Interesting. The word says a lot and nothing at all. We often leverage it to describe people, projects, and ideas that we don’t quite know what to make of yet—or notions too complicated to be quickly defined. Used and abused, the word teeters on the brink of vacuity. Defining something as interesting insists on a radical subjectivity, the spark of a personal constellation of references and affinities. Yet it equally connotes the superficial bundle of affects often tendered in digital exchange.
What, then, does an interesting theory look like? Adriana Lara engages this question in The Interesting Theory Club, the Mexican artist’s first solo exhibition with the Berlin gallery Kraupa-Tuszkany Zeidler. In interviews, Lara has claimed an attraction to “the world of ideas,” and many of her projects address how information constantly circulates, transforms, and adopts different configurations in culture.
Adriana Lara, Installation view of The Interesting Theory Club, 2016
All images: Photo: Gunter Lepkowski. Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin
In 2010, she began to apply graphics to different objects and screens that visualized her interpretations of the kinds of forms that something as immaterial as a theory might take. Each work features a different motif generated by a system of intersections that the artist identifies between theories relating to technology, finance, politics, philosophy, religion, or lifestyle. Her current exhibition with Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler erects a sort of clubhouse to these ideas. Lara never reveals the specificity of the theories behind the forms that she creates, but that also doesn’t seem to be the point. With her Interesting Theory Club, Lara tackles the ambiguity of the term head-on, highlighting its stupidity and radical illegibility through objects and scenarios that balance lightness and humor with a dense, encoded formal language.
It therefore seems appropriate that The Interesting Theory Club creates a mood that points beyond individual objects and towards relationships, whether between materials, references, or spaces. Lara imbues the installation with an atmosphere that is as casual and incidental as the non-committal notion interesting insinuates. A Berber-style rug skims the floor, behind which hangs a painting made on sinewy strands of raffia, a material commonly used for hula skirts or boho giftwrapping.
Adriana Lara, Interesting Theories #21–25, Silk screen on porcelain, Dimensions variable, Edition 1/3 (+1AP)
In the adjoining room, tidy piles of letter-sized cartons function as provisional side tables that flank chunky leather sectional sofas. Small porcelain objects rest upon different accumulations of these cardboard boxes. The tchotchkes seem mass-produced, but each bears a unique graphic motif of interlocking forms. To date, Lara has created 37 of these forms, with each new form derived from one of the previous iterations of an “interesting theory.” Her process conflates the production of ideas with the production of objects. Yet what should we make of her gestures towards the mass-produced? Is it a commentary on how theories might be reduced to saleable objects? Yet theories, interesting or otherwise, do not only dictate the production of objects, but are also embodied in the distinct ways that each person uses an object.
Adriana Lara, Interesting Theory #10, 2012, Screen printing on lacquer on wood
Close to the door, a rectangular black canvas bearing four interlocking abstract forms hangs high in the corner. Yet the gesture evades the superficial cleverness of a mere nod to Malevich’s hanging of his iconic Black Square Painting. The height, position, and shape of Interesting Theory #10 (2012) also recall the ubiquitous flat screen televisions that we find installed in many sports clubs or hospitals. Perhaps Interesting Theory #10 imagines a conversation between these references, both existing simultaneously through the intermediary of a third, new object. Indeed, it is this moment of encounter between systems—the double-life of most theoretical and artistic production—that seems to lie at the core of the exhibition.
(Image at top: Adriana Lara, Installation view of The Interesting Theory Club, 2016. All images: Photo: Gunter Lepkowski. Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin)