apexart :: Montse Badia :: Revolving Doors

Revolving Doors
curated by Montse Badia

The exhibition borrows its title from the renowned image by Man Ray that shows the door in Marcel Duchamp's apartment in New York, which opens a space and simultaneously closes another one and its reverse - evoking the notion of fluidity and confusion between the realms of the public and the private.

November 14 - December 22, 2001

Artists: Antoni Abad, Vito Acconci, Otto Berchem, Roland Boden, Mark Formanek, Christian Jankowski, Andreas M. Kaufmann, Antoni Muntadas, Begoña Muñoz, and Gillian Wearing

download pdf of exhibition brochure

download pdf of press release

The public sphere has been, and still is, a reflection-or a narration, according to Walter Grasskamp1 - of political wills, social fabric, cultural dynamics and economic framework, as well as of the reorganization and the expansion of our cities. In this shared communal space, which is market place, site of affirmation of power, of political and economical manifestations, of religious commemoration and festive celebration, different forms of everyday use converge and overlap.

In a time defined by the end of ideologies, that comes together with the inability of political and religious powers to define the notion of the "public", public space has become a domain of consumption. Shopping malls-where the commercialization of goods and entertainment responds to a promise of experiences-- are the substitutes of the traditional agora. In spite of their apparent accessibility with their benches, walks and artificial gardens, they are private spaces that establish their own rules of access, surveillance and control.

This space discontinuity, with the blur of the boundaries between private and public life and the dispersion of the centers of production and of images2 (the public spheres of industrialized production3) define our contemporary experiences. This fluidity of the limits is absolutely evident in the ambivalent notion of space, defined by the technologies of information and communication media. In this context, "place" becomes a precarious concept and public sphere is transformed into a "communicative spot" made of images and representations, which are fixed in time and space by the screen and linked to "real" and everyday life. Privacy becomes, then, a guarantee of identity.

In addition, the exponential growth of technology has led, in many areas of public and private life, to a dual and simultaneous existence--digital and real. The net brings also a new kind of ambiguity: the net activity of individual participants in a publicly accessible space, that is, a paradoxical longing for anonymity and communication.

The project Revolving Doors borrows its title from the renowned photograph that shows the door in Marcel Duchamp's apartment in Paris (1927), which opens a space and simultaneously closes another one and its reverse. This image evokes the notion of fluidity between the realms of the public and the private, that this exhibition sets out to explore. With their projects, the artists included in this show present a wide range of approaches related to the ambiguity and confusion between public sphere and private domain. With their critical, ironic, poetic or subversive proposals, they make statements or comments that alter the way we view or think about reality. Although the approaches can be very different, all the works have in common the fact that they become very individual gestures which define the relation of public/private in a human scale. Eventually, it is the individual who makes the door revolving.

Vito Acconci's Following Piece documents a performance made by the artist in 1969. In the course of the action, the artist followed different people in the street. The action stopped suddenly, each time the person entered a private space. With this simple gesture, Acconci transcends the relativity of the learned rules and behaviors concerning the distinction between private and public.

Public Monument: Carlos (1998-99) by Andreas M. Kaufmann, is a video shot on a busy shopping street in Cologne in which we see a handicapped person balancing a ball in the air using his crutches and his head. Carlos, the main character of this video, integrates himself in the public space by making an intelligent use of his natural limits and the possibilities provided by the site. Instead of giving the impression of begging, he defines his own space and carries out an autonomous and authentic formulation of his existence in the public.

In Gillian Wearing's video Dancing in Peckham (1994), the artist dances alone in the middle of a shopping mall, completely concentrated on herself and ignoring the surrounding. In a time when one can only be a user of public space by consuming, Wearing's autistic dance becomes a real declaration of the definition of the individual presence in the public, completely detached from any consumer role.

Begoña Muñoz's flyer and photographs document one of her "spontaneous and not announced" performances. An intimate act--the kiss--is celebrated in a social space, a cafe, as an artistic statement. With the exclusive complicity of the closest friends of the artist, it evidences that private acts can still find a secret place, in a subversive but friendly way, in public space.

Christian Jankowski's Let's get physical/digital (1997) questions in a playful and unpredictable manner, the notions of time and space, illusion and reality, distance and intimacy and, of course, private and public. The starting point of the project was a personal situation: the artist was in Stockholm and his girlfriend in Milan. For seven days, the couple communicated only through the Internet and imagined their own meeting places in cyberspace. During this time, the artist was searching the net for objects to arrange in interiors where, later, actors recreated his private dialogues. In a final twist, these performances were recorded and the video was shown, again, on the Internet.

Otto Berchem's projects also require the involvement and the collaboration of people in such a way that his proposals become on-going social activities in which the artist becomes a catalyst. The Dating Market (2000-01) focuses on inter-human relations in contemporary society. The visit to the local supermarket after work that Berchem defines as "the latest spin on a singles bar" becomes the core of the project. Components of the project are presented in the exhibition space and in a real supermarket, where a series of shopping baskets with a flower motif, derived from the stage set of the 70s TV program "The Dating Game", are offered to the customers who want to label him- or herself as "available".

Mark Formanek's Archive of 100 Statements was started in 1991 and has since then continually endeavored to increase in size. A time limit for the archive has not been set. It consists of a preserved collection of statements from individuals with 100 remarks (c/o Mark Formanek, Schmale Strasse 26, D- 48149 Münster) that are presented without any kind of censorship, translation or editing. The statements offer a variety of real and authentic "portraits", absolutely anonymous, that communicate a mixture of deep thoughts and banal ideas that draw an image of the personality of the contributors.

When a visitor enters www.aleph-arts.org/1.000.000, the computer screen literally becomes invaded by a million kisses that behave like an uncontrollable virus. With a playful but absolutely critical attitude, Antoni Abad subverts the codes of some communication devices we are accustomed to: the promises of sex or love in exchange for a universal password-our credit card number. Instead of referring to an amount of money, as might be predictable, the title 1.000.000 (1999) quantifies the number of kisses the visitor receives. In this way, Abad makes a playful but strong comment to the mercantilist and aggressive vision that involves pornography on the Internet.

In Personal/Public (1979), by Antoni Muntadas, the juxtaposition/contrast of two screens, one of them tuned to a television channel, and the other returning the viewer's image by means of a surveillance camera, becomes an appropriate comment to the process of personal information (the individual) turning into public through the media and, its reverse, public information becoming personal through individual reception and interpretation.

The strategies of commercials are used by Roland Boden to present the Urban Shelter Units, "the innovative solution in personal combination shelters, a modular system to improve passive safety measures in private and public space". As the brochure of this "product" announces, "civil war, disorder, criminality, vandalism and troubles, conflicts among neighbors and in the family are increasingly endangering society's peaceful coexistence". In this context, the Urban Shelter Units system not only promises to satisfy our desires for individual solutions, according to our situations and requirements, but also to re-configure our domestic environment.

 

Montse Badia
© September 2001

1. Grasskamp, Walter, "Art in the city", in Sculpture Projects in Münster, 1997 (catalogue) Gerd Hatje Ed., Münster, 1997 (p. 7)
2. Rosler, Martha, If you Lived Here. The City in Art, Theory and Social Activism. A Project by Martha Rosler, Bay Press and Dia Art Foundation, Seattle and New York, 1991 (p. 20).
3. According to the definition by Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt, "The Public Sphere and Experience", in October # 46, MIT, Massachusetts, fall 1998 (p. 66).


Otto Berchem Dating Market, 1999-2001
Christian Jankowski Let's get physical/digital, 1997/2000
Andreas M. Kaufmann Public Monument: Carlos, 1998-99

PRESS RELEASE
The project Revolving Doors borrows its title from the renowned photograph that shows the door in Marcel Duchamp's apartment in Paris (1927), which opens a space and simultaneously closes another one and its reverse. This image evokes the notion of fluidity between the realms of the public and the private, that this exhibition sets out to explore.

The list of participants in Revolving Doors include artists from different generations that in different contexts and time have approached these issues. With their projects, the artists present a wide range of approaches related to the ambiguity and confusion between public sphere and private domain such as the analysis of individual and communal behaviors in public spaces (Vito Acconci), the definition of the own personal space in the public (Andreas M. Kaufmann, Gillian Wearing), a "subversive" and secret use of the public space (Begoña Muñoz), the projection of a created privacy into the public (Christian Jankowski), the creation of relational spaces (Otto Berchem), the different ways of presenting the individual in the public (Mark Formanek), the commercialization of the private through Internet (Antoni Abad), the subjective perception of the media and its reverse (Antoni Muntadas) and the advertising promises for the redesigning of the public space (Roland Boden).

With their critical, ironic, poetic or subversive proposals, all these projects make statements or comments that alter the way we view or think reality. Although the approaches can be very different, all the works have in common the fact that they become very individual gestures which define the relation public/private in a human scale. Eventually, it is the individual who makes the door revolving.

A color brochure containing an essay by Montse Badia will be available free of charge. Please contact apexart for further information.

Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11-6.