Thursday, July 12, 2007

Don’t mention the war

... in Frankfurt
The Museum fur Moderne Kunst’s collaboration with the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan on a so far undetermined number of installations to build to a major exhibition. One of these installations, Ave Maria, is at the back of the Museum in its own exhibition space. Three upraised arms push out of the wall in the Nazi salute. When we saw it a school group of teenagers arrived around the same time. They were both embarrassed and shocked. Most of them immediately backed out of the space and then after some laughing and talking they edged back in for a second look.

... in Amsterdam
The German artist Jonathan Meese’s installation Jonathan Rockford (don’t call me back, please) at de Appel Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam, fills three large rooms with his signature overload of historical images and icons. In the first space Meese has historicised himself in relation to a number of the figures who have populated his work like Stalin, Wagner, Napoleon, Nietzsche, Nero, Ezra Pound, Dorian Gray and de Sade. The exhibition launches a counter attack against the weight of history as Meese attempts to neutralise the overwhelming presence of the past. He presents so many different ideas of history and from history that they become too complex or too arbitrary to unravel. This history does not make sense. Included are many photographs of Meese with his arm outstretched in the Nazi salute and photographs of Hitler with Meese’s trademark long black hair.

There is a, possibly apocryphal, story about Marcel Duchamp being approached by a visitor to his 1963 survey show at the Pasadena Art Museum. The woman had purchased a postcard of the Mona Lisa and asked Duchamp to sign it for her and "maybe even put a moustache on her?” Duchamp did just that. The next day artist Richard Hamilton, who would a few years later, with Duchamp’s permission make a replica of the Large Glass, saw the artist sitting at a desk at the front of the exhibition. Beside him was a large pile of Mona Lisa postcards which Duchamp was ‘moustaching’, signing and giving away. When Hamilton asked him what he was doing, Duchamp is said to have replied, “Devaluing the currency.”

Images: Top, Students confronting Maurizio Cattelan’s Ave Maria 2007. Bottom, details from Jonathan Rockford (don’t call me back, please) 2007 by Jonathan Meese