Critically Correct (2)

Givon continues to explore the artist’s power to create self-committed art while scrupulously articulating acute socio-political criticism *. While tendentious, declarative, slogan-like work of art largely based on criticism has no real, long-term existence as inherent part of the plastic language, and very possibly outside those bounds as well. We hold that a political call emerging from art’s “voice-box” is reinforced, since it emerges from a circumstantial condition and position of well-reasoned accumulative artistic practice. The strength of such work will reverberate, echo and have its influence both inside and outside the art language.
The non-indifferent, non-nostalgic artist who possesses ‘artistic responsibility’ can maneuver between the artistic tasks he sets for himself and his spiritual and moral commitment to the private, local and global setting.
In the sphere of video, the means serve the end that’s targeted more forcefully than in other media which leave parts of the artistic insight obscured, even though this is where their great appeal lies. The enigmatic nature and mode of deciphering vary in keeping with the level of the work. In the field of video, if the work is also technology-based, it allows for an ongoing, multi-sensorial experience. The quantity and quality of the information conveyed to the viewer by an artist who commands the medium through application of materials originating in cinema that has entered into video art, infuse the art work with new textual values previously absent from it.

The artist knows that his work in video is no less eternal than still photography, and takes pleasure in the fact that he is creating something which is not an object. It is possibly due to this that the artist succeeds in documenting and archiving a myriad of essential materials and details pertaining to his theme as a whole, without interfering with the visual and formal values, even further contributing to them.

The current exhibition “Critically Correct 2”, began with artist Susan Hiller. Hiller, an anthropologist at first, created during a few years, a 67-minute video documenting 303 locations in Germany named after Jews. Not only are streets and street corners filmed in a specific disciplined way, however, but also that which she never shot is being strongly present: our collective memory (and knowledge), from the private to the public, from the historical to the contemporary. The documented sites are the minimal, encapsulated part of the surviving facts (“the least that’s there”). The absence of the ‘no more in existence-man’, an all-encompassing human world-existence, is tantamount to a mega-fact; nothing can make him disappear, nothing can depersonalize the man. In utter contrast to other artists,1 Hiller does not reinstate the annihilated human being with his humanism; she does not penetrate his privacy, even though he is unable to control it, thus allowing for his spirituality. She provides what a tombstone fails to grant the dead – another life. In the absence of the human element so pertinent to the historical facts, Hiller perpetuated the value of humanism and the right to existence, and at the same time also the phenomenal brutalism that had violated, severed, cut off. Judensgasse, Judensdsdorf, Judensecke, Judensberg, Judenshof are but a few of the names of the streets emptied of their original dwellers, the last evidence of their orderly normative life. (The Municipality of Berlin later attached copper plaques to the city’s pavements bearing the names of people who had lived there if so the families of the descendents wished).

Douglas Gordon confronts the aggression of the socio-political setting via self-deformation of his face. How is a “monster” created? Is it possibly of our own making? Gordon brings a Kafkaesque, psychological fact into the exhibition that serves as a warning sign for society. At the same time he makes an important, artistic comment about various body artists, maintaining that “body art”, as such, must not deform the body in a non reversible way, thus undermining the fatalism and pathology that have taken their activities in art as one of its branches. An artist cannot be a terrorist.

Puerto Rico-based Allora & Calzadilla (Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla) likewise raise tough questions about social and political order and disorder. A call for social justice is heard from amidst the ruins. The emphasis is on the absurd lurking between progressive society and its products, and its terrible instances of regression caused by these very same products. Reverberating powerfully, their call is not as polite and suggestive as those of Hiller and Gordon, and their work is permeated with Latin American flavor.
The artist’s sanity, as indicated and contributed, is much of the same everywhere.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain Kutluğ Ataman’s video 99 Names. We felt the need to demonstrate, through varying degrees of exposure, to what extent the artists’ critical position is united when it concerns human fate, regardless of their origin or religion.

The common denominator of the artists in “critically correct ” is that through their knowledge they present the unpresentable2 that nevertheless becomes visible. These artists refer not only to the past but also to the future, operating toward the universalization of knowledge and its corrections in the present. While treating, rather rehabilitating the accumulative memory from its wrongs and faults as one major organ of society at large that asks our attention.

“Critically correct” is incorrect criticism. The artist feels a moral and social obligation to address that which politics prefers him to avoid. Nevertheless, the artist’s criticism is correct from the perspective of art, thereby, takes its effect on society at large.

Noemi Givon

* Ory Dessau, In the Wake of Critically Correct, exhibition essay, 2004
“…effective criticism must not be delivered as such, namely – at either the place or time in which it is expected. A new critical approach that goes beyond the self-evident, that does not reproduce the performance of the system generating and containing it as an opposing force, may be found only in a non-political, namely critically-correct climate. Hence, the title of the show, critically correct, marks the absence of a critical climate as a pre-condition for the existence of a subversive critical event.”
1. Christian Boltanski, Anselm Kiefer.
2. Jean-François Lyotard, the Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans.: G. Bennington (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).