More than 20 artists from around the world working in a variety of media, including
sculpture, video, photography, installation, drawing, sound, and architecture, will
be featured in the Walker Art Center exhibition Unfinished History
, premiering in Minneapolis October 18, 1998, through January 10, 1999. Guest curated
by Francesco Bonami, in association with Walker Assistant Curator Douglas Fogle,
the exhibition reflects the breakdown and blurring of geographic, technological,
and aesthetic boundaries in the wake of a global movement towards a hybrid culture. As these
artists prepare to step into a new era, they are attempting to make sense of the
economic, historical, and political issues that have shaped our consciousness since
A central part of this taking leave of the 20th century is the collapse of the concept
of center and periphery. The boundaries that once defined the Western World as the
inflexible cultural center of the 20th century have softened, allowing a sense of
cultural unity and fragmentation to flourish simultaneously. Unfinished History
will explore this dichotomy and the ramifications of the collision of the Western
and the global systems on contemporary art and architecture. Each of the artists
represented will present work in which First and Third World languages and theories
weave in and out of each other, creating diverse visual and collective patterns.
The artists featured in Unfinished History
are: Doug Aitkin (U.S.), James Angus (Australia/U.S.); Alighiero Boetti (Italy); Andrea
Bowers (U.S.); Maurizio Cattelan (Italy); Thomas Hirschhorn (Switzerland/France);
Mats Hjelm (Sweden); Huang Yong Ping (China/France); William Kentridge (South Africa); Body Isek Kingelez (The Republic of Congo); Koo Jeong-a (Korea/France); Shirin Neshat
(Iran/U.S.); Cady Noland (U.S.); NOX/Lars Spuybroek (The Netherlands); Gabriel Orozco
(Mexico/U.S.); Pan Sonic/Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen (Finland); SANAA/Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa & Associates (Japan); Thomas Schütte (Germany); Roman Signer
Alexandr Sokurov (Russia); Yutaka Sone (Japan); Thomas Struth (Germany); Wing Young
will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue with an essay by Bonami and an introduction
by Fogle. Bonami will give an opening-weekend lecture on Sunday, October 18.
Doug Aitken provides an interesting perspective on the built environment of the African
landscape in his video projection Diamond Sea
(1996). Working in film and video, Aitken's work investigates the conflation of the
mediascape and the landscape. Becoming fascinated with an area on the map of Namibia
labeled "Diamond Areas 1 and 2," which equaled the size of California, the artist
went about trying to obtain access to this territory finding that this highly profitable
desert mining region, closed to the world since the turn of the century, was now
inhabited by an array of exotic and highly sophisticated mining technology, shifting
sand, and wild Portuguese horses -- descendants of the equine survivors of a shipwreck. His
resulting film is almost completely devoid of human presence, providing an almost
surreal portrait of the technological and topographic traces of a history of modernity
that has been literally inscribed on this African landscape. Born in Redondo Beach,
California, in 1968, Aitken currently lives and works in New York and Los Angeles.
Australia's James Angus is an emerging artist who currently lives and works in New
York. Creating sculptures out of a variety of traditional and contemporary materials,
including bronze, wood, and cast rubber, Angus has embarked upon a quest to understand
the fundamental nature of his chosen medium. He combines a strange blend of anthropological
methodology with a seemingly modernist desire to define the parameters of sculpture.
Focusing on objects such as the Dodo bird, which was extinct before photography or science could fully document it, he engages in a process of repetition, creating
a pair of birds in Dodos
(1997) which are the similar yet completely unique. In the end, like any rendering
of the Dodo in history, his are products of his own fantasy images. This principle
of repetition in difference is equally operative in his sculpture Neuschwansteins
(1998), which recreates a wooden model of the Bavarian fantasy castle constructed
by Ludwig II in the late 19th century. While the original castle itself was a product
of Ludwig's own fantasies as seen through the eyes of a professional set designer
that he hired, Angus doubles this impossible object in a strange kind of double vision which
comments both on the singular reality of the sculptural object and the role of fantasy
in Western science and history. Angus was born in 1970 in Perth, Australia.
The works on view in Unfinished History
by the Italian artists Alighiero Boetti and Maurizio Cattelan ostensibly stand as
conceptual bookends for the exhibition. The only artist represented who is no longer
living, Boetti was associated with the Italian Arte Povera artists who rose to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. His work Mappa
(1992 1993) is the last of a series of embroidered maps begun in 1971 that metaphorically
invoke the geopolitical divisions of the world. In each of these maps, executed by
master craftsmen in central Asia, the flags of the countries in question fill the
current territorial boundaries of those states. Executed after the fall of
the Berlin Wall, Mappa
provides a poetic glimpse into the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and the multiplication
of political entities at the end of the 20th century.
Andrea Bowers is an emerging Los Angeles-based artist whose work focuses on issues
of the crowd and the spectacle, both of which figure prominently in 20th-century
history. In her slide- projection installation A Sense of Clear Self-Evidence
(1997), the viewer is surrounded by images of crowds at entertainment and sporting
events which she has appropriated from magazines and journals. In her sympathetic
analysis of crowds, Bowers finds a microcosm of community and difference within the
ritual of the spectacle. As much about the collective psyche of the group as the expressive
power of the individual spectator, Bowers' work invokes both the seemingly deep-seated
need to gather in groups and the loneliness of the modern individual in a crowd.
Bowers was born in Wilmington, Ohio, in 1965.
In his sculpture Novocento
(1997) Maurizio Cattelan provides a somber commentary on the history of the 20th
century and the approaching millennium. Born in Padova, Italy, in 1960, he is known
for his humorous and at times aesthetically subversive interventions in the art world.
His vision of the new century is a taxidermic horse hung by a harness from the ceiling
of the gallery, its legs extended slightly too far. Looking both forward and backward
in time and embodying a collision between an agrarian past and a technological future, Novocento
stands ambiguously at the gateway to the 20th and 21st centuries at one and the same
time, constituting a metaphor for both the hopes and failures of the notion of historical
progress that defined this century.
Thomas Hirschhorn's installations exhibit a fascination with the sculptural properties
of common materials such as cardboard, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and brown packing
tape. In Spin-off
(1998), which will be on view in Unfinished History
, Hirschhorn has constructed a giant Swiss army knife with aluminum-foil tentacles
that extend across space to plastic-wrapped collages, drawings, and other objects.
Each vinelike aluminum-foil pod contains material related to a different set of thematic
serves as a kind of theater of accumulation where the functionality of the Swiss army
knife absurdly meets the onslaught of history while cultivating the beauty of a duct-tape
aesthetic. Born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1957, Hirschhorn has lived and worked in Paris since 1984.
In his video installation White Flight
(1997) Sweden's Mats Hjelm examines the differences and similarities of the historical
context of Detroit in the 1960s and the 1990s by looking at the Black Power movement.
Addressing the powerful socio-political forces at work in this urban crucible, Hjelm combines documentary footage of the Detroit riots and the leaders of the Black
Power movement taken by his father in 1968 with contemporary footage of Detroit shot
by the artist today. The resulting nonlinear narrative provides not only a case study
of the modern city as a center of ethnic and economic contrasts, but also a meditation
on change, hope, and one generation's historical legacy to another. Hjelm was born
in 1959 and currently lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.
Huang Yong Ping
Huang Yong Ping is a Chinese artist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1989.
For his installation The Pharmacy
(1995), the artist constructed a large wood sculpture based on the gourds which Taoist
priests used as satchels to carry traditional Chinese medicines. Dispersed in and
around the piece are traditional herbal medicines which are indistinguishable from
objects with no medicinal value. Among the first generation of Chinese artists influenced
by the Western avant-garde, Huang's pharmacy ambiguously attempts to both mend and
preserve the split between East and West, combining a level of Duchampian absurdity with an Eastern image of medical and cultural repair and renewal. Huang Yong Ping
was born in Xiamen, China, in 1954.
William Kentridge's projected black-and-white charcoal animations (what he calls his
"drawings for projection") are strikingly caught between the present and the past.
Working as a theater director in South Africa, Kentridge's narratives are composed
through a process of drawing, photography, and erasure, taking his viewers on a trip through
a South African landscape inscribed with the memory traces of the violence of apartheid.
In films such as Felix in Exile
(1994) and The History of the Main Complaint
(1996) the artist employs loose figurative narratives to investigate the way in which
the landscape, like memory itself, hides its own history in general and that of South
Africa in particular. Kentridge was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1955,
where he currently lives and works.
Body Isek Kingelez
The collision of the center and the periphery can be seen in The Republic of Congo's
Body Isek Kingelez whose fantastic sculptures such as Fantomville
(1996) depict futuristic renditions of cityscapes constructed from recycled packaging
materials. Examples of extreme architecture, these "super-maquettes," as the the
artist calls them, blend architectural styles, including references to classical,
gothic, Egyptian, Arabic, modern, and postmodern which blur the boundaries between the developed
and developing worlds. Verging on the realm of the architectural folly, these unrealized
projects are imaginary monuments which speak to the dreams and failures of a utopian past and the hopes of a future reality. Kingelez was born in 1948 in Kimbembele-Ihunga,
Zaire, and currently lives and works in Kinshasa, The Republic of Congo (formerly
Koo Jeong-a creates site-specific installations that investigate the phenomenology
of the intangible. Her invisible landscapes draw upon the art historical legacy of
the Italian Arte Povera artists from the 1960s and 1970s, transforming banal or base
materials into seductive meditations on temporality and spatiality. For her installation
(1998), on view at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York in the spring of 1998,
Koo ground thousands of aspirin tablets into a fine powder to create a miniature
mountain installed in a darkened gallery. Lighting the pharmacological topography
with only a spotlight, Koo forced the viewer to rethink one's relationship to space and time
in a world where both are collapsing into one another. She will create a new site-specific
installation for Unfinished History.
Born in Seoul, Korea, in 1967, Koo Jeong-a currently lives and works in Paris.
A blurring of the boundaries between the traditional and the modern can be found in
the work of Shirin Neshat who was born in Iran in 1957 and currently lives and works
in New York. In her installation Turbulent
(1998) the viewer is confronted with a dueling double-video projection of a man singing
a popular Iranian song in Farsi to a packed auditorium while on an opposite wall
a veiled Iranian woman emits a series of unintelligible, yet far more powerful vocalizations to an empty house. In all of her work, Neshat examines the cultural conflicts
resulting from the collision of tradition and modernity in Iranian culture. In Turbulent
we are presented with a hypnotic exploration of that confrontation between modernization
and tradition and politics and culture across the divides of religious and gender
differences in post-revolutionary Iran.
Since the mid 1980s Cady Noland's sculptural installations have provided signposts
along a stretch of conceptual highway that compose the promise and failure of the
American dream. Working in a wide range of readymade industrial materials such as
aluminum pipes, retail racks, and chrome autoparts, Noland 's portrait of American life combines
the consumer sensibility of Pop with the cynical observations of punk rock in a meditation
on the end of what Henry Luce called the American Century. A number of her works consist of appropriated images of tragicomic figures of postwar American history
such as Lee Harvey Oswald and Patricia Hearst. In Bluewald
(1989 1990) and SLA Group
(1991), Noland transfers historically iconographic images of Oswald and Hearst onto
aluminum sheets which are then installed in the galleries with sculptural elements.
In these images of Oswald at the time of his death and of Hearst in the midst of
her Symbionese Liberation Army colleagues, Noland locates an American culture that finds
itself clinging to promises and dreams that it knows are now empty. Noland was born
in Washington, D.C., in 1956, and currently lives and works in New York.
Lars Spuybroek is an architect and one of the founders of NOX, a design office based
in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, whose multidisciplinary approach to architecture and
design shatters traditional definitions of architecture by producing television broadcasts, magazines, and a unique blend of both virtual and concrete architecture. Central
for Spuybroek and his design team is the notion of a "liquid architecture" which
is in response to the liquidification of the world, language, gender, and bodies.
(1994-1997), NOX created a building/exhibition which provided an interactive inbetweenness
of subject and environment in which water and building and geometry and functionality
were morphed together. Merging architecture and information, this pavilion employed an innovative geometry where wall merged into floor while at the same time informing
the public about the latest policies of Dutch water management. Lars Spuybroek was
born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1959.
Originally from Mexico, but now working in New York, Berlin, and other cities, Gabriel
Orozco engages the legacy of post-minimalist sculpture with a kind of artistic nomadism.
As interested in the play of presence and absence as he is in sculptural form, Orozco actually makes absence a palpable presence. In his Piedra que cede (Yielding Stone)
(1992), for example, which is a part of the Walker's permanent collection, the artist
rolled a ball of plasticene the exact weight of his own body across the streets of
New York. Picking up debris from the street, this work is at once a sculptural self-portrait of the artist and a record of a peripatetic journey across a particular moment
of space and time. For Unfinished
, Orozco will be represented by Kitchen Door Maze
(1997), a labyrinth which includes a series of swinging restaurant doors and drawings
composed on bank notes, airline tickets, and other ephemeral traces of travel in
the modern world. As in all of Orozco's work, the maze connotes a certain nomadic
state of displaced being which is part and parcel of both his life and the contemporary world
at large. Orozco was born in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, in 1962.
Pan Sonic/Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen
Since 1995 the Finnish electronic music duo Pan Sonic has produced compelling and
disturbing soundscapes which cross the boundaries between the genres of techno, industrial,
and ambient music. Eschewing any kind of easy listening or even the narcotic ambiance of most techno music, Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio sculpt alien sound communications
from robotic beats and mangled samples. In live performance and on recordings, Pan
Sonic points the listener back to the sound experiments of the Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo and his noise intoners, shattering our
standard conceptions of what music (and even sound) should sound like. Pan Sonic's
second recording, Kulma
(1997), has been described by music critics as a kind of end game of electronica
where the physicality of sound meets the convulsing rhythms and blistering feedback
loops of a fax transmission from hell. But while Pan Sonic's cool electronic minimalism
may be the very definition of the word dissonant, their tracks document a culture where
the electronic fragment has become a transnational currency. The artists will create
a new sound installation for Unfinished History.
SANAA/Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa & Associates
SANAA/Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa & Associates is an architecture partnership
based in Tokyo, Japan, that has been operating for more than 10 years. While their
designs give a substantial amount of thought to the history and tradition of architecture, they do not accept these precepts wholesale. Their starting point for any work is
the rethinking of social and design assumptions that are taken for granted such as
the stereotypical dichotomy of the individual and the family that is still operative
in contemporary culture. Theirs is an architecture which acts as a kind of open stage that
attempts to facilitate freedom of movement while serving to mutually incorporate
people, information, and media with the urban environment. Kazuyo Sejima was born
in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, in 1956. Ryue Nishizawa was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan,
Currently living and working in Dusseldorf, Germany, Thomas Schütte was born in 1954
in Oldenburg, West Germany. His work combines an obsessive focus on sculptural issues
with an equally intense skepticism about the geopolitical state of the postwar world
in general and Germany in particular. Working in both quasi-architectural models and
figurative sculpture, Schütte's work questions the failed reality of the architectural
utopias of this century as well as the complicated triumph of liberal democracy in
the aftermath of German reunification. Seeking to represent the contemporary human
condition, Schütte's sculptures offer both in form and content a restorative agenda
that seems to reclaim historical legacies, such as ceramics, that sculpture had seemingly forgone while also commenting on the exigencies of a migratory and displaced global
populace. Schütte's sculptural installation De Glorreichen Sieben
(1993), for example, consists of seven ceramic heads ceremonially placed on top of
metal plinths. While each of these heads appears to be based on the same figure,
closer scutiny reveals that each are unique sculptures, highlighting, like much of
Schütte's work, the tensions between difference and homogeneity that have become so prominent
not only in the newly unified Germany but in the world at large.
The Swiss artist Roman Signer is best known for his sculptural performance experiments
in which he explores the elemental nature of things through explosions and other
chemical processes. Not a rejection of science so much as an aesthetic and sculptural
appropriation of the scientific method in the pursuit of the poetic, Signer's experiments
signal an alternative approach to both sculpture and historical progress. In his
single-channel video Bett
(1996) a remote-controlled helicopter menaces a prone sleeping figure. Hovering just
above the person, this miniature embodiment of modern technology floats through the
room like a physical manifestation of a bad dream. Combining the dreamy qualities
of Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
with his own childlike sense of wonder, Signer's video speaks to the dreams of scientific
curiosity in an age of skepticism. Born in 1938 in Appenzell, Switzerland, Signer
currently lives and works in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Alexandr Sokurov grew up in Poland and Turkistan and graduated from the Moscow Film
School in 1979. In his film Spiritual Voices
he documents the lives of Russian soldiers drafted into the military to guard the
border between Tadjikistan and Afghanistan. This elegiac chronicle was shot in black
and white and is five hours in length. As much a meditation on loneliness and sorrow
in the modern world as it is about the geopolitical realities of an empire in collapse,
Sokurov's film alludes to the entanglement of personal history with the unfinished
history of the new world order in a tale which is neither completely historical documentary nor fictional narrative but a hybrid blending of the two. Born in Siberia in 1951,
Sokurov currenlty lives and works in St. Petersburgh, Russia.
Yutaka Sone is a young Japanese artist who works across a wide range of media, including
video, sculpture, and installation, combining a strong conceptualist impulse with
an unflagging sense of humor. In his video work Birthday Party
(1997), for example, completed for the Münster Sculpture Projekt, Sone documents
his repeated birthday celebrations occurring in every city or place that he visits
over a number of months. Sone's new work for Unfinished History
involves enlisting the aid of expert Chinese marble cutters who will carve a roller
coaster sculpted by the artist. Born in 1965 in Shizuoka, he currently lives and
works in Tokyo.
Thomas Struth's photographs are about social relationships. In 1989 he began a series
of large-scale photographs depicting museum patrons in front of significant historical
works of art. In Louvre 4, Paris
(1989), visitors to the French museum stand transfixed in front of Theodore Gerricault's
The Raft of Medusa
. Like other works in the series, the photograph activates a visual mirroring as the
viewer identifies with the museum patrons as well as with the photographer. Like
a fragment of history cast adrift on an art historical sea, the photograph brings
to the foreground the collapse of the historically specific political trauma of Gerricault's
painting thereby questioning our cultural framing of history. Struth was born in
1964 in Geldern, Germany, and currently lives and works in Dusseldorf.
Wing Young Huie
In his Lake Street Project
(1997-1999) the Minneapolis-based photographer Wing Young Huie contributes his own
analysis of globalization in the local microcosm of a single street in Minneapolis.
Documenting the increasingly diverse ethnic, cultural, and economic communities along
this main urban thoroughfare, the artist's camera explores differences of class, culture,
and ethnicity in a city populated with a wide range of people, including, for example,
communities of Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, Somali, Ethiopian, Bosnian, Latino, Northern European, and Native-American people. His resulting photographic essay tells
a global story of the tensions between difference and homogeneity as they play out
among the different ethnic, cultural, and economic groups along the length of Lake
Street. Wing was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1955.
Major support for Walker Art Center programs is provided by the Minnesota State Arts
Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, the Lila Wallace-Reader's
Digest Fund, The Bush Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Target Stores, Dayton's, and Mervyn's by the Dayton Hudson Foundation, The McKnight Foundation,
the General Mills Foundation, Coldwell Banker Burnet, the Institute of Museum and
Library Services, the American
Express Minnesota Philanthropic Program, the Honeywell Foundation, The Cargill Foundation,
The Regis Foundation, The St. Paul Companies,
Inc., U.S. Bank, the 3M Foundation, and the members of the Walker Art Center.
Northwest Airlines, Inc. is the official airline of the Walker Art Center.