BY Peter Eleey in Reviews | 05 APR 03
Featured in
Issue 74

K483: Teenage Rebel - The Bedroom Show

John Connelly Presents, New York, USA

BY Peter Eleey in Reviews | 05 APR 03

Scott Hug put together the first issue of zine-cum-magazine K48 as his graduate thesis project more than two years ago in an attempt to find a new model of artistic practice that would allow him to engage with a diverse community of artists, musicians and designers. He had hoped to stage exhibitions to accompany each number, but it was only in conjunction with the third issue's theme of teenage rebellion that he was finally able to curate a showcase of contributors to K48, which appeared at John Connelly's intimate tenth-floor nook. In a flash of curatorial genius Hug styled the gallery as a teenage bedroom, where he began living after filling the space with a bunch of period artefacts and works by about 70 of his pals. As could be expected, the quality of the work varied immensely. More interestingly, the show's achievement and shortfalls lay simultaneously in Hug's confusion of 'official' artwork with the rest of the set dressings.

Most artists contributed works on paper, which Hug hung salon-style in the frames they came in or directly on the walls with tape, tacks or clips. Eli Sudbrack's fantasy-garden wallpaper was for sale, but the thrifty-looking Michael Jackson painting and Alyssa Milano exercise video playing on a TV after a perversely hilarious puppet video by the band PFFR were props. Hug's CD collection and his journal were available for perusal among the books he was reading to prepare for the next issue of K48, which will focus on religion. Handmade T-shirts by Michael Magnan and the Providence collective Dearraindrop stuck out of a bureau holding Hug's socks and underwear. When asked, Hug shrugged but admitted that a collector could purchase the entire bureau unit - including the T-shirts and the Star Wars figures, model horses and trading cards that sat on top, alongside the framed dorky yearbook portraits Lucien Samaha took while supply teaching at high school in the mid-1980s. While not everything here may have started as art, it became assemblage in a refreshing bit of magic. Conversely, this also made for a deeply confusing curatorial strategy that overwhelmed and misconstrued small gems such as Devendra Banhart's spare but tightly rendered text drawing on Scott's desk, making it difficult for the piece to move beyond a doodle. And yet the discovery of such works in the chaos provided a thrill. Which pieces in this show would jump forward if Hug showed them next as relics of this installation, lined up separately on white gallery walls of the type he purposely avoided here?

Certainly Hug is more interested in the anti-establishment aspects of teen rebellion than in the nostalgia he inescapably evoked through the trappings of the installation. It is fair to assume, as many visitors did, that he intended the context of the bedroom to position the body of art he had selected as 'the new Outsider Art', as one critic described it. But it is the collaborative process and form that Hug has set up around K48 itself - more than the art on display here - that are the enduring values of the show, pointing towards one more innovative way of negotiating artistic practice around the gallery system. At the very least, Hug is right in line with the recent interest in artists' collectives, which may yet prove to be the clearest legacy of Larry Rinder's Whitney Biennial.

Most of the artists involved in 'Bedroom' don't match up to the predominant critical assumption that artist collectives are youth-motivated and directed. But while Hug included established artists such as Lily van der Stokker and Rachel Harrison, his theme and décor ran counter to any air of maturity and seriousness their presence might have lent to his project. However loosely arranged, the show did suggest that Hug's scene may already have too clear an idea of itself: listening to the artist describe it, it seemed that everyone in the magazine and the show was connected to everyone else in multiple ways - a condition that could eventually endanger what seems like the openness currently at the heart of K48's activities.

Yet it seems unfair to fault an artist for pushing into relief the very cliquishness that dominates the art world and setting it against the system. People responded to this show not least because they could come and talk to Hug or simply play video games with him. Living in this mini-Graceland of his teenage years, the artist-cum-publisher-cum-curator suddenly became a celebrity spokesperson for his artistic moment to media from around the world (an Italian TV programme even asked him to comment on the situation in the Middle East). Through a full roster of contributors across the three issues, the magazine has remained an intimate, personal project that is undeniably Hug's. Any assessment of 'Bedroom' ultimately comes back to the man sitting on his bed in the midst of it all: energetic, vulnerable and charmingly accessible.