Suchan Kinoshita persistently continues to put forth messy, investigative proposals in the manner of the early 1990s - showing a blaring predilection for process and institutional critique. All of this can be seen in 'First Marriage', the artist's first major retrospective, at the Museum for Contemporary Art in Antwerp (MuHKA). Personal proposals woven into inviting, occasionally interactive, installations filled the gallery with groping lo-fi meanderings. But the show also transformed the entire ground floor of this architecturally dated museum - a transformation no doubt welcomed by a museum that justifiably complains of its awkward 1980s redesign - and questioned museum protocol and visitor conduct. It was a perfect marriage.
Kinoshita's revisions took the viewer through a mystifying network of plywood cabins, look-out posts and constructed confines that either opened to wide empty spaces or closed in on themselves. These works involved the architecture of the building, but in a way that simply recognized it as a point of departure. Where all this was leading was far more complex and had much more to do with the poetic mechanisms of human relationships - with life - than with any formal deconstruction of space.
The confusion started outside. Only after walking around the building did it become apparent that the wooden construction was in fact an artwork hiding the main entrance. Sure enough an arrow, easily overlooked, pointed to a narrow emergency exit, one of two temporary entrances. But only inside did it become clear that Kinoshita, and not some random workman, was responsible for these sly shifts. Greeted by a makeshift, desk-like construction, we were assured by a museum employee (who could just as well have been an actor) that we were indeed in the exhibition. To the left, in a round room, a puzzling series of open shelves with a collection of odd things, a kind of memory storage, stood across from a polystyrene partition from which hung a red frilly dress (Staubstelle, Dust Site, 1995). Small labels were stuck along the walls, but instead of offering the viewer titles or explanations, each listed just a date and a name. Although these names refer to curators, museum directors and artists whom Kinoshita knows, they were, more importantly, actors in a dream she had 15 years ago. In it she was surrounded by all the people she had ever met, who convened in one space and one time in her head. The date underneath the name is the day when in reality they first met. These names and this dream are a thread throughout the show, linking older works with more recent ones, in terms of concept as well as form. This dream of meetings is analogous to a notion of 'auditorium', a place where one comes together with others to listen or be listened to, to act or react, to watch or to be watched.
The labels lead to the next space, where three desks, each with a typewriter and stacks of paper, were neatly lined up. An enigmatic animated film of a ticking clock was projected on to the opposite wall. The room was Kafka-like in its suggestion of futile bureaucracy.
The analogue 'brain' of the show, a work called Observatoire (Observatory, 1998), was in the hall of the closed main entrance, whose glass sliding doors were still uselessly operating. Here the official central reception was still a functioning workplace (or were they all actors?) but was engulfed by a series of open shelves, an archive of details referring to other parts of the exhibition. The visitors inside this 'brain' witnessed a noisy collapse of order - museum, viewer, maker, participant - and all found themselves thrown into an Kabakovian world (though minus his trademark nostalgia), where Janet Cardiff's theatricality met the sincere but twisted integrity of an early Bond bad-guy-scientist, wrapped up in ManfreDu Schu-like dirty process.