If you recall with cynicism some of the Guggenheim’s more commercial exhibitions over the last decade (such as The Art of the Motorcycle, Brazil: Body and Soul, and the Armani retrospective), you might feel redeemed by the current show, theanyspacewhatever (http://www.guggenheim.org/exhibitions/exhibition_pages/anyspace/index.html). Or you might feel a bit duped, depending on your persuasion and/or patience.
Theanyspacewhatever emphasizes the exhibition itself as the medium. If you like to see art objects, for example Louise Bourgeois’ excellent show at the Guggenheim that closed recently, you may be disappointed. However, if you do a little homework, and like to be challenged by food for thought and not just food, theanyspacewhatever might float your boat. The ten artists included emerged in the 1990s, channelling their points of view through sometimes untraditional genres: rituals, information, storytelling. They traffic in engaging the viewer in a dialogue.
Rirkrit Tiravanija famously lived in Gavin Brown Enterprise for a spell, inviting viewers to join him for meals. Here, he has created a documentary, Chew the Fat, featuring the Guggenheim artists talking about their work and the 90s. Text is important in the work Douglas Gordon, who collaborated with Tiravanija on an upper floor coffee bar with bean bag chairs. His Prettymucheveryword… includes phrases—some hidden, some in plain sight—all over the place, on walls, in corners, high, low. Some are painted in enamel in lovely, silly, or colored fonts; others are carved into the curved plaster walls of the museum (egad): “I’m right there,” “Nothing can be hidden forever,” and other meaningful or non sequitur phrases are encountered seemingly at random. Liam Gillick’s primary medium here is also text. He created an aluminum signage system that can be helpful or annotative: “this way,” “halfway,” “drunk from the firehose.”
A couple of the artists create or alter architectural elements, insinuating their art into the physical structure of the show. Angela Bulloch has installed an LED night sky in the oculus. Jorge Pardo has created a system of panels that slice up the space and serve as walls on which to hang more conventional silkscreens. Gillick’s S-shaped benches are situated periodically on the ramp, places to sit while you’re pondering the audioguide loop, but also handsome sculptures. Sound pieces alter one’s perception, including Bulloch’s Hybrid Song Box.4 and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Promenade, whose dripping water soundtrack is augmented by a scrim isolating the section of ramp from the atrium.
Most gaudy is Carsten Holler’s beautiful Revolving Hotel Room on an upper level. The minimum furniture found in a hotel room is situated on three plate glass discs hooked up to a pulley system so they rotate very slowly. The public can rent it out overnight; as of this writing, it was fully booked. But even thinking about staying overnight in the Guggenheim’s rotunda is a giddy thought, along the lines of Night at the Museum, with ghosts of Picasso and Malevich to haunt you.
Maurizio Cattelan’s Daddy Daddy feels a bit out of place. A puppet (it looks like Pinocchio from afar) lies face down in the ground level atrium fountain. How he got there is up to you. But Cattelan’s cartoony visual punch lines tread the border of pop art a bit too closely for this crowd. There’s also a ghostly projection piece on the exterior by Philippe Parreno, and a broadway-style fake marquee next to the entrance. And Pierre Huyghe is staging three happenings to disrupt normal patterns of traffic an behavior.
The museum seems empty when you enter, but give it some time. The artwork just might infiltrate your consciousness if you let it.
Photo: Markus Tretter