Art Basel 41

April Lamm

June 25, 2010
Art Basel, Basel
June 15–19, 2010

The Finest Worksong 16 June 2010

Last weekend during the Berlin Biennale I found myself wedged up against a rock star. (Rock star? That’s a far cry from what Michael Stipe means. His lyrics gave solace to a whole generation of purblind pubescents in the late 80s.) He said hello, shyly, and I asked him, bluntly, about an album cover clutched under his arm. We began to talk (why couldn’t I drum up a lyric like “Buy the sky and tell the sky”?) and the last words I could murmur, before being interrupted by the penetrating cell phone were, “Trust your own eyes.”

“Trust my own eyes” was the advice I would follow for myself while harrying through the halls of Art Basel. I decided to begin at random by seeking out a gallery where I know/love their artists but they don’t know me: Air de Paris (read: half-objective territory, impossible to be corrupted by the charm of words or personal relationships). First thing I saw was Bibliothèque du Paradise (2009) by Philippe Parreno, a work I had seen, or at least a similar one, in Paris, at the FIAC last October. It’s an armful of paperbacks covered in Pantone pastel colors. My memory was of a band of colored order, but looking closer at this one, I realized that the spectrum was disorderly, like having taken home a collection of swaths and while the concentration of hues remained in the same family, the hierarchy of intensity was denied. In any case, the label tells me that the books are from “the collection of the artist” —that is, they drape the mystery of what the artist read or didn’t read, and by hiding them, perhaps, he’d made them all the more delectable. Like witnessing secrets, shades of communication, through color.

The other works that I felt drawn to seemed to be placed within a non lieux of coiled energy. When Pierre Joseph places a number of scraps on a shelf and lists them according to their rate of decay (also at Air de Paris); when Alicja Kwade places two branches into a corner of Johann König so that they mirror one another and you read the label on the wall to find the answer to her visually perplexing riddle, “wood and rubber”, (to spell it out: one being a copy, the other the original); when you find that a wobbly chair can be so much better when you put a tin of Nivea under the “short” leg in a photograph of Collier Schorr at 303; when the quasi-autonomous system (barring the electricity of Lisson’s booth, of course) of Haroon Mirza’s lamp is not a lamp but a CD player which turns an album, which turns a light bulb, which creates a noise at 6 o’clock (geographically) when it meets a certain indescribable point with the radio’s antennae, which makes it go brrr; when Gedi Sibony takes a hold of a booth (Greene Naftali) and makes it look like he’s created a way to make the MoMA what it used to be —a place for whispers— that is, when reusing, recycling, “re-placing,” is a matter of placement and not superseding.

So I left the fair today with this energy of contradictions. I like Ingres and I like Gedi Sibony, and Gedi Sibony is everything that Ingres is not. A work by Sibony is the opposite of frippery. It’s a feeling I trust. I trust my eyes and the contradictions of the periphery.

Statements 15 June 2010

The next day we went back to the hall to see everything we didn’t see the day before, because it was a) too crowded and b) we suffered from the curse of loving conversation more than what we could see. So we came back, anxious to be studious in sunglass disguise and looked really intently at any of the objects for sale and sought out text or assistants for further conversation.

Mediation. Art needs a lot of it and I didn’t know if that was (still) a good thing. In the end, the mediation was so good it became a part of the object for sale, and a good dealer can make anything good.

Later at the Kunsthalle, my friend S spoke about dignity, integrity, and a problem she hoped I could solve. There were three missing links, none of which were called by name, and it was only later, just before shut-eye that I realized I knew exactly what she was talking about. I recalled sights seen and tried to prioritize a series of Statements, or fragments thereof. A precious carpet of two-inch twigs. “An oeuvre of stuff so far.” A bar in Spain where we might take notice that “Franco had only one testicle.” The first thing you see in my home is a hedgehog. Men in shirts made to coordinate with the paintings. A carpet wrapped in plastic. “Immersing himself in the city” wearing her Baroque dress. Morphological Mimicry and Mympathetic Magic. Paintings in black-and-white and, in the next room, paintings in color. Soot rhymes with foot and russ with fuss and not only inside this tipsy cube!

“All chickens are washed in the same water,” he said, apparently several times. Or at least that was my memory of it. In hindsight, the memory card works better. I had merged two files: “I know my chickens” and “We’re all washed in the same water.” I received an SMS asking: “Are you back in the foreground? I leave for Moscow tomorrow.” Riding backwards towards Berlin in the Ruhewagon —the quiet wagon, the clickety-click of laptops on seatback trays— triggers memories of statements that didn’t happen.

April Lamm is a writer, curator, and consultant who has been based in Berlin since 1998.

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