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Jokes and novelties Hoax?

Martin Creed, ‘Work No. 121’,2000, © Martin Creed.

Jokes and novelties Hoax? Mystification? Conceptualism crisis? The last exhibition of the New York Swiss Institute and its radical curatorial concept which is to show only minimally sized or unimportant artworks in the large space of the location is pretty disconcerting and questioning. The institute which has recently been acclaimed as one of the most innovative and creative platforms in terms of contemporary art exhibitions in New York will probably live up its reputation thanks to the care of John Armleder who was named curator of this Christmas exhibition. The Geneva troublemaker has urged about forty international artists, among them the Americans John Tremblay and Richard Artschwager, the French Xavier Veilhan, the Italian Maurizio Cattelan, the Swiss Sylvie Fleury and Olivier Mosset to cover in a very discreet way the emptiness of the Swiss Cultural Center halls of Broadway until January the 15th. Definitely Dada, the project can be seen as a joke, a slap in the face of the artworld, but also as a homage and a reflection on the curatorial handling and conceptual art. Armleder puts forward an immaterial vision of art and called unreasonably well-known artists to show works that can only be imagined by the audience. This exhibition is not the product of a spoilt child though. With subtlety, Armleder turn away the meaning of the dadaist sentence: "Everything is Art" to tell us that the nothing, or the almost nothing in this case, is still art. The Geneva artist and curator is pursuing with scholarship and a deep consciousness of the art history his exploration of the notions of sense and nonsense. This exhibition, while banishing the concrete and tangible artworks, is appealing for a sixth sense which might be called imagination...
Apart from the immaterial pieces, None of the above is gathering several small-sized objects, as required by the curator, which go from the most trivial to the most elaborated and spiritual like the communion wafer from Pierre Vadi, the pin and needle from Christian Marclay or the painting on a ricegrain from Alix Lambert.

These different objects are disseminated, installed and combined over the whole surface of the institute. They even colonize the shelves of the library, as if the space was not sufficient enough in the ordinary exhibiting area to show off these tiny pieces of art. These works put together are form a big installation, a homogeneous unity which means that the exhibition becomes an artwork on its own. This imperious curatorial handling based on tricks and deception strategies come from a long artistic tradition. Thus the Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich claimed at the beginning of the last century that he had reached the peak of the abstraction by negating the objective representation of an object with his serial White on white. The Armleder enterprise remain an famous exhibition of the 50' too, when Yves Klein took possession of the Paris gallery Iris Clert, which he had merely to paint over in white, and then equipped with a blue light in the framework of his Exposition du Vide. While looking at the career of both artists, their relationship and their contiguousness seem obvious. Indeed Armleder was the co-founder in the 70' of an artist group, a gallery and a publishing house under the designation: Ecart. He led projects, performances and events of all kind in the direct leaning and even sometimes in collaboration with Fluxus, a dada oriented movement, in which Yves Klein took an intensive part. Afterwards Armleder had been associated with other movements such as neo-geo or neo-pop from which it is possible to recognize traces in the current exhibition at the Swiss Institute. It is however not forbidden to see this exhibition as a homage to the french artist who died ironically after a jump into the emptiness through a window in 1962.

The exhibition None of the above, curated by John Armleder at the Swiss Institute in New York. Exhibited artists: Dave Allen, Richard Artschwager, Massimo Bartolini, Patterson Beckwith, Monica Bonvicini, Olaf Breuning, AA Bronson, Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Creed, Stéphane Dafflon, Philippe Decrauzat, Jason Dodge, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Sylvie Fleury, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Fabrice Gygi, Alix Lambert, Bertrand Lavier, Christian Marclay, Tony Matelli, Mathieu Mercier, Simon Moretti, Olivier Mosset, Amy O'Neill, Genesis P-Orridge, Laurent Charles Pache, Steven Parrino, Mai-Thu Perret, Peter Pumpler, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Haim Steinbach, Rudolf Stingel, Blair Thurman, John Tremblay, Pierre Vadi, Xavier Veilhan, Lawrence Weiner, Jordan Wolfson

Text: Sylvain Menétrey
Translation: Sylvain Menétrey

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