artists & participants
DON’T GIVE ME THAT ATTITUDE Attitude is seeing how far you can go. It is the characteristic and controlled manner in which you do the things you do, or it can even be a kind of weapon. It is the way you pace and perform your appearance, how your intentions are played out and resonate in other people. It means defining the threshold of your personality, and how this threshold is to be perceived by others. A good attitude defines space without being territorial: it is a dynamic catalyst in social processes - a magnet for the gaze, the site of a struggle and an exercise of freedom. Because it is disruptive, you could say that attitude destabilises middle class ideology. Whereas the middle class is oriented towards a normality that bypasses difference, hence requiring no articulation, attitude is neither defensive nor conformist.
An attitude is the open negotiation of what or who society expects you to be, in relation to your gender, body, ethnicity, class or subculture, education, sexuality etc. As such, it is associated with style, but is by no means synonymous with it. Unlike style, attitude isn’t only visual or aesthetic, it is also determined by social intelligence and behaviour (pride, self-respect). It goes beyond concepts that organise style, such as coherence and collective ritual – in other words, style can be appropriated, attitude cannot (if you appropriate an attitude you are a fake). In this sense, the function of attitude is its subjective interpretation of the revolt of style. As a friend of mine who was a punk in the 1970s lamented a few years ago: “Punk doesn’t mean anything anymore. Today it only means that you are an aggressive bum.” Good style is no guarantee for a good attitude.
The Attitude exhibition is not just about sassiness, or the appearance of the self, but also examines how forms can become an attitude. Art with an attitude confounds our expectations of the medium and location of the work’s presentation, thereby conveying a strong performative dimension: it assures a certain intimacy with the beholder, and emphasises - often in a gestural way - the singularity of each piece vis-à-vis other art works. And, to be sure, attitude is also an artistic strategy of how to relate to the role of the artist.
THE ARTISTS In the installations, environments and designs of Xabier Salaberria (1969, Donostia / San Sebastián), graphic and industrial forms become formats for social interaction. Some of his works are made for specific functions (such as the bar environment he created with Gorka Eizagirre for the Frankfurter Kunstverein, 2006, quoting the spatial politics of the traditional Basque tavern, the sidraria), while others take the simple and un-specific form of big slabs of concrete that invites (rather than prescribes) collective activity in public space (for example Plataforma de hormigon, Donostia / San Sebastián, 2002). The poster he designed for the exhibition suggests how attitude is something that is not natural or given, but rather produced with and between positive and negative, dynamic and static elements, in order to open up to new possibilities. At the same time, the pictorial elements in the poster seem to encourage intervention or resistance, clearing a space for something unforeseeable or undetermined to take place.
The Stockholm-based collaborative Ronny Hansson, Jonas Kjellgren and Stig Sjölund have worked together since 2004. With a humorous, anti-authoritarian ethos, their works debunk morality and comfort, such as their amusement park rides that confront the beholder with laconic dysfunction: the one-person Ferris wheel that takes the beholder for an excruciatingly slow 360° ride, or the conveyor belt that takes you into the air only to drop you on a mattress. Anyone for interactive art? Their work for the Attitude show, Alien vs. Ride.1 (2006) consists of a 2,5m tall kinetic sculpture of a bird with a top hat and orange boots. The bird tilts purposelessly back and forth and creates a danger zone as its pointed beak descends from above. The bird responds to a video in which the artists re-enact the first scene of the space horror movie Alien. In this, a “dippy” or “happy bird” – the little movable object that was a domestic design fad in the 1970s and very common in homes as well as on office desks – appears inexplicably. In Alien vs. Ride.1 a fascination with popular culture is laced with the desire to challenge the art space’s rationality as well as the physical integrity of the beholder.
Maria Loboda (Krakow, 1979) has cast a spell on the Attitude exhibition. Or more precisely, she has bought a so-called Giant Formula from an Indian shaman which she donated to c/o gallery. The formula includes a step-by-step prescription for evoking the benevolent giant genie Saleemi. Whoever follows the formula – in this case Atle Gerhardsen, on behalf of the gallery where Saleemi will reside – will conquer Saleemi and its supernatural powers. The powerful giant has a human shape and will be visible only to the person who follows the formula. The shaman promises that it is in Saleemi’s powers to (among other things) convert living organisms into stone, change coals into treasures, impart the secret of invisibility, provide longevity up to several hundred years, heal the sick, provide good fortune in lotteries, bring back runaways, learn languages, procure love and give great honour in military affairs. Saleemi has been acquired at the price of 150 US$ and is a permanent installation in the gallery space at c/o – Atle Gerhardsen.
The work of Itziar Okariz (Donostia / San Sebastián, 1965) is based on performances in which she challenges spatial and cultural limits. In her video Mear en espacios públicos o privados / Peeing in Public or Private Spaces (2002), the artist is seen urinating in public and private spaces in New York: on a bridge, in a subway station, in a parking lot, in a hotel room. The acts are performed standing up, with neither shame nor secrecy, and usually in the daytime. The image of the artist urinating subverts visual and spatial regimes that has historically segregated the female body and rendered it invisible. But more than subverting gender constraints, the artist’s urinating has the detached character of a ritual. This is territorial pissing as defiant production of space, a rock’n roll posture: as the rock singer masters the stage and “gives herself” to the audience in a gesture of sincerity, Okariz also takes the space around her by literally giving something of herself. As a private act turned inside out, peeing becomes a way of demonstrating control over a situation – if only fleetingly. For the opening of Attitude, Okariz will perform Peeing in Public or Private Spaces.
Mandla Reuter (Nqutu, 1974) shows two works in the exhibition. One is the series of photographs Untitled 1–5 (2006) (photographs by Jeffrey Kocher) that follows a sunset ad absurdum: between the first and the fifth picture, the beautiful red and orange hues of a Los Angeles sunset fade into an indifferent and uncommunicative black, as if it were the end of a Hollywood movie that continued for a second too long, entering into a moment where the beholder faces collapsed expectations of beauty and emotional intensity. Babylon (2005) consists of a soundtrack of a blockbuster movie played back in the gallery. Recorded during a screening in a movie theatre, the soundtrack is accompanied by the audience’s coughs and crackling of sweets bags, thereby making it a “polluted readymade”. By lifting the soundtrack a transport of spaces is brought about: the illusory space of the movie industry is added to the gallery, while the memory of a film is simultaneously conveyed and withheld.
Attitude is often viewed quantitatively: it is noticed if you have a lot of it. However, the work of Sue Tompkins (Leighton Buzzard, 1971) is pared down and created with poor materials, and precisely by these means, it insistently creates its own space and logic. Her installations and spoken word performances revolve around the use of language: her minimally brief poems are poised on pieces of paper – stationary, butcher’s wrapping paper, ruled paper – and interspersed with coloured cardboard geometry. In the visual silence around the poems, you begin to notice smallest of details – the way they are typewritten, the creases in the paper. Their frail and exposed position on the white expanses (or the way they are voiced in the silence of a room) seems to make them prone to repetition and to significant typos and neologisms, between which a colloquial tone meets structure and order. Or the poems appear as something vaguely familiar, as if they were hit songs from a parallel universe. Tompkins’ work spans a gap between the abstract playfulness of conceptual art, and the emotional and associative fringes of the information buzzing around our heads in the mass media galaxy.
Hilary Lloyd (Halifax, 1964) does not do portraits, but rather depicts the poses and subtle acts that establish relations between strangers. As such, her pictures of people have less to do with identity (who we “really” are) than with the way we perform ourselves through ordinary acts. The subjects in her work are people she has approached in clubs and bars, and their urban anonymity is maintained: in a certain sense we see nothing more of them than we would if we met them on the street. What we do see is what the writer Jan Verwoert, á propos of Lloyd’s work, has called an “existential glamour that defies easy categorisation”. For example, in Colin #2 (1999), Lloyd asked a young man to take off a red tank-top and put it on again, as slowly as possible – each time takes ten minutes, in self-imposed slow-motion. Her work in Attitude is Untitled (Cut-Outs) (2006), projecting a slide series of men’s crotches that are taken from fashion magazines. By focusing on these sexualised poses, Lloyd satirises masculinity by the simplest of means – repetition. In this sense, the work is a battle between attitudes: the hysteric, phallic postures of the faceless men in the photos versus Lloyd’s lingering, continuous focus.
Since the mid-1960s, David Lamelas (Buenos Aires, 1946) has developed an ephemeral and peregrinating artistic project that focuses on the parameters of time and space, which he has analysed in post-minimalist installations and performances, as well as in photos and film. His work seems to be focused in part on creating value-free conditions for recording time and for the observation of space. Characteristic of this attitude, he said in an interview from 1972, “It is impossible for me to make definitive statements. A piece is defined by the person who looks at it.” Departing from conceptual and minimal art, he is also fond of dramatisation as artistic strategy, as for example shown in the Rock Star – Character Appropriation photos (1974), in which he poses as Rock God on stage. He has also directed the professionally produced, feature length film Desert People (1974). In Pared Dobleada (1994), Lamelas revisits a recurring theme in his work, namely the modification of space. The “doubled wall” is a kind of wallpaper made to cover the wall on which it was originally shown as an artwork; or you could say it is a copy of the wall that made it an art work in the first place. It is a gesture that re-defines the frame of the white cube and the virtuality of the gallery space, while also pointing back to the seminal exhibition When Attitudes Become Form (1969), which helped shape the idea of processes in art within a minimalist and conceptual aesthetic.
Martin Hoener (Wedel, 1976) works with multifarious styles and media as a way to foster an open potentiality: his is a strategy of exploration by means of simultaneous choices, in an attempt to transform restrictions into openings. The photo Our Head is Round, Therefore We Can Change the Direction of Our Thinking (2006) is a superposition of a photo of the night sky of southern hemisphere on a photo of the night sky of the northern hemisphere. As a cosmic image that connects and interweaves opposites, Our Head is Round becomes a kind of allegory on the nature of art as it speculates on the possibility to connect duality and difference in one, and the ability to look in several directions at the same time… Allee im Schneegestöber (2005) is Hoener’s version of Edvard Munch’s Avenue in Snow (1906). Ostensibly made with the ambition to redo the painting better than Munch, Hoener has turned the great Norwegian modernist’s clear and frosty vista into a depopulated and almost psychedelic, purple and brown surface. What at first comes across as pure attitude is, on second thought, a sincere homage rather than an artistic parricide. Hinten and Vorne (2005) are graphic renditions of the back and front cover of a Merve Verlag edition of Brian O’Doherty’s classic text Inside the White Cube (1976). This book about the ideology of the gallery space has been reduced to two hard-edged geometrical shapes, and with its title and author removed, the critical excavation of the white cube becomes two red eyes staring angrily back at the beholder.
Lars Bang Larsen
only in german
Kurator: Lars Bang Larsen
mit Sue Tompkins, Itziar Okariz, Mandla Reuter, Hilary Lloyd, Stig Sjölund, Ronny Hansson, Jonas Kjellgren, Maria Loboda, David Lamelas, Xabi Salaberria, Martin Hoener