Manifesta 11: What Artists and Curators Do for Money
Various venues, Zurich
11.06.16 – 18.09.16
It is a very small, and no doubt unintentional, victory for the curatorial concept of Manifesta 11: What People Do for Money – Some Joint Ventures that I found it more interesting to consider the biennial by way of its producers and coordinators than its curators and artists. The work involved in manifesting ‘joint ventures’ between thirty contemporary artists and non-artist professionals must have been titanic, both in quantity and character. Certainly, it would have been more illustrative of the relationships between art and labour than the fruits of that labour.
A case in point was artist Mike Bouchet’s collaboration with Philipp Sigg, a process engineer at Werdhölzli Wastewater Treatment Plant. This commission brought into the first-floor gallery of the Löwenbräukunst a day’s worth of Zurich’s ‘human sludge’ ( i.e. 80,000 kilos of whatever the Zurichois are flushing down their toilets ) formed into pseudo-minimalist cubes. I am less compelled by this one-liner – humans shit and other humans clean it up, thus is the world both functional and depraved – than I am in the fine print of the information panel positioned outside the air-locked gallery door: ‘All aspects of the art-work ( research, logistics, installation, conservation, and disposal ) meet the appropriate requirements for public display and environmental safety.’ The mind boggles at the labyrinth of logistics and bureaucracy this project must have engendered for the biennial’s producers and coordinators. Before they began tackling practicalities there must have been a significant amount of reverse engineering – cajoling into existence, so that they can be met, official requirements for the public display of human faeces.
This is perhaps the most challenging and illuminating part of the commissioning and exhibition-making process: when the unstoppably abstract meets the immovably practical, and all the resulting micro-incidences of political and ethical implication, emotional and physical absurdity, defeat and triumph. Once, when working on a site-specific installation at a zoo, I received a phone call from the Curator of Mammals, threatening to cancel the project because the artist’s fabricator had climbed into the African wild dogs’ enclosure in order to take measurements. After several minutes of politely hysterical dialogue ( during which I received a crash course in the, frankly terrifying, hunting and feeding behaviour of sub-Saharan canids ), I managed to secure the curator’s green light on the strength of the argument that the technician had meant no harm, evidenced by his only having entered the ‘outer defensive ring’ of fencing, and not the ‘inner enclosure’ of the little hut, where the dogs slept. At no point did I seek to discern whether the zoo’s concern was for the technician or the dogs, and in the end those measurements proved to be invaluable to the installation. We each have stories about finding ourselves in this perilous zone between the ‘outer defensive ring’ of the real world’s rules and the ‘inner enclosure’ of the artwork’s needs.
This is not to say that curators and artists do not play an active role in negotiating these zones – indeed, their level of skill and interest here is often integral to the success of a project. Presumably the Manifesta 11 commissions enjoyed above-average attention in this regard, given how closely the conceit of the biennial mirrors curator Christian Jankowski’s own practice as an artist, which often finds him interlocuting outside the art world. As evidence of the close interaction between the commissioned artists and their ‘professional’ counterparts, the What People Do for Money website showcases candid photographs of just this: artist Fermín Jiménez Landa and meteorologist Peter Wick consider the Swiss skyscape together, Michel Houellebecq reviews scans of his brain with Dr Henry Perschak, and Torbjørn Rødland holds forth in Dr Danielle Heller Fontana’s office, while gripping some sort of dental apparatus, etc. In fact, aside from the press downloads, these are very nearly the only images representing the commissions online. It is possible that this inattention to the finished product was born less of a desire to give primacy to the collaborative work of the projects, than it was the result of inevitable incompatibilities between the artists’ timelines and that of the communications team. For a biennial, consistency between projects in their PR presentation is often valued over the quality/quantity of information available ( never mind that each work may necessitate a different communication strategy ). Therefore, although one work might be complete with Web-ready photographs, another may be handwringingly behind schedule; and so the common denominator must be sought or staged. Thus is a biennial both functional and depraved.
These may seem like insignificant administrative details-distractions from reading the actual exhibition. On the contrary, I have found that looking closely at what came after an artist or work was selected can quickly reveal how and why decisions critical to the artist and work were made. Unlike a professional framer, whose entire visit to a gallery could be spoiled by spotting an overcut passepartout, or the way an AV technician may experience the quality of a projection as directly linked to that of the projector, looking closely at what is going on around the works in What People Do for Money greatly improved my ability to understand some of its more baffling curatorial decisions. Consider again, for instance, the first floor of the Löwenbräukunst, which, at the time of my visit, contained the work of three artists: the aforementioned Zurich Load by Mike Bouchet, inflatables by Bhakti Baxter and video works by Roman Štětina. Unfortunately, the overwhelming smell of human waste made it terribly difficult to give the last two works more than a moment’s attention. This was a particular shame in the case of Štětina’s videos-precisely composed meditations on the obsolescence of radio-play foley artistry. Specifically, Studio No. 2 ( Slapstick ) ( 2013 ) is a 5-minute-long film that requires focus on the part of the viewer to parse the subtle aural differences between first- and second-generation audio after-effects. Needless to say, focusing my senses-aural or otherwise-was precisely the last thing I wanted to do while standing in such close proximity to 80,000 kilos of shit.
Thus, on the one hand, pairing these two works appears to have been a poor curatorial decision; detrimental both to the work of the artists and to the audience. On the other, the Manifesta 11 guidebook ( presumably printed before Bouchet’s installation ) indicates that three additional works were slated for this gallery: a slide series by Martin Kippenberger and Achim Schächtele, and elements of commissioned works by Evgeny Antufiev and Fermín Jiménez. It is not unusual that artworks should shift around at the last minute. This is the hazard of including floorplans in a guidebook, printed before the show has settled into its final form. That said, this little glance at the intended placement of several prominent elements of the exhibition combines intriguingly with rumours ( N.B. utterly unsubstantiated ) that the magnitude of the stench was in fact not anticipated; that technicians were retching during the installation; that there are now concerns about the gallery walls continuing to ‘off gas’ once the installation is removed, thus jeopardising the organisation’s ability to claim air quality in keeping with high-level conservation standards. Rumours aside, the fact that a Kippenberger was planned for that gallery does seem to suggest that, at a relatively late stage, Bouchet’s work was considered neither a threat to the safety of the other works nor to the viewers’ ability properly to experience them. However, once this changed ( whether by decree of the curators, the conservators, the artists themselves or their dealers ) that perilous zone must have cracked wide open, resulting in a series of negotiations and decisions that may have had very little to do with the finer academic aspects of curatorial practice.
Add to all of this the fact that that there was more than one curator in the mix: Jankowski was joined by Francesca Gavin, who co-curated The Historical Exhibition: Sites Under Construction – a kind of through-line of existing works that provided the opportunity to see loads of terrific art, presented in a way that managed to be both didactic and opaque. Štětina’s work was part of this project, as was Kippenberger’s, while Bouchet was part of the programme of commissioned works, or Joint Ventures. There were several points of clash between the The Historical Exhibition and the Joint Ventures, but what both projects seem to agree upon is a dichotomy between people who do things for money and the Manifesta 11 artists, who – to paraphrase the guidebook – ‘portray, question, and interact with the ideas and processes of occupations’. Although Jankowski does acknowledge his ‘changing guilds, from artist to curator’, he doesn’t appear to see the role of the curator as an overarching joint venture with the commissioned artists. Perhaps because curators are also not seen to be professionally occupied in the same way as, say, a waste-treatment engineer. There is a difference, apparently, one that Manifesta 11 labours to delineate, on the pretext of bringing the two together. And maybe the only reason I was able to stomach this blind elitism was because I know exactly what artists and curators do for money: they produce and coordinate biennials.
2016年6月11日 – 2016年9月18日
例子之一是艺术家麦克布歇与Werdhölzli污水处理厂的处理工程师菲利普希格的合作。这件新委任作品将苏黎世一天产生的“人类污泥”（ 8万公斤苏黎世人冲进马桶的东西 ）以伪极简的立方体形式带入一楼的Löwenbräukunst展厅。我并不怎么被这个用一句话即可总结的作品打动金人类的粪便，其他人清理，因此世界即是运作的也是腐化的，反而是展厅气闸外信息板上的小字印刷条款：“艺术品的所有方面（ 研究、物流、安装、保存和处置 ）都满足公共展示和环境安全的适当要求。” 这个项目为双年展的制作者和协调者创造的物流和官僚迷宫让人摸不清头脑。开始处理实际问题之前，他们首先肯定先做了大量的逆向工程金计算并公开展示该作品能满足的官方对人类粪便的要求，并装出一副这种要求本来就存在的样子。
这也许是委任和展览制作过程中最具挑战性也是最有启发性的环节：不可阻挡的抽象与不可动摇的实用性相遇，微观上产生了政治和伦理含义，情感和身体的荒谬性，以及失败和胜利。有一次，我在动物园布置场地特定的作品时收到了哺乳动物馆长的电话，威胁要取消该项目，因为艺术家的制作者爬上了非洲野狗的围场进行测量。经过几分钟礼貌而后歇斯底里的对话后（ 在此期间，我也就撒哈拉以南的犬科动物的狩猎和哺乳行为上了，坦率地说，非常吓人的一堂课 ），我辩解道技术员并不想对它们造成任何形式的伤害，他只进入了围栏的“外围防御环”，而不是狗睡觉的小屋的“内围” ，以设法让馆长继续对该项目开绿灯。我并没有设法分辨动物园担心的是技术人员还是狗，最后这些测量结果也对该作品的布展毫无帮助。每个人都有会常常发现自己站在现实世界规则的“外围防御环”和艺术品的需要的“内围”之间的危险区域，而这样的故事有很多。
但这并不在说策展人和艺术家在重新规划这些区域方面没有发挥到积极的作用金事实上，他们的技能和兴趣程度在这里往往是一个项目能否成功的决定因素。第十一届欧洲当代艺术双年展上委任制作的作品在这方面则理所应当受到更多关注，因为该双年展与策展人克里斯蒂安扬科夫斯基自己作为一个艺术家常常和艺术世界之外对话的作品路线极其相似。为了证明委任的艺术家与其“专业”同行之间密切合作，“人们为金钱做了什么”网站展示了这样直白的照片：艺术家费尔曼日默内兰达和气象学家彼得维克一起观察瑞士天空的景观，米歇尔委尔贝克与亨利佩尔施克博士一起研究他的大脑扫描片，以及托尔比约恩洛德兰在丹妮尔海勒 方塔纳医生的办公室紧握某种牙科器械等。事实上，除了供下载的媒体资料包里，这些就几乎是网上可以找到的委任作品的全部图像了。对最终成品的漠不关心很可能并不是不想对这些合作项目给予优先关注，反而是艺术家的时间表和展览团队之间不可避免不兼容造成的结果。每个双年展各个公关项目保持一致通常比信息的质量/数量更重要（ 虽然每个项目可能需要不同的策略 ）。可能一个项目已经准备好了网络上要放出的图片，另一个却可能远远落后于日程表；因此必须寻求或制造（ 不同项目之间的 ）共同特征。因此，这个双年展既是运作的又是腐化的。
这些似乎是行政管理上微不足道的细节，只分散了人们对实际展览的一部分注意力。然而，我发现仔细研究艺术家或作品选择确定后发生的事情，可以迅速揭示对艺术家和其作品至关重要的决定是为什么以及如何做出的。不像装裱师，他在展厅里的全部工作可以被一个过度切割的画框破坏，也不像一名AV技术员可以直接体验投影与投影机的质量，仔细观察在“人们为金钱做了什么”展览里的作品周遭发生的事，可以更深地理解其一些令人难以置信的策展决策的可能。例如，再次观察Löwenbräukunst 当代艺术中心包含了三位艺术家作品的一楼：前述麦克布歇的《苏黎世负担》， 巴克蒂 巴克斯特的充气物体和罗曼什捷季纳的视频作品。不幸的是，粪便的压倒性气味使人难以给予后两个作品超过一刻的注意。这对于什捷季纳的视频作品金通过无线电精确地播放陈旧音效艺术构成冥想空间 金尤其可惜。具体来说，《2号工作室（ 闹剧 ）》（ 2013 ）是一个5分钟长的电影，需要观众注意聆听分析第一和第二代音频效应之间微妙的听觉差异。不用说，集中听觉或其他任何感官注意力恰恰是我站在这样接近80吨的屎前最不想做的一件事。
所以，一方面，这两个作品的配对似乎是一个糟糕的策展决策，对于艺术家作品本身或观众都是不利的。另一方面，第十一届欧洲当代艺术双年展的导览册（ 应该是在布歇作品安装之前印刷的 ）表明，还有另外三个作品是专门为这个展厅准备的：册子里还有马丁基彭贝尔格与阿西姆沙赫特作品的系列照片，以及叶夫根尼安图菲耶夫和费尔曼日默内兰达委任作品里的元素。最后一刻换作品并不是不寻常的。但将展览平面图包含在导览书里是危险的，尤其是在展览确定最终形式前将其打印出来。也就是说，决定这几件作品布展计划的重要元素好像与令人好奇的谣言相辅相成（ 请注意完全没有经过证实 ）：恶臭的程度之前完全没有被预料到；技术人员边干呕边布展；现在担心一旦作品被移除墙壁仍旧会释放臭气，从而破坏该展厅一贯的高水平空气标准。将谣言撇开一边，事实上，一件基彭贝尔格的作品曾被安排在这个展厅，似乎暗示在较晚的阶段布歇的作品被认为既不会对其他作品的安全，也不会对其被适当体验构成威胁。然而，一旦这（ 样的认知 ）变了（ 无论是通过策展人、保存方、艺术家本身，还是他们的经销商的命令 ），这个危险的区域就被打开了，一系列的谈判和决定在这样的情况下发生了，但这些很可能与策展实践中更细致的学术方面无关。