in Frieze | 04 MAR 01
Featured in
Issue 57

Anti-Social Handbooks

How to Subvert the System

in Frieze | 04 MAR 01

In a clear reversal of Oscar Wilde's maxim that 'all art is quite useless', the four artists' books published by Book Works under the umbrella title 'access/excess'(all books 2000), and curated by Stefan Kalmar, take the form of instruction manuals for monitoring contemporary control systems.

Doug Aitken's Diamond Sea, for example, is a photographic record of his infiltration of Diamond Areas 1 and 2 - the world's richest diamond mine - along the coastline of the Namibian desert. Janice Kerbel's 15 Lombard Street is a master-plan of how to rob a particular bank in the City of London, complete with details of CCTV surveillance blind spots and money transportation. Angela Bulloch presents Rule Book, a selection of social regulations - from Birkenstock Care Tips to The Standing Order of The House of Commons - while Nils Norman, in The Contemporary Picturesque, responds to the security and defence measures in modern architecture - surface studs, rubbish cages and anti-poster surfaces - with the 'vernacular architecture of protest culture': barricades, earth bunkers and tree houses.

Surveying the contemporary culture of surveillance, the 'access/excess' project suggests that if the looping tangle of social control systems can no longer be avoided, it can at least be played at its own game.