BY Carl Freedman in Reviews | 08 JUN 95
Featured in
Issue 23

Take Me (I'm Yours)

BY Carl Freedman in Reviews | 08 JUN 95

'Take Me (I'm Yours)' attempts to restructure the relationship between art and the viewer through redefining art as a cultural activity that functions in a comparable manner to other areas of everyday life. The exhibition offers the viewer alternative forms of interaction with the artworks, based on the tenuous presupposition that art cannot be fully experienced using simply the eyes, the mind, and the soul. The show's curator, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, argues that with the removal of the normal barriers and boundaries associated with the exhibition of art, the viewer has the opportunity of increased access to the art work's essential meaning. Sadly, the result is a hotchpotch of gimmicky ideas with little coherence or consistency and repeated contradictions of the claimed fundamental 'rejection of the preciousness of the original'.

In many instances, the 'real' art works are presented in the usual 'do not touch' form, whilst the viewers' participation is rewarded with some worthless gesture or rubbish souvenir. Hans-Peter Feldman showed some obscure photographs and documents, a selection of kitsch hand-painted plaster models, metal toy cars, and tinted photographs in cheap Woolworth's frames. These were displayed in the protective environs of perspex exhibition display cases, with the lucky viewer generously invited to take 'as many as you want' from an unlimited supply of small, scrappy photocopies of banal images fixed around the walls. A series of Wolfgang Tillmans' magazine photographs were tacked in a similar casual style to another wall, yet these were now presented as untouchable precious originals. Instead, the viewer was offered a copy of an out-of-date German newspaper containing an extremely dull example of Tillmans' work. Jef Geys' neo-pop plastic sculptural abstractions of different fruits were kept behind wire-rope barriers, though the viewer was permitted to buy a real piece of fruit from a bowl of rather stale looking apples and oranges at the front desk. In place of a £100,000 Gilbert and George photo piece, you get a free badge.

It was difficult not to feel insulted by these puerile interventions. There was a complete lack of any sense of the artists offering something substantial, either of themselves or of their work. Douglas Gordon's unoriginal idea of offering himself as a prize for a dinner date, besides conceitedly presuming the desirability of his own company, had no element of sacrifice, of really giving anything up of himself. He could have been offering his escort service each and every night for the full duration of the exhibition, not just at some nice West End restaurant, but at pie and eel shops and strip clubs down the Old Kent Road.

One whole room had been transformed by Christian Boltanski into a third-rate jumble sale, with mounds of used clothing covering the floor. People with a desperate shortage of clothing could buy a plastic carrier bag and stuff it as full as possible with needed items. But this was not only charitable benefaction; it was also an authentic Boltanski art work, supposedly reflecting upon themes of identity, loss, and memory, the carrier bags (printed with Boltanski's name and the word 'Dispersal') constituting a collectible unlimited edition. The viewer's gullibility was perhaps a necessary contribution to complete this particular piece.

Fabrice Hybert's work required a direct physical interaction. The viewer could play on his swings, or wear a funny hat whilst standing on a revolving stand and at the same time watch themselves in a mirror, or walk on some stilts. It was a kind of impoverished, playschool version of Franz West's work, who was also included in the exhibition. In this context, however, the complexities of West's ontological investigation into the nature of art were unavoidably lost, and an explanatory sign on the gallery wall was of such crude over-simplification that his work appeared virtually meaningless.

Obrist's egalitarian idealism implies that art is something immoral and elitist unless easily consumed by the masses, but he only succeeds in trivialising art and reducing it to a form of dumb recreation. The transparent absence of critical resolution was underlined by Andrea Schlieker's fatuous assertion that 'Take me (I'm yours)' is in close relation to Joseph Beuys and William Morris, utterly contradicting the reality of the exhibition ­ aesthetic disinterest and a propensity for novelty and innovation are hardly synonymous with radicality or the potential transformative powers of art. Although the curator is primarily responsible for the failures of the exhibition, the artists must also accept a degree of culpability for their complicity in this inexcusable travesty of art.