Thursday, 24 January 2013

Gerard Byrne - Whitechapel Gallery

Gerard Byrne, from A Man and a Woman Make Love, 2012

Gerard Byrne: A State of Neutral Pleasure, is at the Whitechapel Gallery until 8 March 2013.
Byrne works in video and photography. His signature works are filmed reconstructions of published discussions and interviews, including: 
1984 and Beyond (2005-7): a discussion between 12 science fiction writers, including Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, about their visions of the future, originally published by Playboy in the 1960s

Homme à Femmes (2004): an interview with Jean-Paul Sartre published in 1972
A man and a woman make love (2012): a discussion about sex by a group of  Surrealists, conducted in 1928
A thing is a hole in a thing it is not (2010): a radio interview with Minimalists Frank Stella, Don Judd and Dan Flavin, broadcast in 1964
Why it’s time for Imperial, again (1998-2002): a dialogue between Frank Sinatra and Lee Iacocca (chairman of Chrysler) discussing the merits of the 1981 Chrysler Imperial
What do Byrne's reconstructions add to the original texts? Critical responses suggest that  his multi-screen, theatrical stagings, employing (deliberately) wooden actors offer a stimulating, and occasionally hilarious, dislocation of past and present, a Brechtian distancing from the sometimes preposterous ideas and beliefs which underpin the ideologies of our times. Or something like that? It all looks pretty enagaging.
I am looking forward, in particular, to seeing A thing is a hole in a thing it is not which uses the original sound recording of Frank Stella, Don Judd and Dan Flavin discussing Minimalism, and presumably includes Stella's famous assertion of materialist aesthetics:
I always get into arguments with people who want to retain the old values in painting – the humanistic values that they always find on the canvas. If you pin them down, they always end up asserting that there is something there besides the paint on the canvas. My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there.It really is an object... If the painting were lean enough, accurate enough or right enough, you would just be able to look at it. All I want anyone to get out of my paintings, and all I ever get out of them, is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion...What you see is what you see. 
Frank Stella in Glaser, Bruce and Lippard, Lucy R. (1966) "Questions to Stella and Judd", Art News, September, (discussion originally broadcast on WBAI-FM, New York, February 1964 as "New Nihilism or New Art?"), reprinted in Battcock, Gregory ed. (1968) Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, London: Studio Vista, pp157-8
The exhibition also includes still photographs from Byrne's series of pictures of newsstands and A country road. A tree. Evening - taking its title from the opening stage direction in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Read reviews of the exhibition by Adrian Searle and Laura Cumming; see also article by Brian Dillon, and an interview in Tate Etc.
Gerard Byrne, from 1984 and Beyond 2005–7

Gerard Byrne, from 1984 and Beyond 2005–7

Gerard Byrne,Why it’s time for Imperial, again, 1998-2002

Gerard Byrne, from A thing is a hole in a thing it is not , 2010

Gerard Byrne, Four weeks and two days ago

Gerard Byrne, A country road. A tree. Evening

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