Open Source: Art at the Eclipse of Capitalism

Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Germany

2015_Open_Source_Installation_view_4_(photo__def_image)-cmyk.jpg

‘Open Source: Art at the Eclipse of Capitalism’, 2015, exhibition view

‘Open Source: Art at the Eclipse of Capitalism’, 2015, exhibition view

Perhaps the only endearing aspects of this sprawling group exhibition – occupying Galerie Max Hetzler’s two spaces in Berlin and one in Paris (of which, I admit, I saw only the Berlin part) and guest curated by Lisa Schiff and Leslie Fritz of SFA Art Advisory and Artuner.com founder, Eugenio Re Rebaudengo – were its apparently inadvertent contradictions. These resulted from an attempt to mould the anti-commodity concept implied in the title – ‘Open Source: Art at the Eclipse of Capitalism’ – to the kind of large-format, pictorial art installation familiar to a gallery founded, not on dematerialized conceptualism, but on nuturing the careers of postmodern painters and photographers who emerged in the 1980s and ’90s. Big commodities occupied the three physical exhibition spaces, but also appeared online, in the form of installation shots and images on the sales platform Artuner.com, which hosted a digital version of the exhibition. It’s possible that the clash of values could have been ironically challenging, and it was occasionally dynamic. Take Michel Majerus’s Tron 3 (ocker Pantone 143) (1999), which dovetails a silk-screened vignette of early digital-era graphics into the corner of a square of yellow emulsion: if you removed the silk-screened canvas and completed the square, it could have been a wall painting by Günther Förg, an artist of the gallery’s original programme.

The exhibition’s press materials enlisted the American economist Jeremy Rifkin to interpret the internet as a community-minded idyll, bent on ‘social’ rather than ‘market’ capital (the distinction is Rifkin’s). But the most discernable narrative here was the trickle-down strategy of sanctioning younger artists by surrounding them with a few market mainstays (Richard Prince, Frank Stella, Christopher Wool). Otherwise, the juxtapositions were piecemeal and incoherent, with only the stalest signifiers of digital culture to connect the contingencies of the sprawl.

If gathering works that the curators believed ‘have attended to [the economy] critically in opposition to the singular discourse of the art market’ was a claim that was hard to swallow, it did reflect the self-denying, anti-production conceits that characterize the work of many of the younger artists here. Reena Spaulings’s Later Seascape (2015), for instance – produced by a floor cleaner programmed to smear interior-design-quality household paint over canvas – denounced its own production as indiscriminately mechanical. The one-liner of its title, which pitches a resemblance to late paintings by JMW Turner, pre-empted any possible critique of its own cynicism by suggesting that it merely reflects the cynicism of the culture, or its collectors (that posh paint was meant for their apartments). From Megan Marrin & Tyler Dobson’s Postkartenständer (Postcard Stand, 2014), on which photo-realist selfie paintings were offered as postcards stacked among kitschy tourist views, to Allora & Calzadilla’s Contract (SWMU 10) (2015), a huge silkscreen of the lush, tourist brochure-style palm trees printed over a Warholish sweep of grey paint (a sign of the silkscreen medium itself), representation was shown helplessly submitting to the production which makes it visible.

Given that Andy Warhol is the primary source of a tradition that builds on the interface between the technologically reproduced image and the humanist portrait, it was not surprising that he haunted this show, qualifying its novelties as reiterations or, as in Contract, reiterations of reiterations. With its head-like console, Katja Novitskova’s electronic baby rocker, DuetSoothe LX (2014), did look vaguely figural, but the diagrams of interacting protein molecules printed onto its acetate bib asserted the post-human, sculpture-as-cyborg narrative too heavyhandedly. Rendering human limbs as reproducible cyphers, Josh Kline’s 3D-printed heads and hands (Nine to Five, 2015) cast sculptural figuration, and the human form it celebrated, as a disposable product on a janitor’s trolley. Warhol never stooped to such reductiveness because he never assumed a moralistic remove from the burgeoning image traffic he was reproducing. It was always clear that he was as much in thrall to its seductions and rewards as his audience.

Mark Prince is an artist and writer living in Berlin.

Issue 172

First published in Issue 172

Jun - Aug 2015

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018