The first of our 2016 highlights series features Marianna Simnett, Stranger Things, and a trio of the year's best 'freak moments'
‘Art’, according to the mad ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, ‘is a fire in the brain’. No one is more dedicated to melting the cerebral cortexes of their audience than Wardill whose film, No Trace of Accelerator (2016), which debuts next January at Bergen Kunsthall, Norway, uses a report about unexplained blazes plaguing a remote French town during the 1990s as the spark for a meditation on chaos, horror stories and fairytales. ‘Wardill Oeuvre Syndrome’ (e.g. feelings of vertiginous weirdness, wonder, unease) should be expected throughout.
So hypnotic, this British artist’s work palpates sinister tissues inside the body that few others can touch. He latest solo show – at Seventeen’s new gallery in New York’s Lower East Side – twins the installation she first showed in January of this year in London, Faint with Light (all works 2016), in which looped audio of Simnett hyperventilating until she’s unconscious is set to the flash of panicky strobes, with her latest film, The Needle and the Larynx, which records her voice box being Botoxed to alter its pitch and comes soundtracked by Simnett’s warped recitation of a fable. Brooding on girlhood and its traumas, she operates with the creepy elegance of Narnia’s White Witch.
I spent the year in maximum-security isolation writing about monsters, so here’s my Cerberus, a three-headed representation of this year’s best freak moments – Trump dematerialized.
1) Ed Atkins’s A Primer for Cadavers (Fitzcarraldo Editions): this mutant volume collects the artist’s writing (video scripts, prose poems, fiction) allowing Atkins to transmit his arias about the grotesquerie of living in a dystopian age straight from his narrators’ sick heads into yours: it feels magical.
2) Destroy All Monsters at London's Horse Hospital: an archival feast in honour of the Detroit noise-rock/art collective including footage of Mike Kelley honking through a vacuum cleaner and glitter-encrusted Wolf Men watching from the walls.
3) Odilon Redon’s Pegasus and the Hydra (1907) from the National Gallery’s killer show ‘Delacroix and the Birth of Modern Art’. This deranged mirage still looks like it was painted in blood and gold. See the stallion’s green wings and swoon.
Dude, what’s an ‘art show’ anyway? LA’s Laura Owens had major fun taking the concept down the rabbit-hole for her recent show at Sadie Coles, London. Among the delights were canvases covered in psychedelic smog, a broken tennis racket, Garfield – in pink! – and a spangly house (one of many textile pieces) that was also a delicious homage to Édouard Vuillard. Tired notions that an artist’s activities should be easy to ‘grasp’ got firebombed – they’re for plutocrats: Owens plays her own game and wins. Her mixed-media anarchy was another symptom of Robert Rauschenberg’s outrageously fruitful influence on the art of the living. The mythic goat, star of his Monogram (1955-59), is at Tate Modern now. Blow him a kiss.
Oneohtrix Point Never
The spectacle of a 160-piece choir, arranged by Thomas Roussel, singing Janet Jackson’s anthem ‘Rhythm Nation’ (‘No struggle, no progress!’) at the KENZO A/W 2016, show in Paris over Oneohtrix (aka Daniel Lopatin)’s montage of hi-def sonic junk and drone was unspeakably sad. It transformed a record about coming together into an elegy custom-built for the twilight of Obama’s reign.
I started watching just for Winona, having been smitten with Ms. Scissorhands since I was a goth-fixated pre-teen, but soon was sucked into this scary (and sweet) hit show, marveling at its mixtape-like reconstruction of the 1980s through dismembered fragments of Stephen King, Sixteen Candles (1984) and Poltergeist (1982). Pray Eleven (the mesmeric Millie Bobby Brown) gets her own spin-off dealing with the woes of adolescence. And, yup, the underlying suspicion of shady government forces was so 2016 …
Lead image: Emily Wardill, No trace of Accelerator, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist and carlier | gebauer, Berlin, STANDARD(OSLO), Oslo, and Altman Siegal