Friday, April 25, 2014

Makes sense

Recently we saw Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet for the fifth time. The first was at the City Gallery in Wellington and since then we've come across it in Japan, Europe and the US twice. It’s a beautiful work and a guaranteed crowd pleaser with a depth that allows it to expand into many curatorial combinations. It set us to thinking that perhaps a standard repertoire is begining to develop in contemporary art institutions when it comes to their international programmes. These are the works that are brought out again and again building name recognition and familiarity. They may be presented in slightly different ways but they could easily become a big chunk of what we get to see.  It's like what La Traviata does for opera and Swan Lake for ballet and Mid Summer night's dream for the theatre. There are already signs. The Monet exhibitions that circle the globe are certainly in the repertoire school. Warhol too.

In the most recent airing we saw of The Forty Part Motet it was standing in for sound as one of the five senses in a simple but hugely effective exhibition of the same name. Five installations for five senses although most of them seeped into one another. Cardiff of course carried sound. Touch was covered by a bank of computer-controlled household fans installed by Spencer Fincher in his work 2 Hours, 2 Minutes, 2 Seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007) that replicated the wind on a specific site for a specific time. Sight was a rainbow emerging from a water mist created by Olafur Eliasson, Smell came from both Ernesto Neto's hanging pods of spices and Roelof Louw’s pyramid of 6,000 ripe oranges. Strictly speaking the oranges were primarily there for for taste as visitors could select and eat some fruit if they wished. Louw's pyramid was first installed in 1967 over 20 years before Felix González-Torres made this sort of interaction with the audience his own in the early nineties. The five senses, simple idea, big impact.

Images: top, Roelof Louw’s 1967 work Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges), second row left Ernesto Neto's Cai Cai Marrom and right Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet. Next to bottom Olafur Eliasson's Beauty and bottom Spencer Fincher 2 Hours, 2 Minutes, 2 Seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007)