It's at once easy and hard to write about Three Artists Walk Into a Bar… It's easy because the show is more of an experience, and as such it should be lived. At the opening, after having a quite satisfying aperitivo, guests were taken on a bierfiets for a stroll around the Pijp and the Museumplein. For those who don't know, a “beer bike” is one of those big vehicles where several people have to pedal at once in order to move, while at the same time being served large amounts of beer. You can usually see these wonders of debauched technology trail across Amsterdam in the afternoon, powered by drunk tourists, making the locals smile and curse alternately. While we didn't really see any art during the tour (excepting Warren Neidich's neon installation at the Inkijk, on Stadhouderskade, which wasn't part of the exhibition), our 80s-styled guide introduced us to the concept of the show (when she wasn't spilling beer, that is). During the span of one month, a grand total of seventy plus artworks will be popping up in a myriad of locations all across the city and beyond, involving the widest possible range of media--from installations to videos, from press articles insulting the reader to sound installations in public toilets--more than an art show, it’s a sort of Situationist festival.
Three Artists Walk Into a Bar... was created by the Black Swan, a collective spinning-off from De Appel's Curatorial Programme 2011/2012. The name of the group comes from a theory by Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who defines the Black Swan as “an event that is unpredictable in advance but predictable in retrospective and has a high impact in society.” With these intentions the six members have tackled their show at De Appel and, in order to celebrate “unpredictability and chance in art practice and exhibition making”, their show has been aptly titled like the beginning of a joke.
Bierfiets; Photo by Catalina Iorga
Here we get to the hard part of my review. As you might have guessed, the sheer number of artists, pieces, and locations involved makes visiting each venue a daily commitment, or at least a casual cohabitation. Since most of the venues are disseminated all around the hip Pijp neighborhood (including shops and one local Albert Heijn, which for those who don't live in the Netherlands, is the most popular supermarket chain in the country), it's easier if you live in the area. In that case, you might actually just bump into art pieces as you go about your daily routines, which has to be the best way to experience art. If you are trying to see everything but you live in some other corner of the city, instead, you can check the related website, hop on your bike, and hope you catch everything on time. Because let's face it, Three artists... is not only site-specific, but also time-specific. Some pieces are only on display for a few hours, others have a timeline, others are periodical, others are one-time events. As unprofessional as it might make me (it does make me pretty unprofessional, actually), apart from the beer spree at the opening I have only had the chance the check out Ceemin Golshan's Time is Running Out. The piece consists of three objects with a temporary quality to them, left for a determined time in three different locations on April 19. The one I saw was a candle, left in the middle of Heinekenplein and carrying a little note saying: “A burning candle has been found in Amsterdam, Marie Heinekenplein. Please help us finding the owner to blow it before it's melted down.” Pretty mysterious, potentially thrilling if you accept the challenge (I didn't; I would have needed another bierfiets to get me in the mood to interact - I guess that's why relational art only works on opening day).
So that's why it's both easy and hard to write about Three Artists Walk Into a Bar. But trust me, you don't need a review, rather an exhortation. There's still another few weeks left. Do go and check something out. Perhaps make it part of your daily errands – give it twenty minutes a day. I'll try. After all, an artist a day keeps the doctor away, right? Or was that a joke too?
(Image on top right: Ceemin Golshan, Time is Running Out, 2012, mixed media; Photo by Nicola Bozzi)