Best of 2016 23.12.16

Daniel Birnbaum’s Best of 2016

Today’s contribution is by Daniel Birnbaum, who is director of Moderna Museet in Stockholm and co-editor (with Isabelle Graw) of the Institut für Kunstkritik series, published by Sternberg Press.

 

Event

Cecilia Grönberg, Händelsehorisont || Event Horizon. Distribuerad fotografi, OEI Editör 2016.

Cecilia Grönberg, Händelsehorisont || Event Horizon. Distribuerad fotografi, OEI Editör 2016.

Cecilia Grönberg, Händelsehorisont || Event Horizon. Distribuerad fotografi (OEI Editör).

Over the last few weeks I have been reading here and there in a publication of a thousand pages (not a book but an event), which has to be the strangest work of art theory published in the Nordic countries since August Strindberg’s A blue book: Händelsehorisont || Event Horizon. Distribuerad fotografi by Cecilia Grönberg. According to the back cover, digital photography is distributed. This statement will hardly surprise anyone. But what follows is more bewildering: “An investigation into the visual and artistic implications of this dispersed condition, Event Horizon takes into account among other things the octopus, this ‘soft intelligence’, which forms the starting point for an eight-armed image and text based essay that tentatively follows the complex mollusc’s tentacular manifestations in history and literature, as forms of life and media systems.” And Grönberg succeeds in doing just this. Her eight-armed essay is inhabited by extremely complex marine creatures whose tentacles reach into the present and future organisms, artefacts and everything in between. Event Horizon ends the long 90’s at last, and anyone who now makes tired references to plateaus or rhizomes will only prove that they are unaware of the marine turn in contemporary theory. It is time to put on your snorkel and mask to find out a new terminology: ichtyology, phycology, the zoology of invertebrates. Grönberg’s tentacular research shatters the form of the book and could perhaps be transformed into some kind of cinematographic or curatorial animal that lives in the depths of the speculative ocean, where future thinking is formed (or finally eroded).

 

Book

Jan Wagner, Självporträtt med bisvärm, Rámus förlag 2016.

Jan Wagner, Självporträtt med bisvärm, Rámus förlag 2016.

Jan Wagner, Självporträtt med bisvärm (published by Rámus förlag, Swedish translation by Aris Fioretos).

Speaking of tentacles, it’s a shame that Carsten Höller, Jo Widoff and myself  didn’t know about Jan Wagner’s poem Jellyfish when we came up with the idea to combine Ernst Haeckel’s and Hilma af Klint’s jellyfish-like shapes with marine animals by Philippe Parreno and many others in the exhibition Life Itself at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. The poem could have been a motto for our attempts to follow the migration of the jellyfish.

 

Exhibition

Doug Aitken, Underwater Pavilions, MoCA, Los Angeles.

Doug Aitken, Underwater Pavilions, MoCA, Los Angeles.

Doug Aitken, Underwater Pavillions, Casino Point Dive Park (Avalon, Kalifornien).

Californian artists who have grown tired of the city tend to seek eternity in the desert. They generally find the light and the open horizon. It is therefore somewhat surprising that Doug Aitken instead went in the other direction: out into the Pacific Ocean. As a counterpart to the retrospective Electric Earth at MoCA in Los Angeles, Aitken has created a number of sub water pavilions that act as windows or lenses through which we gain access to the sea. Meanwhile, anyone unwilling to dive could experience life under the water at MoCA’s website. The artist envisions that the geometric glass shapes will eventually grow into the reef, in accordance with Cecilia Grönberg’s observation: “The ocean water renegotiates concepts such as inscription, transmission and recording. The act of inscription, for instance, which would be a more permanent operation on land, below the water’s surface rather has to be understood in terms of transformation. In the ocean, materials and bodies are altered by erosion and overgrown by marine vegetation.” (Event Horizon, p. 530).

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