Art in General, New York, USA
‘What is that?!’, a bemused young woman asks, pointing at an arrangement of oscillating standing fans that whistle and chirp. Her companion’s response is barely audible, but the woman’s retort rings out, ricocheting off the glass walls: ‘That’s art?!’
In Larry Bamburg’s Whistlers, Chirpers, Trillers: One Down (2008), a Plexiglass handrail, resembling those inside the Bloomberg Tower elevators, is swung back and forth by the rotating fans. A sheet of paper from a Bloomberg scratchpad flaps in the light breeze which, blown through pen caps and plastic funnels, produces the sound of birdsong that pervades the entire multilevel office space. Opposite the Bloomberg radio and television studios, below tickers that forecast weather with animated displays of thunderstorms and sunny skies, the low-tech kinetic sculpture simulates a natural habitat within the psychedelic simulated reality of architect César Pelli’s colourful glass design. In the open environment, workstations are streamlined strips of Bloomberg terminals: the signature double-screened monitors of the Bloomberg terminals flash news and financial data in a UNIX platform, ordered along stretches of desks. The only evidence of individuals among the ‘team’ is the occasional rhinestone-studded monitor frame, perhaps a trophy for high sales achieved. Thus the do-it-yourself aesthetic of the five artists selected by curator Cecilia Alemani for ‘Only Connect’, Art in General’s fourth exhibition at the Bloomberg Towers, seems a determined quest for the intimacy of dialogue in a space where communication is instead the impersonal relay of information to be manipulated and transformed into data with market value.
While the previous three iterations of the Art in General-Bloomberg Tower collaboration were limited to the building’s elevator platforms, ‘Only Connect’ wanders. On the glass wall of a meeting room, Mafalda Santos draws diagrams of artist rankings from artfacts.net, studies in solipsism limited to artists whose work Santos has recently seen. On the windows of another meeting room, Patrick Tuttofuoco’s Chindia (2008) merges China and India in a collage of photographs from his travels to create his own imaginary capital of glocalization. In Three Flying Buttresses for a Wall, (2008) Heather Rowe hides thin plywood buttresses in a niche nearby employees’ workstations, positioning them millimetres away from the wall that they should theoretically support. Tiny nails used in construction are never completely hammered in and only two long strips of glass clamped to the precarious structures keep them standing. Installed on a rarely used elevator platform, An Architecture of Silence (2008) plays the ultra low frequency sound of a song composed by artist Tom Kotik’s band at high amplitudes: two small speakers embedded in a music stand pop, buzz, and jump without sounding a single note.
‘Only Connect! [...] Live in fragments no longer’, Margaret exclaims in E.M. Forster’s Howards End (1910). For Alemani, curating an exhibition in a corporate context has meant cutting the convoluted art-speak so as to engage the outspoken, often brazenly critical Bloomberg workforce, unafraid to pose ingenuous questions – like ‘that’s art?!’ – and unconvinced by art historical justifications or impressive quotations from Baudrillard, Foucault or Lacan. But aside from its work within the worn-out cliché of bringing contemporary art to new audiences, ‘Only Connect’ has provided those art professionals involved in its organization with the invaluable opportunity to put their own practice in question. Arriving one morning for a guided tour of the exhibition, Alemani found a group of giggling employees gathered before a colleague quizzically reading aloud from the exhibition brochure’s introduction to Bamburg’s work. ‘Are you making fun of me? I wrote that!’ Alemani exclaimed.
Emily Verla Bovino
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