Monday, December 29, 2008

Best art review of 2008

“The paths through the large number of objects provoked powerful and not altogether pleasant impressions. Features in this landscape included a run-down movie theater, a replica of the ‘spider hole’ where Saddam Hussein was captured, a grim jail, a down-at-the-heels law office, a propaganda van, a tacky mobile church, a voting area, a bank, a looted convenience store, a blown-up police car (the words ‘Pride, Professionalism and Partnership’ still visible on its side), an oil tanker, a beat-up van, an eerie full-size Cape-style house, a watchtower, a torture area, a messy school room with the remnants of an interrupted lesson on the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, a shooting gallery, piles of transparent garbage bags full of empty pill containers, a sniper position, a children’s carousel featuring large black bombs, and much more. A fair amount of climbing and stooping was necessary to move through, over, and among the objects. To the extent that the assembly of objects was an attempt to say anything about democracy, an impression of decay, hypocrisy, and despair, either now or in the near future, was unavoidable. A striking aspect of the work – at least as it could be perceived in its partial state – seemed to be its invitation to step, so to speak, through the picture frame and encounter the artwork as a three-dimensional world.”
– U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Posnor in his July 11, 2008, ruling (pdf) for “MassMoCA v. Christoph Buchel.” He was describing Buchel’s “Training Ground for Democracy” installation at MassMoCA, which few people saw because the project was abandoned before it was completed and disassembled, because Buchel and the North Adams museum proved unable to work together, even after the institution spent some $300,000 on the project.


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