhizomatic art knowledge where the "cannon" is endless, full of anomalies, contrivances, multiple histories and presents) it won't be for a long time; likely until after the fact. Performative curating in which the artist and artwork are on trial is still a fringe activity, throttled by powerful emotional an intellectual forces, and despite the founders' claims of accessibility and of being a democrative alternative space, Triple Candie's particular brand of it might be self-marginalizing. What I mean is that certain surface-level qualities of Triple Candie as an entity might be a turn-off to people who otherwise might appreciate the prescience and guts in Bancroft and Nesbett's gesture.
It might be superficial, but I think that if they were 28-year-olds from des banlieues of Paris, Zurich, or Ljubljana, and were being actually more violent, more transgressive, less tempered, in their curating of exhibitions without work and without the artists' involvement or permission, they would generate more sympathy. There's an upstate folksiness to the Triple Candie project, from the signage ("all welcome") to the juxtaposition of contemporary and 'localist' shows (like the Calais Guild Prayer Blankets), the faux-anthropological strategies, the fact that it's run by a married couple, that comes off as smarmy to many. I think this gets confused with an actual aversion to the curatorial practice in question, which any advanced art person should be able to see the importance of. I am reminded of the oft-paraphrased quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw: "If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh: otherwise they'll kill you." If there's a time honored tactic Triple Candie could benefit from, it's the veil of rock 'n' roll irony.
The explicit idea of curatr as author can arguably be traced back at least as far as Oscar Wilde's 1890 essay, "The Critic as Artist," though Duchamp, and towards the dark turn it took with Adolf Ziegler's propoagandistic Enartete Kunst in 1937. But friction between artists and curators over their respective roles seems to have become matter-of-fact in the 1960s. Seth Siegelaub talked abou tthe curatorial turn towards 'critical curating' and the 'demystification' of production condutions that made curators visible as mediators and producers. Many artists, Daniel Buren notably in his essay "Exhibition of an Exhibition," reacted negatively. The same year of Buren's essay, 1972, Joseph Beuys expressed dismay about curators using the artwork like painters using paint. In the 80s and early 90s this trend reemerged as what Liam Gillick and others have called 'neo-criticality'. From Group Material to Maurizio Cattelan and Jens Hoffmann's Carribean Biennale, neo-critical curating has targeted elements of the art economy, an attitude that has become patently conventional. And this form of curating has always had its opponents. But the idea of exhibitions that might be critical of the work or at the expense of an/the artist(s) -- as Dia curator Lynne Cooke felt about Triple Candie's Cady Noland show -- is still taboo, although it is alluded to be some of the brightest contemporary thinkers.. Boris Groys, in an essay for e-flux, writes:
"In its origin, it seems, the work of art is sick, helpless; in order to see it, viewers must be brought to it as visitors are brought to a bed-ridden patient by hospital staff. It is no coincidence that the word 'curator' is etymologically related to 'cure': to curate is to cure. Curating cures the powerlessness of the image, its inability to show itself by itself. Exhibition practice is thus the cure that heals the originally ailing image, that gives it presence, visibility; it brings it to the public view and turns it into the object of the public's judgment."