Launched in April of this year in the old Dia:Chelsea building, X is a terminal, year-long, non-profit initiative. It is the collaborative effort of a long list of global heavyweights in the art world, ranging from commercial gallerists like Elizabeth Dee (X’s founder) and Paula Cooper, to artists like Cindy Sherman and Ryan Trecartin, and multi-taskers like Matthew Higgs. In an economy where ‘pop ups’ seem to be the most marketable approach to any venture, X Initiative seems to be capitalizing on the format by bringing in-depth exhibitions, one-night performances, lectures, and site-specific, artist intervention projects (programming more akin to museum or non-profit spaces than to Chelsea gallery spaces) to the stripped down, raw warehouse feeling of the building. Presenting programming in four phases (one per season), X is now in its second phase, and its projects seem to be proving its own hype, roughing up the edges of the staid white wall gallery world that is Chelsea.
What makes the X projects interesting are the ways in which the spaces, and the work, feel less stubbornly permanent and less uncomfortably grand. Instead, the projects feel more hybrid and immediate, as if the shows are squatting in a space not necessarily meant for them. For example, currently on view on the second floor is Keren Cytter’s installation that includes video projection and drawings. The videos, mostly shot in cheap and badly lit domestic interiors, use fragmentation, cinematic ruptures, and non-linearity to depict a mélange of dysfunctional relationships and families. Cytter’s installation is a choreographed melody in which synchronized videos play off and against each other and several darkened large scale drawings suddenly become illuminated. Moving through Cytter’s theatrical display feels like something like exploring a forgotten, abandoned house. The cavernous space of the building, without guards and proper lighting and little didactic directional focus, combined with the spare, no-frills installation and echoing the content of the work, makes it feel raw and relevant. During my own hour long-long creep through the space, a massive metal door leading to a wide shaft was open in the middle of the installation, with several men working somewhat noisily inside the cavern, all of which added a bit of strange discomfort to the experience of the work.
On the floor above Cytter is a series of Luke Fowler’s films. A total of four of this Scottish artist’s experimental documentary films are being shown throughout the exhibition, with one film playing on a loop each day of the week that the space is open. On my visit, I caught Bogman Palmjaguar (2007), a 30-minute film about a socially misanthropic man who withdrew into nature after a series of disturbing events. Fowler’s films, shot on 16 mm, are visually lush, and combine original footage with archival materials to create meandering, throughtful narratives that are just as idiosyncratic as the subjects of his films. For the film installation, X built a mini, 3 walled theater, situated at an angle in the middle of the expansive third floor of the building. The askance room inside a room works well to create a lonely theater, appropriate for Fowler’s sometimes frenetic, but ultimately sobering films.
Other projects currently at X include Tris Vonna-Michell, Today and Everyday, and Fritz Haeg’s Colony X in the San Gabriels.
(Images: Installation views, Luke Fowler and Keren Cytter. Courtesy X Initiative.)