(@mined_oud) – which may or may not be the artist’s email address backwards, creates an absurd type of synaesthesia between an oriental plant (oud or agarwood), the allusion to exhausted mine seams and the apparent creation of a potential palindrome – is the title of the first solo show to be held in an Italian public institution (opening: Friday October 13 th 2016, 7.00 pm ) by the American artist #darrenbader (Bridgeport, CT, 1978), one of the most experimental international artists of recent generations.
At the MADRE museum the artist plays with the traditional format of a solo show and turns it into multi-faceted analytical tool of models by which works of art are viewed and mediated within an institutional space-time framework. Bader’s works and graphic interventions are displayed within the itinerary of the collection, constituting a veritable – albeit almost imperceptible – “exhibition within the exhibition”, formed by a series of concealed clues which, in its overall layout, expresses an elliptical perspective, full of ironic short circuits and linguistic games, the themes addressed, the communicative and educational logic underpinning the displays, the theoretical foundations of the collection and the identity of the #contemporaryart museum. The intricate, nuanced work of the artist is designed as a subtle game for the visitor. It also includes an invitation to exhibit addressed to a series of other artists, whose works will be presented, together with Bader’s own and others that are part of the collection. A group of other works, which are frequently minimalist, of a transformative or performative nature, or targeted at a digital audience, will be as well presented.
Right from the title of the work, with the apposition of the “@” symbol and the use of parentheses, the artist establishes a purely digital level of meaning and experience of the exhibition which, at a physical level, is scattered and integrated within the itinerary of the museum collection, thus rejecting a rigid focal point and avoiding immediate recognisability, in an attempt to establish a connection with the identities, practices and works of the artists in the collection. By exploring the mechanisms underpinning the workings of the contemporary collective imagination, from which colliding aesthetics surface, and by intervening in areas of the museum that are not directly connected with each other (Project room, ground floor ; courtyard ; second floor ), Bader questions the very nature of “art”, “artworks”, “exhibitions” and the “museum”, challenging the values, criteria, mechanisms of thought and communicative logic of the #contemporaryart system.
Bader defines himself a “sculptor”; his practice consists in putting together complementary elements such as consumer goods, words, images, animals and people. These disparate elements of reality generate relationships that are simultaneously concrete and imaginary, real yet fictional.
As Luca Lo Pinto explains in the artist book that accompanies the exhibition, “[ Bader ] plans speed dates that sometimes turn into marriages. He causes love to bloom between two people who are unaware of being lovers. Rather than creating, he edits. Rather than producing, he selects. Rather than representing, he shows ”. Bader removes meaning yet adds new levels of understanding and introspection to works, objects and (possible, or often impossible) descriptions and manages to lend an original twist to a practice whose meaning can be sought in the carefully arranged inclusion of all the components of the art system: the work, the artist, the gallery owner, the collector, the exhibition visitor and readers of art texts. In this sense, Bader’s work can be analysed in terms of “information technology” (as Andrea Norman Wilson writes in the new artist book): it separates and rejoins the inner system of the work (its aesthetic component) and the external structure, or “back end”, which runs and conditions it (the art system itself). In the fairly recent past, the “back end” of the artist’s work consisted, for example, in the artist’s capacity to grind the right powdered pigment to create the most suitable colour for capturing reality in a painting. However, over the last forty years, the “back end” has been transformed into the capacity of the art system to turn anything into an art work. Exploring a discourse which began with Marcel Duchamp’s seminal ready-mades and continued subsequently, during the sixties and seventies, with the criticisms of art system put forward by the institutional critique, Bader argues that the aspects of artistic production underlying those assumptions are now so obvious, thoroughly explored and artistically expressed, even in terms of deconstruction and direct repudiation, that the next step is no longer a question of criticising or keeping in check the art system, but instead acceptance, knowing incorporation and a shared narrative. Bader thus demonstrates that the joint participation of all the different players involved in the system cannot fail to generate, together with the additional inclusion of factors and ideas borrowed from the omnipresent media, an added value of art in the current era of the sharing economy.
Project room (ground floor), courtyard and second floor October 14 th 2017-April 2 nd 2018
MADRE · #museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina
via Settembrini 79, Naples
Curated by Andrea Viliani, with Silvia Salvati and Anna Cuomo
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