Exquisite Corpse, or, The Show That Curates Itself
Initiated by Andrew Berardini
Mihai Nicodim Gallery
July 11 – August 15
Closing Reception: Saturday, August 15, 6-9 pm
Exquisite corpse is a game. A story is composed, a line written, and the
next person writes the next and the story moves and tumbles at sudden
changes of fortune and whimsy. The tales quickly become derailed, fucked
up, surreal. The murdered brother of one-line turns out to be a scuffed
and cherished stuffed animal in the next. The sultry sex scene transforms
into a delusion told by a mailman in deep conversation with his French
poodle. So the story goes.
Then there’s the Summer Group Show, a ubiquitous and almost entirely
useless animal that lumbers around every June to haphazardly stuff
galleries with art. Named after French New Wave films or Joy Division
songs or under some vague-ish medium: “Sculpture,” (which though
flavorless isn’t dishonest). More often these SGSs are composite of
friends, a spare few plucked from legions of art school chums and bar
mates, or worse, the uneven programs of “gallery artists” (or rather
whatever we got in the backroom that ain’t sold yet). These can be fun,
there’s no doubt, and their laziness is truly the laziness of summer, but
there’s rarely any sense of adventure, expectancy, or play. Rarely do we
wonder what comes next or thrill at the twists and turns of an unfolding,
an unraveling, a story. But galleries should be filled with art. This is a
problem that needs some attempt at solving.
So Exquisite Corpse, or, The Show That Curates Itself is an exhibition
that coalesces and organizes with each new incarnation. I choose somebody.
They choose somebody else. The show is rethought, recalibrated every week.
The next person curates the next person. The theme of the show is decided
by the artists, each one surveying the work at hand and adding. They can
add their own press releases, books, plays, strategic actions, etc. I hope
it doesn’t devolve into a me-and-my-friends show, but fuck it, it isn’t my
story anymore, I’ve only control over the first line. I didn’t want the
usual suspects trotted out, the limitations of my accomplices or even the
boundaries of my vision. So other than having chosen the form, I chose
with optimism the first artists, the always unexpected Lucky Dragons (Luke
Fischbeck and Sarah Rara).
They choose the next. The story will coalesce and collapse in titillating
ways from there. It fails or succeeds one artist at a time.
Rather than an opening party there will be a closing, when the show is
finally done and will provide at the very least a very good party.
So the experiment failed. Or maybe it succeeded. All of the clichés of a
summer group show were engaged in. Artists chose their friends. People
chose things that were lying around their studio (the equivalent of the
dealers unsold items in the backroom). It had a cute title. Even a great
closing party is somewhat doubtful, many of the artists have emailed to
tell me they’re going to be out of town.
But it was an experiment, a game, it succeeded in being unexpected. Each
artist chose another, most I didn’t know from before, or if I knew them I
didn’t know their work, or if I did know their work, they brought
something unusual, different from what they normally do. Looking at the
show what is the new theme? What form did the artists curate the show
into? In every case, in one form or another, the exhibition is about
collaborations. Lucky Dragons’ Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara are longtime
partners in art and music making, Emily Mast collaborated with grace and
aplomb with everyone who walked in for some fresh bread. Jeremy Rocine
collaborated with the friends who walked in so that he could draw their
mouths describing where they live, Robert Crouch collaborated with Nayland
Blake and Christopher Oliveria, Christopher Oliveria collaborated with
Manual Ocampo, Corrina Peipon collaborated with Jill Spector in an ongoing
project called Friends & Relations.
Collaborations in the art world usually don’t have much legs marketwise.
Exceptions abound, Gibert & George, Christo & Jean Claude, Fischli &
Weiss, but usually the art-buying public prefers individual gestures, the
myth of the lonely genius. So I’m glad to have opened a space for
collaborations, which can’t always find an easy home.
So the show succeeds in being an ongoing experiment. My curation was a
collaboration with the artists. The artists collaborated with each other.
Unexpected things happened. The show is polyglot and heterogeneous, a
cacophonous chorus, disparate voices coming together in one form or
another. So it failed and succeeded.
So now, there will be a party. Come have a beer. Mingle. Laugh. Concoct
new projects. Gossip about market trends, potential opportunities, run
into people you haven’t seen but wanted to, enjoy the last few lazy chords
of summer, it's almost over now anyway.