in Features | 18 AUG 16
Featured in
Issue 181

25 Artworks: 2011–15

To celebrate frieze’s quarter century, the editors choose 25 key artworks: one for each year of the magazine’s existence

in Features | 18 AUG 16

Ryan Trecartin, P.opular (section ish), 2009, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

2011 — Ryan Trecartin, Any Ever

The hybrid identities of the internet age are everywhere in Ryan Trecartin’s videos. Layered flows of information emerge as on-screen superimposition and rapid cutting, accompanied by the repetitive, disjointed chatter of bizarre characters who finish each other’s sentences. Fragments of speech appear to hold meaning only to dissipate under the onslaught of further non sequiturs. Topics come in and out of focus – globalization, the sorority, family dynamics. For Trecartin, this refashioning of language beyond reason offers the possibility of new articulations of subjectivity, outside of recognized racial and gender identities. Indeed, his characters belong to an uncategorizable otherness – or, rather, queerness – signalled by bodies painted in lurid colours and with constantly shifting vocal registers. ‘Any Ever’, Trecartin’s 2011 show at New York’s MoMA PS1, was the most fully realized of the artist’s video environments to date – mostly made with his frequent collaborator Lizzie Fitch – giving physical form to his potent mixture of the prosaic and the absurd. — Paul Clinton

Other significant works: Chim Pom, Real Times; Omer Fast, 5,000 Feet Is the Best; Ragnar Kjartansson, Bliss; Oliver Laric, Copy Critique; Paulo Nazareth, News from the Americas; Imran Qureshi, Blessings upon the Land of My Love; Frances Stark, My Best Thing

Ed Atkins, Us Dead Talk Love, 2012, installation view at Chisenhale Gallery, London. Courtesy: the artist and Cabinet, London; photograph: Andy Keate

2012 — Ed Atkins, Us Dead Talk Love

A dual-screen installation first shown at London’s Chisenhale Gallery, Ed Atkins’s Us Dead Talk Love is an acutely contemporary meditation on the oldest questions: about how humans relate to one another and to death as the great unknown. Atkins updates Maurice Blanchot’s paradox of the corpse – as the thing that both is and is not the dead person – for the HD-era: the more ‘real’ and minutely detailed the digital image, the more remote and alien the object seems. Us Dead Talk Love features a doubled CGI avatar – a disembodied head that delivers a wonderfully digressive monologue on the possibility of intimacy, occasioned by finding an eyelash under his foreskin. When the head rolls over we see the dark blankness of its interior: who can ever know what is going on inside another person’s mind? Alongside the work of Atkins’s contemporaries, from Benedict Drew to Laure Prouvost, Us Dead Talk Love represents a new viscerality in digital filmmaking – not only in its abject subject matter, but also in the queasily direct sensory response provoked by its disjunctive montage of sound, image and word. — Amy Sherlock

Other significant works: Kader Attia, The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures; Jana Euler, Try one in abstraction with manpower under control of aesthetic conditions; Sanya Kantarovsky, An Episode from History; Helen Marten, Geologic Amounts of Sober Time (Mozart Drunks); Wu Tsang, Wildness

Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue, 2013, video still. Courtesy: the artist, Silex Films and kamel mennour, Paris

2013 — Camille Henrot, Grosse Fatigue

Competing, disjunctive and oppositional forces are at work in Camille Henrot’s breakthrough film installation, which first appeared in (and acted, to my mind, as the lodestar for) Massimiliano Gioni’s expansive exhibition for the 55th Venice Biennale, ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’. Synthesizing myth and storytelling, science and nature, knowledge and belief, spoken-word poetry and digital-image production, Grosse Fatigue is, in effect, a creation story for the internet age. Layers of desktop images combine with footage shot in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a script compiling varied accounts of the beginning of the world from ancient civilizations. It arrived at a moment when a new interest in evolutionary theory – both in science and philosophy – mixed with a mode of artistic practice favouring ethnographic research, which has now become known as the ‘anthropological turn’. — Paul Teasdale

Other significant works: John Akomfrah, The Stuart Hall Project; Phyllida Barlow, untitled: dock: 5hungblocks; Jérôme Bel, Disabled Theater; Aleksandra Domanović, Little Sister; Jon Rafman, Still Life (Betamale); Rachel Rose, Sitting Feeding Sleeping

Pierre Huyghe, Human Mask, 2014, video still. Courtesy: the artist, Hauser & Wirth, London, and Anna Lena Films, Paris

2014 — Pierre Huyghe, Human Mask

The repetition of our working lives, the cycles of nature and the complexity of non-human forms of intelligence and communication have long been central to the French artist Pierre Huyghe’s work. This 19-minute film, Human Mask, was included in his exhibition ‘IN. BORDER. DEEP.’ at Hauser & Wirth, London, in 2014. Alongside it were aquariums filled with biotopes transplanted from Claude Monet’s ponds, a sculpture heated to the temperature of the human body, and a video of 30-million-year-old copulating insects preserved in amber. Human Mask was partially shot on a drone camera in post-tsunami Fukushima in 2011. It features a monkey, wearing a wig and a noh-inspired mask, who wanders around an abandoned restaurant like a melancholy, shape-shifting waitress. As climate change ravages the environment and the ethics of our human-centric relationship with other species is increasingly questioned, Huyghe’s film is a hallucinogenic lament for a ravaged past and a grim future – one that will only be saved if we insist on new ways of interacting with the planet. — Jennifer Higgie

Other significant works: Verena Dengler, Dengled Up in Blue; Fritz Haeg, Salmon Creek Farm; Ella Kruglyanskaya, How To Work Together; Renata Lucas, Museum of the Diagonal Man; Park McArthur, Ramps; Cally Spooner, And You Were Wonderful On Stage; Jordan Wolfson, (Female Figure)

Martine Syms, Notes on Gesture, 2015, video still. Courtesy: the artist and Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York

2015 — Martine Syms, Notes on Gesture

Hands speak the same language everywhere: this is the premise of the 17th-century treatise, Chirologia: Or the Natural Language of the Hand, which is a touchstone for Martine Syms’s Notes on Gesture. Only they don’t, really: hands have their own dialects, their own vernacular. In this ten-minute film, composed of jerkily looping memes, Syms and her collaborator, the artist Diamond Stingily, catalogue a specific, immediately recognizable, vocabulary of braid-flicks, pouts and dance moves that pertain to African-American women: ‘famous women, infamous women and unknown women’, as the artist says. Tweaking a famous quip by US comedian Paul Mooney, the sentiment underpinning Notes on Gesture is: ‘Everyone wanna be a black woman but no-one wanna be a black woman.’ Meaning: everybody wants to shake it like Beyoncé, but who wants to be amongst the 25 percent of black women in the US living in poverty? Notes on Gesture shares Mooney’s taut should-we-laugh/shouldn’t-we-laugh humour at a moment in which the symbolism of black hands – raised in a Black Power salute or in the air on police request – has rarely been more charged. — Amy Sherlock

Other significant works: Simon Denny, Secret Power; Anthea Hamilton, Project for Door (After Gaetano Pesce); Marguerit Humeau, Cleopatra, Synthetic Voice and Incantation; Anne Imhof, DEAL; Rachel Maclean, Feed Me; James Richards, Video at Night; Anicka Yi, Grabbing at Newer Vegetables