John Russell: DOGGO

26.08.2017-12.11.2017
John Russell: DOGGO
Deutsch
Week

Eröffnung: Freitag, 25. August 2017 

John Russell inszeniert in seinen Filmen, Bildern, Büchern und Installationen Vorstellungen totaler Hybridität von Geschlecht, Natur, Tier und Mensch, von real, virtuell und fiktiv, von Erzählung, Theorie, Religion und Kunst. Seine Fiktionen entwickeln sich zwischen Anarchie, Vakuum und Dystopie, in ihnen ist alles möglich und unser Leben nur noch ein Netzwerk. Satire trifft auf Historienmalerei trifft auf Science Fiction, Vision und Exzess, und wir stehen einer Zukunft gegenüber, die gerade zur Hintertür hereinkommt.

Mit Cheryl Donegan (USA, *1962) und John Russell (UK, *1963) zeigen wir in zwei Einzelausstellungen eine Künstlerin und einen Künstler, die in den 1990er Jahren eine erste Karriere hatten: Donegan als Vertreterin der Video-Kunst, Russell als Teil des legendären britischen Kollektivs BANK. Donegan und Russell haben in der Folge ihre Arbeit kontinuierlich weiterentwickelt, streckenweise jedoch ausserhalb des Kunstmarktes, was zu einer verminderten Wahrnehmung der beiden geführt hat. Nun werden sie von einer neuen Generation von interessierten Künstlerinnen und Künstlern wieder entdeckt. 

Zur Ausstellung erscheint ein Doggo, ein Künstlerbuch mit Texten von John Russell, in Zusammenarbeit mit [NAME] in Miami (in Englisch).

A large crowd is standing in a seductive and infinite ocean
IN THE THROES OF ECSTASY. Some of these have bulbous
cartoon features, limbs grafted with flowers, terminal
diseases, stained skin or bodies covered in insects.
These are people saying ‘YES’ to life, caught in the thrall
of the event and SPREADING THEIR DESIRE THROUGHOUT
THE WORLD LIKE A CONTAGION. It may be unclear
whether these poses are the result of free will or fixed as
narrative or compositional elements within a wider
philosophical or political scenario; that is, whether this
free will is predetermined by someone else’s idea of freedom,
or whether it is somehow more spontaneous. But, anyway,
these questions are subsidiary to the performative or ILLOCUTIONARY
FORCE of the event, happening at this
moment, second-by-second, as the staging of a staging,
or PRESENTATION OF A PRESENTATION. And it does not
matter anymore who wrote the script originally because
this is an expression, or embodiment, of the fiction of an
artwork-as-event-as-prophesy and/or curse of the unleashing
of THE POWER OF THE FALSE which anyway does not
have to be ‘unleashed’ because it is always the only movement
of things beneath the appearance of generality


(resemblance and equivalence). As Fred Moten puts it, ‘Ante-
normative ... when I say ‘ante’ its with an ‘e’. It comes
first. The normative is an af ter-effect, it’s a response to
the irregular’.

A vast projection of the Aurora Borealis twists across the vaulted
ceiling of the museum, swirling purple, red, yellow, green and pink;
calibrated chromatically to track the demonic circulations of algorithmic
capital. Visitors lie on the floor to contemplate the spectacle
– a sublime scale that escapes our understanding and yet inhabits
and shapes our bodies. And beneath this, technicians have constructed
a ruggedly enchanting Landscape, complete with riverbed
and rocky earth, studded with jewels and stones and juxtaposed
with organic shapes and fungi’. A bubbling brook runs through
the middle as a format of ‘fluid negotiation between figurations of
Nature and the pastoral.’ Flowing down the shallow incline, so that
when you close your eyes the augmented sound of splashing and
lapping water relaxes your thoughts, mixing with the rhythm of
bird and insect song.


In this respect the shimmering, sun-soaked plane of the
ocean is equivalent to the illuminated surface of the image/
art object, or the lustre of a snail shell, computer
screen, star-ship exterior, missile casing, desk laminate,
sweating skin and so on. Pitched superficially at the surface
of things (abstract/virtual) as an incorporeal realm where
forms, passions, shapes and rhythms might slip and explode
as ideas, states of affairs, shapes, bodies and forces
in the real world - a world from which THEY ARE ANYWAY
NOT SEPARATED. Emerging as SINGULARITY from the
multitude of phenomena that might always have been
otherwise, tied contingently to their (cultural) ‘location’
(as for instance ART) and anyway-always reconfigurable by
the shifting forces of History and POWER.

Rounding the corner our breath is taken away by ‘Ravine,’ 2017,
which is a one mile deep gash down through the gallery floor int o
the granite substrate, falling away from us in breathtaking detail,
of crumbling rock and cracked slab, sliding into the darkness
below - which is, in fact, an exiting out through an anti-matter
portal (installed below the gallery floor) onto the brutal vacuu m
of deep space, collapsing the notion of depth across the outward
sweep of infinity and folding radical interiority onto its annih ilating
exteriority. In the distance we see glimpses of interstellar
space cruisers moving past.

This ‘distinction’ between located-ness and unlocatedness
is (for instance) already internal to Kant’s conception
of the aesthetic. Developing, in part, as a response
to the philosophical problem of how to mediate between
the generalities of reason and the ‘particularities of sense’
(roughly the distinction between rationalism and empiricism).
In this configuration the ‘particularities of sense’
can be seen to be located (or contingent) and the ‘generalities
of reason’ un-located (or ‘abstract’). As such the
aesthetic is staged as a vital bridging component within
Kant’s wider philosophical system, whereby a proper understanding
of the faculty of judgement provides a connection
across the ‘immeasurable gulf’ that lies between
the sensible realm and the concept of freedom. The
structuring of the aesthetic is therefore presented as an
autonomous domain, as if coordinate with man’s cognitive
and moral faculties. In Post-Kantian philosophy (and associated
categories, art history, art theory, etc) the apprehension
of the sensuous content of the artwork stands in for
‘the loss of reciprocity between humans and the world’;
imputing to art ‘the metaphoric power to reconcile sensuous
experience and conceptual reason. And the restoration
of the antinomies of consciousness of nature, subject,
object’. This is aesthetics as a kind of empirical or experiential
‘proof’ of the existence of something that is missing.

The valorisation of the ‘gap’, ‘space’, ‘functionlessness’
or ‘abstraction’ that is given, or ‘refused’ by art (and that
might complete other philosophical and political systems).
Or alternatively as the presentation of the bankruptcy of
this idea as a new kind of ‘gap’ or institutional or political
located-ness, and so on.


The scene stretches out left and right across the vastness of the
plane, which is in fact an augmented reality projection throughout
the first two floors of the gallery. To the right is a fibre glass
sculpture of ‘Snow White and the Seven Snow Whites’. The sun
stains the grass pink like Grumpy/Snow-White’s face, with a few
trees scattered across the washed out backdrop like sea sponges.
Surging across the pseudo-horizon the ‘white working classes’
move towards us like antelope. A smaller group come to rest on
some raised ground to the right as the multitude surge past, the
Snow White sculpture is swamped—Snow White juxtaposed to
Sleepy, Sleepy to Grumpy, Grumpy to Sneezy…

The art object becomes a ‘stand-in’ for something that is
not there, for something that is missing. Any object can
occupy this position, as ‘marker’. If the artwork is INFINITELY
SPATIALLY EXPANDED, which is not to say it has
become freed from any material determination but that
it has become freed from every particular material determination,
then the artwork can be anything but somehow
has to be something. A familiar claim. The site of the work
of art can be anywhere - the totality of cultural sites within
which it is mediated and consumed. Recognition (of the
art object) is subject to political, cultural, educational, algorithmic
and various other mechanisms that determine
who will and will not have the opportunity to encounter
the object as art. Either staged finitely (located) strategically
and/or politically in relation to institutional definitions,
critical limits, censorships and validating mechanisms.
Or staged infinitely (un-located) as transcendent of these


structures that create and position it as art, and allow it
to be recognised as such. A third alternative, is that it is
pitched as art/non-art but incorporating the mechanisms
of recognition within its processes (for instance, recognition-
or-not as institutional critique). This dialectic of
limits is therefore staged across ideas of location and unlocation,
or site and non-site, between the finitude of the
institution and the infinity of the universe.
These limits are always transforming. ‘It’ can never reach
its conclusion. This is ‘its’ purpose or institutional remit.
The Good Conversation must continue to allow for the continued
existence of the space in which the conversation
is staged - and the administration thereof. As a protected
zone for the joyful flux of ideas, money and careers. The
Good Conversation must flow seamlessly (like the glide of
capital) ‘merging into the wall and then, gradually into the
general text. With respect to the background, which the
general text is. It merges into the work which stands out
against the general background.’

Drone vultures circle the gaudy panorama, alighting on the dead,
picking at their flesh, then flapping away across the plains. To
the left is a huge herd of wildebeest, shaking matted heads, fur
catching in the red light of the sinking sun. And further back, we
see the jackals stalking them, a hunched pack moving slowly forward
seeking out the old and sickly, a story older than time itself,
‘the strong shall prey on the weak’, a vast bewildering meat-feast
spectacle of raw life, red in tooth and claw.

John Russell was a founder-member of the London-based artist group BANK, from 1990 to 2000. BANK would require their own article (or book), but for the sake of brevity here, BANK practiced their own unique form of a kind of anarchic "institutional critique". This involved, among other activities, staging aggressive, immersive and polemical group shows with titles like "Zombie Golf" and "Cocaine Orgasm" in temporary warehouse spaces around London (re-named BANKSPACE, DOG and then Galerie Poo-Poo). These sprawling installations often lampooned the contemporary art scene and satirized the popular culture of the '90s. In Zombie Golf, for example, the work was placed within a miniature golf course installation populated with wax figures of the undead. Their most well-known project "Faxbacks" involved taking other galleries press releases, correcting them and sending them back.

Russell parted ways with BANK in 2000 to take up his own multifaceted practice. Often collaborative, this included staging performances with Fabienne Audeoud, (most recently in one of Bjarne Melgaard's curated group shows entitled "After Shelley Duvall '72" at Maccarone), working (in collaboration with Mark Beasley) with the underground cult film director Damon Packard (Lost in The Thinking, an on-site commission for MoMA PS1 that culminated in the museum locking them in a room), producing three 800-page anthology books (Frozen Tears) featuring writings from prominent underground authors including Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker and their historical antecedents (Baudelaire, Bataille) while also finding time to produce paintings, posters, public sculptures, animations, gifs, fonts and gigantic backlit digital prints that are somewhere between magical-fantasy ad billboard and body-horror expressionist painting. Recently, he gave a talk at Artists Space, a psychedelic-theory lecture that linked the writings of Belgian feminist Luce Irigiray to space travel and Bruce Willis.  (from Cameron Soren, "Custom-Produced for Imbeciles of Some Sort: An Interview with John Russell" on Rhizome, April 10, 2015)

August

14 Mo

  • Die Kunsthalle Zürich ist vom 14. bis zum 24. August geschlossen
September

17 So

Oktober

01 So

November

05 So