Thursday, August 31, 2023

David Hammons | The Holy Bible: Old Testament

David Hammons 
The Holy Bible: Old Testament 
London, UK: Hand/Eye Projects, 2002 
1002 pp., 30 x 24 x 2.5cm, leather 
Edition of 165 

Hammon's first published bookwork is a kind of appropriation closed circuit, taking Duchamp's assisted readymades to the their logical conclusion. Hammons rebound the soft-cover edition of Arturo Schwarz’s 1969 book The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp as a leather-bound, gilded edge bible with slip-case. 

The enigmatic Hammons has not spoken about the piece in interview, to the best of my knowledge and is often cagey about his work in general. Many read this piece as a critique, mocking the exaltation of Duchamp in the contemporary art world. It could also function as an update of Rauschenberg's patricidal Erased de Kooning (note the use of the old testament). But Hammon's work has frequently nodded to Duchamp in the past (such as Fountain and Nude Descending a Staircase and 1982's Bag Lady In Flight) and the piece could certainly also function as a genuine homage.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Ann Noël | Conflux

Ann Noël
Berlin, Germany: Rainer Verlag, 1984
190 pp., 15 x 10 x 1.9 cm, soft cover
Edition of 500 signed copies

The fourth Artist's Book by Noël is a hand-written chronological record of all the people she met between January 1968 and July 1984. Transparent overlays give information about places, events and meals. 

The work anticipates Douglas Gordon's List of Names by eight years. 

Noël revisited the work during Covid lockdown, see below. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Milan Knížák | Flux White Meditation

Milan Knížák
Flux White Meditation
New York City, USA: Fluxus, 1969
11.9 x 10 x 1 cm.
Edition size unknown

Milan Knížák's works are incredibly important to the history of sound art, and Artists' Records in particular (Ursula Block took the name of one of his Broken Music as the title for her quintessential book on the subject), and his Vice-Versand edition is excellent.

His boxed works for Fluxus, however, are all pretty poor. Flux Snakes is particularly bad, and the empty boxes of Flux Dreams has been done better by many others, before and since. 

Flux White Meditation features a plastic box with an offset label (as always, designed by George Maciunas - see his early study for the graphic below) and containing white powder. 

Curator Jon Hendricks writes in Fluxus Codex: "Narcotic powder? dust? ashes? crushed rocks? The work is not explained and could relate to any number of Knizak's activities". He also adds that "Knížák has a very ambivalent attitude toward the Fluxus realizations of his pieces and remembers very little of their genesis." This suggests that they may have been throw-away ideas that Maciunas ran with. 

Flux White Meditation was reissued/continued by Barbara Moore's Reflux Editions in the 1980s. Both versions remain scarce. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Jacques André | I want more CAN

Jacques André
I want more CAN
Brussels, Belgium: Triangle Books, 2016
80 pp., 20.4 x 20.4 cm., softcover
Edition of 300

"I Want More" is late-era song by the German band Can. It was released as a single in July 1976 and later included on the album Flow Motion. The song features lead vocals by Irmin Schmidt, and backing vocals by the other members in the group at the time: Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit. It was the band's only single to chart in the UK, peaking at #26, which led to an appearance on Top of the Pops where Holger Czukay mimed a performance on double bass.

The cover graphic of the seven-inch single places the title first so that it appears to read "I Want More Can" (the Breeders' Last Splash functioned the same way - and it was, for almost a decade). This made it an ideal choice for Jacques André, whose practice often involves buying objects in bulk. 

The aim of André's used record store hunt was not to amass a complete discography of the influential "krautrock" band, or acquire coveted rarities. His goal was to purchase as many copies of the same single as possible.  

The work shares a conceptual conceit with Rutherford Chang's We Buy White Albums, in which the artist buys every available copy of the Beatle's eponymous double LP, and Jonathan Monk's hoarding of Sol Lewitt titles. 

In I want more CAN the repetition functions much the way Steve Reich's minimalist music does (I'm thinking of Six Marimbas, my favourite). With the constant repeated motif causing the very slight differences to stand out. Someone (Michael Nyman?) once described it as akin to the way a frog sees - everything is a blur but any movement is highlighted, allowing the frog to catch flies as they whiz by. 

Like in Chang's LP version of We Buy White Albums, the patina of use is foregrounded. The graphic design is the constant, with the discolourations and record ring imprints of age becoming the slight variable. Or small pen scratches: a doodle maybe, or a phone number scrawled on the sleeve during a call when no other paper was available.

I want more CAN is available for €30,00 from Saint Martin Bookshop, here, as well as from the publisher, here

Triangle Books is also offering a signed colour photograph mounted on painted wood for €500.00. The work is available in an edition of 15 [+2 AP], with each photograph unique (below). 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Pharmacie Fischer Inc. | Pills

Hervé Fischer /Pharmacie Fischer Inc. 
Pilules (Pills)
[no place, no date, circa mid-1970s]
5 x 6 x 4.5 cm.
Edition size unknown

For the Fischer Pharmacy, Hervé Fischer would dress in a pharmacist's white smock and perform in small towns, offering consultations to the general public. After determining the condition of each 'patient', he would prescribe medication and fill the prescription. These included pills for freedom, pills against conceptual art, pills for being clever, pills for being an artist, pills to make one happy, pills opposed to money or for progress, pills against pollution, for changing the world, etc..

The travelling pharmacy was most active in 1974-1977. This undated example is a transparent plastic box containing styrofoam balls and an inserted card that is stamped 'Apotheek Fischer, Pillen zijn het leven' (Pharmacy Fischer, Pills are Life). A contradictory handwritten prescription indicates that it is 'against pills'. 

Harry Ruhé

Cheers to Harry Ruhé today, as he celebrates his birthday.  

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Pipilotti Rist | I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much

Pipilotti Rist
I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much
Stuttgart, Germany: Oktagon Verlag, 1998
27.7 x 21.7 x 4.2 cm.
Edition of 300 signed and numbered copies

Pipilotti Rist's I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much - produced when she was still a student at the School of Design in Basel, Switzerland - remains one the artist's best known works, perhaps only bested by Ever Is Over All.1

The seven and a half minute single-channel video depicts the artist in a low cut black dress, dancing frenetically in an empty white room, singing the title phrase over and over again, like a meaningless mantra. 

The repeated line is a slight variation from the opening lyric of the Beatles' song Happiness Is A Warm Gun2, from the eponymously titled double "White Album". The song was written by John Lennon, partly about Yoko Ono (and inspired by a headline in a National Rifle magazine)3

"In my village in Switzerland," Rist recalled to Hans Ulrich Obrist, "I had a small window into the art world through the mass media; through John Lennon and Yoko Ono I moved from pop music to contemporary art. In return, I will always be grateful to popular culture". Ono's video and sculptural work was an early influence on the artist, alongside Laurie Anderson and Nam June Paik. 

Rist told The New Yorker in 2020 “Lennon sings, ‘She’s not a girl who misses much,’ and I used to walk on the street singing that like a mantra, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

In the video she repurposes the line into a first-person anthem, modulating her voice from that of a little girl, to that of a confident woman. This is further exaggerated in post-production, where the sped up and slowed down footage changes the line into both a high-pitched cartoonish squeal, and the low moan of a funeral dirge. The video is also manipulated, through vertical and horizontal freeze frames and the type of sumptuous saturated colour balance treatment that she would become known and celebrated for. 
In the glitchy short work, Rist performs for the camera, her maniacal dancing causes her breasts to fall out of her dress, repeatedly, as if she simply cannot be contained. 

The work was considered a feminist response to the sexist tropes populating MTV music videos at the time, but Rist said that she was not overly familiar with channel prior to making the work. She viewed it as more of a "personal exorcism". 

Rist submitted the video to the Solothurn Film Festival, in Switzerland, where it was accepted, and well received. By the time it had appeared in a few German group shows, three New York City gallerists had approached her, all offering representation. She signed with Luhring Augustine, joining a roster that included Christopher Wool, Rachel Whiteread, and Albert Oehlen.4 

This packaged version of the work was produced to coincide with exhibition of the same name at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz and at the Kunstverein in Hamburg. 

In addition to I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much, the yellow VHS tape also includes You called me Jacky, Pickelporno and Pipilottis Fehler, as well as seven extracts from recordings for installations. It is accompanied by an envelope containing colour postcards, an artist book and a wooden-bead necklace. The work is housed in a cardboard box, sealed with a blue plastic ribbon. The work is signed and numbered in red felt pen on the box. 

I’m not the Girl Who Misses Much is now valued at approximately $2000 US. 

1. Rist's 1997 video installation Ever Is Over All inspired the car window smashing sequence in Beyoncé's music video for the song Hold Up. In Rist's video, she uses a flower to smash the windows of the parked cars. "I would have preferred that Beyoncé did it with a flower and not a baseball bat, because it changes the meaning. But, no, I was very flattered,” Rist later remarked. 

2. The best interpretation of this song (possibly any) comes from the odious Albert Goldman, the hit-job biographer of Lennon, Elvis Presley and Bruce Lee. The Joycean gibberish from the first stanza:

The man in the crowd 
with the multicoloured mirrors
On his hobnail boots
Lying with his eyes 
while his hands are busy
Working overtime
A soap impression of his wife 
which he ate
And donated 
to the National Trust

is interpreted to be about a man using mirrors on his boots to look up the skirts of women in a crowd. He puts on a deceptively straight face while masturbating, and the soap impression of his wife is his ejaculate, which he releases into a toilet (The "National Trust"). The only worthwhile page out of seven hundred and twenty, in Goldman's The Lives of John Lennon book. 

3. A May 1968 issue of American Rifleman, the magazine of the National Rifle Association (a copy belonging to  producer George Martin) contained the title of the song as a headline. "I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something," Lennon later noted. 

 4. Rist later signed with blue chip behemoth Hauser & Wirth, with both venues now representing her work.