Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dystopias: Adrian Ghenie, Robert Olsen

Adrian Ghenie at Kontainer

I was hoping to write a substantial piece on this one, but unfortunately I find myself distracted by some renovation projects and the mulling over of a large essay I have been considering for some time but now finally have the spare metabolic energy to produce. Regardless, I found the Dystopian thread more salient in this latest round of openings than the consideration of an idealized Utopia as suggested by the Vielmetter press release. My inclinations were confirmed by the synchronous appearance of another handful of paintings by one of my new favorites, Adrian Ghenie. Discussions of Utopia should not be taken without considerable grains of salt and serious examinations of the catastrophic fallout left in the wake of Societies' latest failed experiment in the production of mass ordering, namely the autocratic and dictatorial manifestation of Marxism that still stubbornly lingers in Europe's Socialist inclinations. Certainly, recollections of the bleak and brutal landscape of Ceauşescu's Socialist Republic provide fodder enough for the noire recombinations of memory that Ghenie mines with such textural and atmospheric richness. It's great to see the emergence of not only History as a concern of content, but as a guiding attractor for the principles of image production. Southern California, absent any deep history of it's own, has often looked with curious bewilderment at the relics of Europe's Great Millenia, politely placing a few scattered remnants of the continent's artistic patrimony in a dusty attic on a hill in Westwood known as The Getty Center. Most visitors never even get to the art, overwhelmed by the theme park architecture and sucked into the spectacular vista afforded of their own favorite landscape. It might be a healthy exercise for the arbiters of West Coast culture to occassionally poke around in this Great Repository to seek parables applicable to the present tense.....

photo: Jacques de Beaufort
Robert Olsen at Susanne Vielmetter

The ominous foreboding of the endlessly rotating Union 76, the eschatological tremblings of this Post-Historical-Pre-Apocalyptic Era, have become a ubiquitous leitmotif in popular culture. This was the weekend after all, in which the Will Smith re-make of The Omega Man opened in theatrical release. Chatting with Robert early in the evening we inevitably began discussing the coming challenges that will be hastened by the almost certain depletion of fossil fuels and the enormous impact this will have on the worldwide economy. With the absence of oil, the brutal frenzy of Capital will sputter to a halt, which will preclude not only the flawed but successful compromise of modern industrial civilization, but almost certainly will nullify the grand designs of the sanctimonious political animals that unfortunately still hall monitor the art-scene. The relevant question seems to be not "if" but "when" the paradigm shift will occur, and to what extent shall the transformation evolve. Although the sustainable civilization of hunter-gatherer culture offers a certain lure to the burnt-out denizens of this sprawling nightmare of a city, I feel like we are capable of a whole lot more. So if the goal is not to engage in some sort of Mandarin Re-Education of an already overwhelmed public, at the very least we can bring to the fore the lessons learned in that far-off land across the Atlantic. History has a lot to say about the future...but we can easily miss the message if gets muddled by the simmering rage of blindered academicians or the prestidigitations of highly motivated Dream Sellers.

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