"Slip Snip Trip" at Karma International, Zürich

Quinn Latimer

October 21, 2010
Karma International, Zürich
October 9–November 13, 2010

I had dropped out of law school when I met Eve. She was very beautiful. Very pale, cool in her black dress, with never anything more than a single strand of pearls. And distant.

Always poised and distant. By the time the girls were born, it was all so perfect, so ordered. Looking back, of course, it was rigid. The truth is she’d created a world around us that we existed in, where everything had its place, where there was always a kind of harmony. Great dignity. I will say… it was like an ice palace.

Interiors (1978), Woody Allen

The intersection of art and design, or, to be more accurate, the interest of contemporary artists in design, often leads to interiors that curiously project very little “interiority” about them. Instead, one more often gets a covetous lesson in consumerism: white boxes tricked-out as collector’s homes, wealthy artist’s pads, or similar chamber dramas featuring mid-century furniture, formalist sculpture, and Minimalist plinths (though all might be postmodern approximations thereof). Thus the surprise and delight I found in Karma International’s “Slip Snip Trip,” whose edited constellation of works by gallery artists and Karma friends delineated not just an architectural interior but an incisively metaphysical one too.

The private, contemplative mood was cast by a hushed soundtrack of a female voice beautifully and repetitively singing the same few notes over and over. The monotonous yet oddly spectral and sonorous effect was achieved by utilizing the canonical form, in which two identical, contrapuntal tracks are sung, one slightly behind the other. The voice—and the 20-minute-long sound piece—was Hannah Weinberger’s, who reshaped a strict algorithmic structure into a hypnotic loop. The witty femininity and stringent formalism of her untitled 2010 work found companionshipin a series of three floral pieces situated around the gallery by Carissa Rodriguez. The New York-based artist commissioned Martha E. Bachmann, a local Zürich Ikebana expert, to create three arrangements based on the phrase “Furyu,” which is composed of two characters meaning “wind” and “flowing.” The resulting arrangements, crafted from materials including anthurium, cyperus, cytisus, nerines, and various “vessels,” were both soothingly spare and weirdly campy in their Japanese exactitude and vivid coloration. This feeling was furthered by the profane, Rosemarie Trockel-esque titles that Rodriguez adorned them with: My Idea of Good Taste, Maybe Baby, and The Lonely Moment (all 2010).

Far more profane, though, was the stack of pale wooden Swiss office chairs, covered in a blanket of acetate printed with a graphic, arrowhead-like pattern, which sat the middle of the room. Like a riotous update of Elizabeth Bishop’s seminal poem “The Waiting Room,” Amy Yao’s Waiting Room no. 3 (2010) was a studiously ambiguous statement, but could also be read as a wry nod to the art world’s love affair with sleek Modernist furniture. On a nearby wall, this work’s serious older sister (and photographic predecessor) hung resolutely: Louise Lawler’s photograph Not Cindy (2002/2008), which featured the regular black chairs of an art fair stand, with an Ed Ruscha painting in the background. Lawler’s potent institutional critique famously focuses on art interiors; here, her cagey, distilled elegance infused the more casual works nearby—Tobias Madison and Kaspar Müller’s attenuated steel “outside sculpture” (inside, here) that doubles as a bar, and Ida Ekblad’s metal spiderweb wrapped in twigs, an object also gleaned “outside” before being brought in from the cold—with a bit of frisson they might have lacked otherwise.

If the exhibition’s free-floating thesis encompassed both the myriad referential systems that artists utilize to conjure their works out of thin air (here: Ikebana, algorithms, art history, chance) and the spatial (both interior and exterior) concerns that help shape them, “Slip Snip Trip” still seemed subversively coherent. Its odd, charming title came from a poem by Ekblad that stands as the press release for the show, since the gallerists decided (rightly, I think) that none was necessary. The poem goes:

The color of a color

dissolved into shade

the darkest part of a shadow

slipped along the marmalade

slip snip trip

curly locks, curly locks

kicking in my braid

wheel of color

frigid like a diller and a dollar

cold like a

bleak like a


marble in the eye, marble in the brain

color more than I can contain

marble in the eye, marble in the brain

color more than I can contain

Neither as cold nor as bleak as marble, Karma’s sensitive show—at once cogent and elusive—deftly conflated the “marble in the eye” of interior design, and the “marble in the brain” of personal interiority into one subtly mesmerizing whole.

Design, Modernism

Quinn Latimer is a writer and editor and occasional curator. She is the author of Like a Woman: Essays, Readings, Poems (Sternberg Press, 2017), and the Head of the MA at Institut Kunst Gender Natur, in Basel. She is curator of “SIREN (some poetics),” opening at the Amant Foundation, in New York, in September 2022.

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October 21, 2010

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