Show Talks is an online collection of audio pieces relating to art exhibitions in Europe.
Show Talks reflects on how art exhibitions are written and spoken about today.
Show Talks aims to examine the range of ways in which art exhibitions are discussed and mediated.
Show Talks is an inquiry as to how we value written and verbal material as a supplement to or even a substitute for the work itself.
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Show Talks © Eona McCallum, Fred Cave, Dutch Art Institute, 2014.
Concept: Eona McCallum, Fred Cave.
Design / Programming: Fred Cave / Werkplaats Typografie.
Editing: Janine Armin, Binna Choi, Yolande van der Heide, and Benjamin Thorel.
Copyediting, Proofreading: Janine Armin and Taf Hassam.
Publisher: Dutch Art Institute /
Thanks to everyone who contributed either words or voices to this project.
The DAI wishes to thank Anniek Brattinga, Maureen Mooren, Lisette Smits and the Werkplaats Typografie, Binna Choi, Janine Armin, Yolande van der Heide, and the entire Casco team for their on-going commitment to Publishing Class.
Publishing Class is an imprint of DAI Publications, a collection of artists’ books jointly published by the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) and Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in collaboration with the Werkplaats Typografie. Publishing Class is also a curriculum designed by Casco for artists studying at the DAI, and is oriented around the act of publishing as a critical art practice that cultivates publicness and allows for versatile forms of dissemination.


Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann, In the Stomach of the Predators, BAK, Utrecht, 1.11- 28.12.14

Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann: In the Stomach of the Predators

Exhibition 01.11.–28.12.2014

Artists who are committed to causes are smooth operators.

From 1 November Andreas Siekmann and Alice Creischer exhibit at BAK in Utrecht their project in the Stomach of the Predators that was previously seen in Bergen and Berlin.

What they show is beautiful even when it is cruel.

Berlin-based artist-curators Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann explore the predatory logic of late capitalism.

No matter how deeply they probe social realities that shock the conscience, the forms in which they do so please the eye.

That’s not just cynicism on the part of the contemporary art world.

Stemming from their joint research in the last several years concerning the privatization of the commons through the cases of seeds, land rights, and intellectual property, these two distinct bodies of work employ the methods and languages of theatrical and filmic stagings (Creischer) and pictorial tableaux (Siekmann).

Lending an aesthetic gloss to injustice and brazen iniquity is a prerequisite of artistic enlightenment, which needs beauty to speak of grievous ills.

It’s no accident that the comedic and the grotesque are indispensable to critical forms of art (see Charlie Chaplin).

This two-part exhibition brings us to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, set up to protect all existing agricultural kernels in the world from eventual extinction. The seed bank, however, is financed by the very corporate lobbies that exercise interests and practices that threaten crop diversity.

In the work, the seemingly inescapable logic calling for disaster when it comes to the survival of the genetic material is tried through multiple scripts that utilize a variety of vernaculars.

It’s the foundation of their credibility that they present scandalous situations and political depravities in words and gestures that take grave matters lightly.

In the Stomach of the Predators is presented as part of the year-long research into the notion of “survival” within the long-term series Future Vocabularies (2014–2016).

Such artistic contortion, and occasionally mystification, does not claim that it can explain let alone improve the world, and yet sometimes it hits the nail on the head.

The series inquires into the possibility of art to offer a space for developing a variety of itineraries for envisioning another future.

Meanwhile, it isn’t easily captured by rational discourses and symbolic usurpation – a point to which we will return…

Cause and effect

“A Study in Apocalyptics” is Alice Creischer’s term for the exploration of today’s predatory capitalism, which she and Andreas Siekmann conducted in 2012 and 2013.

Well, in terms of what it is…it is, for me, there’s a movie, and downstairs you have an archive which explains the theme…the thematical things questioned in the movie.

Their joint project In the Stomach of the Predators evolved in three stages – the Bergen Assembly, the Biennale Regard Benin, and the Istanbul Biennial – and each artist has also enlarged on his or her findings in a solo exhibition, one at KOW and one at Galerie Barbara Weiss.

Ok. I would describe it as a two-part exhibition because, uh, we got the movie upstairs and a little installation and the archive over here. And, um, yeah I think you have to see the movie first before you go to see the archive because there are so many people walking into here and not really understanding what it’s about until they see the movie.

Two photographs taken during a demonstration on December 19, 2013, against the Grüne Woche, a food-industry trade fair held annually in Berlin, form a curtain behind which a film is playing.

Creischer’s work contains a cast of a number of whimsical, symbolically charged animal figures—the wolf, the hyena, the bear, and the jackal—each of them representative of a particular form of monopolization of what once was the common good.

So we first went up to see the movie, which is…uh.. very strange, I must say. Part of it is filmed in Africa and you see people… children…dressed up with these carton masks…and uh…. I don’t know what it’s about.

The predators are back; a sloppily dressed wolf, hyena, bear, and jackal are trotting from Spitsbergen via Benin to Istanbul. From biennial to biennial, from one political scene to the next, they are a vagabond caravan of artists or artistes of social critique, their progeny in tow.

The animals are sent on a journey from Spitsbergen to Benin and Istanbul, during which they encounter situations that seem absurd and at times outright grotesque. Such surreal scenes are continuously stabilized, however, by an undercurrent of real gravity as the characters delve into the disquieting workings of the neoliberal condition.

Human figures in the film shown with animal masks include predators, whose aim is to depict Marx’s characterization of capitalism as “the belly of the beast.”

Alice Creischer has been a leading figure in the movement toward a more political art in Germany since the 1990s, and the way her exhibition uses beauty to speak of grievous ills and simultaneously hedges its bets may remind some viewers of the subversive poetics with which artists living under repressive regimes, as in the former East Germany, gummed up the censors’ dragnets.

So. Um, yeah, I mean, I take it very literally. So I see, in the film you have the three parts, one in Spitsbergen, another in Istanbul and one in Benin. You see the four predators which are not… um, they’re more like the type of predators that feed on other dead animals. So they are not.. that’s what I like about them as well because… not because they’re top of the bill they’re just feeding on things that are already dead, I think.

The wolf:

The island of Spitsbergen is home to the secure seed bank known as Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Stored in a cavern deep in the permafrost soil is the global biodiversity of tens of thousands of agricultural crops that are being ousted as the laboratories of biotech giants like Monsanto, Pioneer, and Syngenta churn out modern high-efficiency varieties.

The same corporations fund the seed bank to dispel the fear that they might be destroying the varietal diversity created by hundreds of generations of plant growth. A global gene pool, a heritage and common treasure of the world’s cultures, is effectively disappearing in the bowels of a bunker whose gates are guarded by predatory agribusinesses.

The hyena:

In Benin as in other underdeveloped countries, properties are being demarcated where no such boundaries existed. Common ownership and individual rights of use were woven into local knowledge; bureaucracies now require paperwork.

National authorities and investment companies survey land, determine ownership, and sell options to acres on Wall Street before the users or owners have even been expelled or compensated below fair value. The colonial partition of Africa continues, in that land is privatized for farming and building, plot by plot.

The bear:

Something similar is going on in Istanbul; only the land-grabbers’ tools are different. The construction boom in the city goes hand in hand with the displacement of its people.

Traditional neighborhoods such as Sulukule, the world’s oldest Romani settlement, and Tarlabaşı, the socially mixed district downhill from Gezi Park and Taksim Square, are being cleared; their residents dislodged. Members of Erdoğan’s family in government and the real estate industry work together to raze organic urban structures, liquidate public life, and develop the newly vacant urban space in public-private partnerships that yield high profit margins.

The jackal:

Many predators look for new prey in resource capitalism. The exploitation of land promises greater profits than the exploitation of productive labor. Such “extractivism” literally undermines the commons, erodes living environments, and at the same time undercuts the demands for justice of the workers who populate the slums of the metropolises, a new industrial reserve army hoping for future deployments.

The occupation of the commons, the expulsion of indigenous groups, and the large-scale contamination of the environment, for example by enormous surface mining ventures, were also the subjects of the final chapter in Creischer’s earlier exhibition.

The creatures are emblematic of, and personify, acquisitive greed paired with injustice and devastation; through them multiple scripts unfold, delivered in a variety of vernaculars, at once resembling the Chaplinian slapstick handlings of despair and the theatrical experimentations of Bertolt Brecht.

In acts of gauche satire, they appropriate the roles of predators, distributing seeds, occupying land, and lining up like beads on a string the zeroes they’ve extracted from the debasement of the commons and now hand over to the fantastic mathematics of speculation, which will turn them into ones to be added up as profit.

Um… and I think the movie um, the texts during the film they explain…uh… the context…which is nice cause it gives a value that you don’t see immediately in the movie if you are not really familiar with the problematic. So um.. yeah and every part ends kind of sad.

It’s a procession of beggarly mythical creatures, dragging their hungry stomachs – ladies’ handbags containing precious objects –as prisoners drag their chains, unwaveringly waiting to knife their companions in the back at the right moment, because that’s what they are. Predators.

While addressing the apocalyptic questions of global gene pool heritage, land grabbing, the devastation of natural resources, and the fantastical “science” of financial speculation, art itself—and its possibility to counter systemic violence of such amplitude—is not spared questioning.

And the predators are almost a family because they’re…they are of course the family of the artist and that’s what I like about it as well I mean, even though they are representing different animals and they are not dressed as themselves, you see them as some kind of family, which all have a role working together in something that seems constructive but isn’t really constructive. Uh, yeah. That’s it.

The installation of Siekmann takes us to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a project set up to “protect” all existing agricultural kernels in the world from eventual extinction, is based.

We learn, however, that the seed bank is financed by the very same corporate lobbies that exercise interests and practices that threaten crop diversity, including, among others, genetic manipulation.

Uh, and then I went down here… and here I get the feeling it’s about food production and industry, big industry…but still I don’t get a clue. But uh…that’s about it. For me, at least.

These entangled complicities are uncovered through large movable panels with pictograms reminiscent of the vocabulary developed by science philosopher and political economist Otto Neurath in cooperation with artist Gerd Arntz, who was a part of an anarcho-syndicalist movement in the 1920s in Cologne and Berlin, developing graphic icons specifically for proletarian agitations.

…I mean he’s still based in Berlin, I think. He was analyzing how the new urbanization was going on in Berlin, so that was really interesting. He was also making data about the one… the big deciders, the ones who… and the lack of democracy in it, so that’s when I learnt a lot.

The ordered, systematic, and meticulously structured succession of signs, symbols, and their visualized interconnections draw an alarming relational map of the economic and political aspects of biodiversity’s transfer into private hands that so accurately defines our global present.

This is toxic material, and when you touch it, you’d better wear protective gloves.

Yeah, because some people really dislike it when exhibitions are really too much informing them they just want to see something and look at it in their own way without any texts or influences but I think, I think in this case it is really nice that they have gathered all the information and you can do with it whatever you want.

The investigation began three years ago with a trip to Svalbard in Norway, where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located.

It’s about food distribution round the world. But…more than that…and he makes data of it…and um…and the more data, the more comprehensive it is how an honest food distribution will work out in the world.

“From one side it is an example of the contradictory effects of philantro-capitalism: the Rockefeller Foundation, Monstanto, Syngenta, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded this project, together with the Norwegian government.”

The scandal is that the companies that fund this are also guilty of the agricultural practices that promote the eradication of varieties.

So they solve a problem that they cause themselves?

In the Stomach of the Predators delves deeper – indeed, with its index-card apparatus, it insists on imparting facts and the context in which they belong.

So that’s what I think, and that’s what makes this artist rather interesting…

It challenges us to read more about the complexities of the critical discourse on capitalism. But don’t we already know all these things? At least in their broad outlines?

Yes, everyone with only minimal interest in the monopolization of seeds knows…

So, um and since the content is all very…um… delicate… this explanation is very nice. I mean it’s seems necessary to understand everything that’s going on in the movie and the themes that are being questioned because it is complicated. That is for me exactly how it is, so I like that about this.

Yeah, the little cards are available online. Yeah, as I said it’s just…so much here.

You know people are not planning on going here for a day most of the time. They just want to walk in…because it’s a lot of tough, uh…. you know all the terms and everything to think about it’s pretty tough for people just wanting to go and see a nice exhibition so I think…mmm…I personally think it’s just a good way to make it available to people who want to know a little bit more.

What does the title refer to?

Um, I was wondering about these things, these parts…oh and the paintings as well. There are two things I was wondering about: the branches and the paintings at the end.

It comes from an article about 19th-century laws regarding wood theft, written by Karl Marx in 1842 and published in the Rheinische Zeitung when he was working as a journalist.

Oh. That’s actually a difficult one.

The weird thing is, with the branches, for me, I cannot really incorporate them in the installation.

But the paintings as well, no? They’re kind of really different…

I read something on the other side about that…a branch that falls from a tree, eh….is commonly thought of as….belonging to no one…or, like, belonging to everyone. And…just… I think I read that on the other one with the magnifying glass and I was thinking that that was like the…

I think you’re right. Or maybe there is no right but it sounds logical.

The article is a contribution to the debates of that time on the right to wood as private property. For us it has to do with the paradigm of the appropriation and privatization of common good. Very interesting material.

Yeah! For me, this is all very much to see and to think about. That the elements of nature can be represented in the paintings…are things I ignore. I mean, I do know that the tulip is a symbol of Istanbul as well, right? Or Turkey or something like that? I thought so yeah, not only the Dutch have tulips…they also have them. You see them also as well in the movie, but for me…all the technical information like, everything that’s so much…with the branches… I mean it’s kind of ironic that I ignore the nature aspect. Uh and the…because I’m so absorbed by the technical information around me…so that’s…

But it’s like a representation. Like, that is one representation of nature – the tulip paintings. And this is the…

Completely different.

We also discovered the reports of parliamentary debates, to which quotes in the exhibition refer. It is also interesting because the text refers to when the leftist, Hegelian Marx became a communist.

Just look up everything because it’s so much.

You don’t have to agree with… because you can see, you know that they have some kind of a view on it, you know, of course, especially in the movies but I think the archive just adds the parts so you can um…. you can think about it yourself.

Creischer and Siekmann frequently work together as artists, curators, and theorists (and in this instance, their children also play an active part), but the two works clearly illustrate the differences between their positions, which combine closely interwoven contents with distinctive methodological approaches.

So In the Stomach of the Predators is also an example of artistic collaboration: A double praxis in which we can recognize two individual voices.

It is not our purpose to reveal anything. For us, the project is only a starting point for a study of processes of monopolization as such. And is also the start of a journey that we wish to pursue in Benin and Istanbul.

So it’s really, you really have to see them both and uh well it’s maybe a little bit tougher than some work…than some people are used to because… personally I think if you really want to enjoy this and get it, because I’m not sure if it’s really easy to get because it’s so broad but you should maybe spend a day in the archive and really look through everything, maybe sit there with a laptop.

The philantro-capitalism in Istanbul identifies the link between the booming economy and that of art. We had conflicting feelings about our participation in the last biennale and therefore decided to make the performance of animals.

But yeah. It’s funny that…that you ignore the nature. I mean, I … I know that I’m ignoring it. So, that’s…. and the big screens, I think that they’re very ingenious. And I… I like to look things up.

The walls were intended to function as a mobile archive. We started at the time of the opening of the Global Seed Vault in 2008, looked at who is involved, the sponsors, board members, supporters – and link them together with graphic lines and diagrams.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and I had this encyclopedia and I was just always…. I was starting with A and just start reading and… it sounds kind of adventurous but it is, of course…very sad information…being presented as….

The “stomach” refers to the monopolization, images of handbags displayed here. Inside the panels are images of the sponsors: Bill and Melinda Gates and Monsanto for example. And the relationship between the sponsor and the board. So it was important for us to show how this kind of disaster capitalism is related to the resulting philantro-capitalism. A panel shows how Monstanto gets the World Food Award. This is very cynical.

And on the website you can go there and look it up and they are really trying to explain all the terms they use so you can look in the small files so… yeah I think it’s a great way to create some kind of a discussion but you really have to take time for it.

The idea here is not to overwhelm you with information; the audience can slide the panels. Ultimately it’s a lot.

But I think a lot of people who visit this exhibition will think about it later on, like ‘oh, what did I read?’ and maybe they can use it later on… if they can’t use it now.

Yeah. And even to make it available to people who can’t come who live in different countries…I mean cause, yeah you were talking about the art… there’s certain issues that art addresses and then you wonder how useful it could be I mean here, it’s one year’s research, no? On these questions…from the artists, so I mean the fact that it’s available outside of the exhibition is also a good thing.

Yeah I mean it makes you wonder if the exhibition is maybe really necessary.

The disaster dictates the consequences. Are you saying that the forms of resistance are part of the structure they are trying to criticize?

That sounds operaïsm-like to me. I do not know if that is in this research. We do not allude to some overall conspiracy theory.

What meaning does it have for you?

We always ask for a political art. I would say that it is exactly the same as in abstract art. It’s about mediation, attention, developing an idea about something.

And you should then find a language for your idea. Is that possible?

Maurizio Lazzarato has said something good about it. He talked about “creating an image” …

That is one of the most complex political issues of the moment at this time.

What we would like to show is a form of artistic work that is close to a kind of Marxist materialism, which aims to defend itself against the neutralization and the mystification of political situations. It’s about making pictures. A deep and simple artistic desire: finding images.

Though the work tests art’s subversive potential, its complacency in the face of the flows of capital surfaces at least as often as the paradoxical meaning of survival in an era of human-engineered catastrophes.

But…I don’t know, I really like it because it shows that the artists are really involved and they’ve both been working in this, um, capitalist uh…how do you say it… you know… works about capitalism and our… our new society so I think that’s it’s great that they put so much effort into it and they are opening it up for everyone.

Is Creischer preaching to the converted when she rubs her audience’s noses in the dust of neoliberal emissions?

None of this is going to come as a surprise to anyone who brings a sufficiently critical mind to the study of this sort of archive. But emancipation is work, the critical faculty cannot be delegated, and Creischer’s sceptical view of political statements issued by artists is distinctly palpable.

Em, you get this, you know I think it’s really, really a question that you get a lot maybe especially in the Netherlands but I think also outside but people are asking, you know, it’s great that, you know, contemporary art is concerned with the world but what can it really do?

She’s aware that there’s something deeply grotesque about art – you’ll expose yourself to ridicule if you seriously tilt at the windmills of predatory capitalism – and defines her position accordingly. She takes the gravity of the situation seriously, and then again, she doesn’t. She’s rightfully indignant about the greed of the wolves and hyenas, and adamant about the data that document their practices. And she rightly stages this indignation as a theater piece.

And I think it’s really difficult to answer that question. We’re all hoping it can, you know especially the art enthusiasts but you can’t really say until we are a little bit further in the future and you can look back and see what something has done but I think this is a really nice way of opening everything up and getting people to think about everything a little bit so…

Because there’s the informing…informational side to it..?

The scenes are real, as are the political and economic processes, and the perceived impotence of art to counter such systemic violence in any way may be no less real. If art does try (and what else is it going to do?) it’s a good idea to conceive the whole thing as a farce from the outset; and since art works often find themselves in the predators’ stomachs, they might as well be a bit indigestible.

Well, yeah, it’s a certain form….it’s a certain way of making those… of making the questions and the beginning of the answers available but it’s also useful in other terms purely for the information. Cause, I mean, if you look at it in really scientific terms, like scientific research…you know… people do research for it to then be available and other people can take it up and do other things with it and so the fact that it’s kind of available outside of the exhibition space I mean it doesn’t replace it obviously but…

No I think the exhibition is a really nice addition because otherwise you could just pick up a dictionary you know and you could look up those terms too but I think this is just a way of giving a certain view and people can do with that whatever they want but I think also, you know the video upstairs with the three places they have gone? Uh, I think some people aren’t even aware of the things that are going on so if you don’t have the information how can you even think about the issues. So, yeah. That’s kind of what I think about it. The importance.

I will take this with me to do some more reading…

Allen Ruppersberg, No Time Left to Start Again and Again. Wiels, Brussels, 16.05 – 17.08.2014

Allen Ruppersberg — No Time Left To Start Again and Again

Wiels kicks off its summer exhibition programme with shows featuring two major American artists: conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg and photographer Robert Heinecken. London DJ Doug Shipton, who is known for his unpredictable sets embracing obscure samples such as German library music or Czech cinema soundtracks will provide the soundtrack for the opening night. Plus, the sisters from Il Sapore della Dolce Vita will serve their delicious piadina.

Allen Ruppersberg belongs to a generation of American conceptual artists that changed the way art was made and thought about at the end of the 1960s.

Alien Ruppersberg.

…A more direct relationship between art and popular music powers Allen Ruppersberg’s show at Wiels, where the droll California conceptualist goes systematic on ‘American vernacular recorded music, from folk to rock, passing through gospel and blues’. The result, No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R’n’R (2010), is an epic archive-dive, filleting Ruppersberg’s collection of 4,000 78rpm records into an extensive soundtrack…

b. 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio; lives and works in Santa Monica, California, and Brooklyn, New York.

…and arranging amateur snapshots, obituaries and images of old records on 20 big colourful pegboards. The result ought to be, as per for Ruppersberg, coolheaded, visually warm and marbled with melancholy — and a quicker tour of the rock-and roll past than sitting through Tony Palmer’s 1,000-minute-long documentary All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music (1976–80), though you might want to do that after.

I read at the entrance who he was.

I’m curious about the Allen Ruppersberg exhibition.

I think that he’s very old now.

I guess he’s contemporary, no?

He became successful in the 1960’s in LA working in the shadow of more famous artists such as John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha. He is also apparently inspired by Marcel Broodthaers. At Wiels the Ruppersberg picks include a new work on the history of the recording industry. It shows images in combination with a soundtrack. Sounds promising.

Yes, that’s right, because… He is surely quite old because given the dates on the photos, we imagine that he’s quite old. And is he still interested in jazz?

His multiform artistic work, which includes paintings, sculptures, photographs,

installations, performances and books, amongst other media, is inspired by the Beat Generation and anchored in a critical approach to media and consumer society.

Over the years, Ruppersberg, an avid collector, has accumulated an impressive quantity of books, posters, postcards, educational films, magazines, records and other documents or objects that bear witness to American popular culture.

This archive serves as a regular resource for the artist, who tirelessly draws, copies, classifies and recycles elements in the making of his works.

I’ve read it here but… maybe I’m too tired today to, to get it but um, (I would probably say it’s em…) I think it’s just not my cup of tea.

…um, but I think it’s a little bit, um, fashion now to work with archive and do stuff with this and I think we see too much this in museums actually.

So, I find it interesting but I don’t know anything about this artist so it’s kind of… ok, so that’s his archive and what do we do with this after. I don’t know his work so…

so I took some time on Sunday. I’m somebody that follows certain… certain attitudes in art…

…eclectic, um a lot of different artists. I’d say it’s probably based on the oldies more than the newer music ….

In fact, yes, it’s has a kind of vintage feel, thinking of the past, blugrass, folk, etc. with the atmosphere of that period – lots of polaroids, plastified photos. It’s an installation that is quite unique. And we don’t have the impression that we’re seeing an artist’s work, but on the boards, we see what the artist is trying to say.

Yeah and also formally, well because there is this quote about formal reinvention right in one of the posters over there, this eternal quest for formal innovation but, formally this does not appeal to me either.

Eight huge panels of the DIY store type (with small holes) display hundreds of documents that revolve around the theme of popular culture in America and his music. It has the mood of the “beat generation”, popular expression, 78s, vinyl…

In the past fifteen years, he has been more and more prone to using a photocopy machine.

Having studied commercial illustration at Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts today) in the early 1960s, the artist became an excellent draughtsman; he has often copied out fragments of his archives by hand, but he also regularly employs a variety of mechanical reproduction procedures to the same purpose.

At WIELS, Ruppersberg presents one of his more recent works…

Initially we are a little lost.

On entering the exhibition by Allen Ruppersberg I was immediately taken by a very rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere.

…Meaning very intellectual..

We are really immersed into the atmosphere of the exhibition. We have the feeling of being in the ’60s, the ’70s, in those years, and to completely be part of it.

I would present it as a work on archives, with an installation that is quite interesting and original.

At the same time, there is this offbeat side, you know, a strange feeling, we don’t really know…. you have the feeling of being part of that period…

He was a regular at Kinko’s for a while, but it didn’t take long for him to decide to buy his own machine, which he uses to enlarge or reframe his archive.

It’s a show about Allen Ruppersberg in his late career and he shows really a summary of found iconography in music and not only music but also social history in the ’60s, starting in the ’60s.

Finally, a soundtrack composed of a hundred popular songs accompanies the installation.

The songs are taken from the artist’s collection of over 4,000 78rpm records, and are contained on 8 vinyl records especially produced for the exhibition.

Um, I would say… that I saw an artist, uh whose work is telling something about the ’50s and ’60s. Erm, and that the musicians from that period are a central theme in the room. (A lot of images.) Um, and that yeah it’s something like an installation I should say.

Ok. So, first I will describe the building because I don’t know this place, it’s my first time here…

And there are like on every wall there is like a board with flags in colours with words on. And everywhere like copies hang…

…it’s a kind of old building with big volume all in white, em you go in and there is just stuff on the wall.

…but you don’t really get…there is not really a system.

Um, a kind of big piece of wood and… paint on. There are targets and little triangles in colour with heaps of holes.

These documents were photocopied and then laminated before being hung on pegboards like the ones you see in hardware stores.

…and in some holes there is… there fit some plastic images and they’re from just archive, all pictures and pieces of journal.

So it’s quite colorful and a lot of pictures and photos …

There are kind of classifications and each wall has a name.

There is a geographical relation or notion, um…

One is fun one is introduction, one is church, I don’t remember the others…eh poetry and home.

OK, it’s obviously musically oriented.

…and I don’t really understand all the classification.

And there is em cardboard box you realise it’s some kind of graphics like you see on the wall um there’s a target and pictures and colours and inside it looks like that you can take a picture and put it on the wall, or something like this.

Acts as a visual history…

But I don’t think it’s participative art… so I don’t touch anything.

… whose order and narrative are interchangeable.

It is a sweeping survey of recorded American vernacular music, from folk to rock, passing through gospel and blues.

So I find it very funny to see this point of view between the… a bit historical, because actually we see… and sociological, to see this, to see all these photos. This mess, this bundle of information… so it’s a beautiful moment. And as well, I find that the progression is interesting, we pass easily from one board to the next, from one room to the next – a dynamic reading , but also a simple one…

…Um and there is um… and there’s music too, you can choose music.

A collection of themes that were important certainly after the second world war I guess. Things that were going on in United States of America. Urm, a lot of pictures and things from the newspapers, yeah.

The presence of boxes filled with similar documents in close proximity to the pegboards reminds us that other narratives are there, waiting to be told.

More broadly, though, it alludes to the notion of the archive.

…um but I think it’s a little bit, um, fashion now to work with archive and do stuff with this and I think we see too much this in museums actually.

For me it’s like an abstract and strange, um, yeah… group of images together. Uh, very colorful and very American but it doesn’t hit the spot for me.

It’s an effort to kind of evoke the aesthetics of music from a very particular period from the 1950s to the 1970s….primarily looking backwards from a current time, a current perspective, using in part obituaries from a lot of performers from that time period…. primarily by photocopying images in newspapers and also of the media of the time…

I find this… I find this surprising.

In parallel with the installation, Ruppersberg presents a selection of earlier works that echo certain notions important to The B and D of R ‘n’ R, such as memory, the transmission of knowledge and the relationship between art and popular culture.

Ok, so um…

In the central hallway is a selection of silkscreened projection screens made in the 1990s.

On the wall is a series of works whose titles begin with the formula, “Honey, I rearranged the collection”, and end with a joke.

These vintage screens are silkscreened with images taken from the educational films in the artist’s collection — he owns over 2,000.

In each instance, the visual alteration is linked to the punch line of a joke.

The image of the library, which returns time and again in this series, can be interpreted as the equivalent of the collection alluded to in the text.

That’s it, I mean. Yeah, it feels really private but, as a library is, I guess. This sort of private room and stuff.

These witticisms were initially jotted down on Post-its that Ruppersberg used to adorn his own work, as if he were himself the collector who had left his wife a note.

The jokes vary: some often offer a glimpse into the obsessions of the art world, some are about relationships, and some turn on more existential concerns.


Over the years, he has retouched the drawing using a variety of techniques: silk-screening the image in multiple colours and positions, enhancing it with watercolours, stickers, found photos, texts, etc.

…so it’s really visual as an exhibition.

It’s a very nice exhibition.


I would probably say it’s em… eclectic, um a lot of different artists. I’d say it’s probably based on the oldies more than the newer music and….

…the photocopying creates kind of a, a distancing of facts.

Afterwards, what you need to understand is that it is a very spontaneous, jazz. But now jazz has become a bit uptight, meaning very intellectual – it stays, in this period here, it stays something that is very spontaneous, an expression of something inside. It’s a very nice exhibition. I just have a big question: I don’t really understand these boxes.

There are like boxes.

Cardboard box?

All these boxes, I don’t know what they do.

I haven’t actually read the critiques, so I don’t know. Ok. I thought it was pretty colorful and pretty interesting. I don’t think I got all of it because there was a lot of images and very little text, um, but I thought it was still very nice and um, well yeah it gave me… yeah, it intrigued me to go and see the rest of the exhibition and um… what can I add?

Yes, that’s it. What is on the walls came out of the boxes, that’s what I thought…

So, I find it interesting but I don’t know anything about this artist so it’s kind of..

You’re clearly looking back from, you know, the current time to this previous period and yet it’s not entirely nostalgic but it’s trying to evoke the aesthetic of the era through todays eyes.

Very short. And my impression, I really like it because kind of the way it’s, eh, And, uh, I found it quite, like, interesting the installation the build up of it with the colours and… I mean really like the colours and stuff…

Would I recommend it? Yeah absolutely, absolutely.

…but it was the same it was a bit like, um, it was a little dark for me I mean I just don’t..

I found it quite interesting uh, to have an insight into this period through this filter, uh…

Yeah, indeed, yeah. It was quite interesting. It’s like a visual and musical trip in the ’60s and the ’70s.

So I see somebody who did collect lots of stuff about these musicians, like paper articles and photos, things like that and then it becomes art because he’s hanging them on the wall with like a target board. And I am curious about the meaning of these circles uh and these words I cannot place them so…

Too cheap and a bit in a way of like these copies and then with the laminated… and um…

…and I find the title interesting because you can read it as a musical session.

I don’t know it doesn’t really touch me and its also a bit like…

I suppose it’s something a song text or something but I’m not sure about that. So I have questions…um…yeah and it’s really…it’s America?

Yeah it doesn’t really touch me.

But you can read it also for his, uh, time in life, now in his late career, maybe. Yeah, you can…

Um, yeah. It’s a concept and I have nothing against concepts but I want to understand them and now I’m asking myself or it’s just too simple or it’s something I don’t get?

It’s open to interpretation. Maybe I have a little bit of a problem with the overflow of… I think it’s quite difficult for people not to get tired from the start on coming in the exhibition. I would have maybe rather concentrated it…

And sometimes I think pop art is maybe a little bit too simple for me it’s just what it is. But that’s why my curiosity is in the circles because it looks like a symbol for something and I… yeah… and I’m thinking about the relevance in this period of time. Why should we show it right now. Yeah. Yeah, so…

Yeah but that’s the thing. In my opinion contemporary art is built on references to references to references…

Archive of rock and roll history, blues, soul all the ’60s, ’70s history.

What is funny to see is that — well, in a long-term perspective — to see this environment, this way of life in which it developed. It’s interesting because we see the echoes between the two — the lifestyle that is, shall we say, quite strict, these lifestyle codes that are coded, very closed — and then this music that explodes completely when you hear it.

And we’re here because friends visiting from New York wanted to see the show because he knows this artist. But that’s precisely the kind of boring art that he likes and actually collects himself.

Yeah but American and smaller even, like… a certain part.

Well, unfortunately, here we can’t hear it very well — but it takes hold of you… I find that fascinating. The jazz has a force inside of it that breaks with these codes, that explodes them.

Yeah — I don’t know, this doesn’t… doesn’t appeal to me.

Ruppersberg puts the vestiges of history to infinite variations, and in so doing he breathes life into a culture threatened with oblivion, even though it is an integral part of our history and subjectivity.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah and maybe as a woman, seeing all those women from the ’50s, for me the women from the ’50s are the home stay, stay at home wives, you know looking good… It’s not what we are anymore. And that’s why maybe it’s not so appealing. On another level, like… yeah ’50s, emancipation was too far, you know. Yeah. Voila.

But one thing you said is true and I hadn’t picked on that is the Americana theme… it’s very American-centric.

Alright, so it didn’t really catch my eye. To be honest, not my sort of thing. I didn’t have many feelings. I didn’t prepare for the exhibition and… eh… yeah, can’t really say anything, I just wanted to get out of there to be honest.

All the pictures for me don’t have the sense that is right at the beginning of the wall.

It’s an exhibition that is quite difficult, that, at the end of the day, doesn’t speak a lot.

The questions revolve around what documents must be kept for memory, for history? Where art begins and ends everyday, folklore, popular?

…in fact, I don’t know — not the point, but the working method in fact.

Yeah, we would not recommend coming to see this show.

I mean I thought it was fantastic I actually really enjoyed it because as an American who grew up in part in the 1970s at the end of that period I have a certain connection to it….

This exhibition requires a serious openness to conceptual art.

…um but whose you know spirit in some ways you know people are trying to recapture today.

I would have maybe rather concentrated it, so…

But for me it actually was kind of personal because I was around kind of the end of that period.

Whereas you know more about contemporary art than I do, so I thought that it would appeal more to you as you’re more into it but apparently not cause I always think it’s me, cause I’m…

Coolheaded, visually warm and marbled with melancholy.

No… but it’s yeah, OK.

You know Ruppersberg is an interesting artist in a lot of ways, where he is looking at all kinds of different aspects of US culture I hadn’t seen this particular project before and I enjoyed it more probably than anything else I’ve seen by him in the past.

Yeah that’s the word: “to connect”. That you cannot connect to it because it’s so… it’s too odd. Too dispersed.

I spoke with the artist and he stated to me that it is a “historical narrative of Black music in White America”. Initially we are a little lost but little by little we took these photos, clippings, documents of the time until they cannot detach his eyes.

Yeah, yes. And that’s difficult, voilà, to relate to.

Pour les vrais amateurs d’art : Robert Heinecken & Allen Ruppersberg ,#Wiels, #Brussels.

What is admirable with Wiels, is that it shows that quality works and milestones in the history of contemporary art.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with The Art Institute of Chicago.

Allen Ruppersberg, No Time Left To Start Again / The B and D of R’n’R , 2010; Silkscreen print on pegboards and cardboard boxes, laminated colour photocopies.

Curator: Devrim Bayar.

The director? He’s called Dirk.

Um… that’s it more or less.