Bureau is pleased to announce City Grammar, a two-person exhibition by Nanna Debois Buhl (DK) and Liz Linden (US) that develops their shared interest in mapping urban life by charting the city's anonymous signs and personal signatures. The gallery's location in the thriving urban environment of southeast Chinatown in downtown Manhattan situates the exhibition amidst its own subject matter: the peculiarities of the dense city scape.
Originally taking the form of an artist book, City Grammar, (Revolver Publishing, 2010), this exhibition grows from the artists' ongoing investigation into the semiotics of the city, appropriating the quotidian signs of human activity, and rereading them to reveal new signification coded in our environment. These often-small details and signs become synecdoches, standing in for the city at large, as it is determined by the artifacts of its emotional, historical, economic and political lives.
All of the works on view are engaged in the act of finding, promoting discovery within the everyday, moving from the concrete to the abstract. One method used by both Buhl and Linden in their practices is the dérive, a walk without a destination in mind, in this case through the streets of New York. In their new collaborative work Stormy Weather, the artists take this approach literally, walking through the city using cheap, trashed umbrellas as a navigational structure to systematize their movements. The collected umbrellas form a site-specific installation that incorporates sound elements lifted from National Public Radio's Marketplace Morning Report, pointing to the conflation of "chance" operations of weather prediction and the use of similar tropes in determining the market. Linden's work, all my lists…, inverts the dérive formula, by presenting as a wallpaper her preemptive maps to the streetscape: the lists she drafts as a starting point from which to deviate as she enters her day. A site-specific installation features a selection of every shopping list, to do list, address list, etc., that the artist has written since 2002, which becomes a literal portrait of the artist's intentions as well as a testament to their seemingly constant derailing.
SUITCASEWISDOM, another collaborative work, was created by strategically purchasing knock-off luggage from the kind of mixed-use tourist stores commonly found in New York's Chinatown, arranging them to form a poem: a short text about historical and contemporary exploration and travel when read from suitcase to suitcase across their aspirationally-branded nameplates. Buhl's Sneakers in the Sky offers alternative readings of urban signs, exploring the phenomenon found in many American cities: shoes hanging from power cables, trees and light poles. Examined through photography and sound recordings, the shoes appear as signs in urban space, but the readings, spanning from transitional rites, gang activity and drug sales, to mere kids play, are innumerable.
Nanna Debois Buhl is a Danish visual artist based in New York and Copenhagen. She participated in The Whitney Independent Study Program, New York (2008-09) and received her MFA from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2006). She has exhibited internationally and nationally, recently at Art in General, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Eleven Rivington, NY; Lunds Konsthall, Sweden; Ar/Ge Kunst, Italy; Kunsthallen Brandts, Denmark; and Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark. Her work is in the collections of the Museum for Contemporary Art and The National Museum of Photography, Denmark.