LUIS JACOB’S ALBUM XII triggers recognitional and relational Tourette’s. It also inspires the phrase “freeze-frame baroque,” a description Susan Sontag gave to Walter Benjamin’s style of ‘looking’; and what Benjamin himself described as the experience of the image, “wherein what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation. In other words, image is dialectics at a standstill” 3.

For those reading this who have not experienced Jacob’s Album XII in-the-flesh, the display looks something like this: sets of images, mostly double- and treble-decked in 148 plastic laminated panels, are arranged, two-tiered, around the four walls of the gallery. The untitled images are primarily composed of art-related subjects, with theatre, advertising, architecture, design, cinema, political history (among other visual references) ‘shuffled’ in no discernible order. Bottom line, the artworld rules the compendium. One image after another seems to reify then petrify in the memory with every successive paneled set, like a game of Tetris. To my surprise, I stayed with the work for an hour or more, looking, walking, documenting, and getting lost in the visual panorama of knowing and not knowing. Lapses in identification liberated me into a space of dumb relational framing. Although Google Image Recognizer is at hand for anyone that is perverted enough to try identify most, but not all of the approximate 500 images, I personally rejected a Vulcan need to decipher the logic or symptomology behind the artwork because I believe none exists – that’s the subjective point!

Due to the sheer number of images in Album XII, logical mind-maps turn to overcooked mind soup. Adults tend to scan when information is presented in this Gordian knot fashion. But you can imagine a child’s infinitesimal perspective of the world being occupied here forever, with regard to visual information not interest per se. It’s stupid to even think if there is a beginning, middle, end to the Album? But, a film still from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) is positioned at what I consider its End. The still portrays empty, screaming receptacle, Shelly Duvall, in frog-eyed anxiety in the face of Jack Nicholson’s mental break. This is as good a concluding bookend as any for such a visually tormenting treadmill of information.

I stayed longer with images that contained more visual information, or images that I desired to demystify. I started to question my temporal bias towards certain sets of images? My identity regarding my identification with specific images within the paneled sets? My psychological makeup? My gender? My education? My class? My sexuality? My nationality? I wondered about ALL THE ABOVE with regard to Jacob’s piecemeal selection of this constellation of images, that is far from an arbitrary Google search, when you dig deep enough and activate the staggering amount of content behind each image? The assumption is that Jacob’s history exists behind these images, and the observer’s particular history is reflected in the act of naming and shaming. Benjamin again: “Autobiography has to do with time, with sequence and what makes up the continuous flow of life.”4

Aside from intersubjective visual and semantic connections between images within the sets of Album XII, I am more interested in the statements or ambiguities each set or individual image proffers. Or, moreover, thoughts that are implied outside of the individual and paneled frames of visual reference. One such statement is suggested by a photograph of Robert Morris’ Box for Standing Still, who defined this and other work he produced in the ’60s as “Art as a closed space, a refusal of communication, a secure refuge and defense against the outside world, a dead zone and buffer against others who would intrude.”5, Unfortunately, Benjamin wrote: “all human knowledge takes the form of interpretation.” We all want to master alterity, but when we do something is lost.  Like the potential of straying into misplaced thoughts and feelings that can refresh our perspective of “the disconsolate chronicle of world history.” The sorry fact is, before Google, we managed to let our imagination fill in the gaps with mind-bending fiction when our brains failed to register the facts. We all tripped, head-high, not hunkered over our iPhones, down the winding and potholed synapses of our memory, trying, with every step, to name what was just about on the tip of our tongues. At least in those moments of straying the hippocampus was getting some exercise. Holding on tight to our infallible fact-finding smartphones, “Ambiguity [in the end] displaces authenticity in all things,”6 don’t you think?


1    Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, Verso, 2009.

2    Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn, Vintage Books, 1981.

3    Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, The Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2009.

4    Quoted in Susan Sontag, op.cit.

5    []

6    Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings, Penguin Books, 2009.


#2/ ‘Dear Luis Jacob’






Allegories are, in the realm of thought, what ruins are in the realm of things (Walter Benjamin)1

The genius of Surrealism was to generalize with ebullient candour the baroque cult of ruins; to perceive that the nihilistic energies of the modern era make everything a ruin or fragment – and therefore collectible. A world whose past has become (by definition) obsolete, and whose present churns out instant antiques, invites custodians, decoders, and collectors. (Susan Sontag)2

*Luis Camnitzer The Instrument and its Work*

*Hans-Peter Feldmann House made from measure sticks*
*Giulio Paolini*
*Robert Morris Box for standing still
Stan Douglas Demobilization Suit *
*Elmgreen & Dragset*
*Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Pavilion*
Stanley *Kubrick making frame with his hands on the set of his film Dr. Strangelove*
* Edward Furlong making frame with hands in film Pecker*


*Einstein on the Beach* 

*Alberto Giacometti*

*Eliane Radigue*
(Because I have the Album)
Hans Haacke's Condensation Cube

*Tony Oursler*

*Daniel Spoerri*
*Joseph Beuys*
*Bruce Nauman A Cast of the Space Under my Chair*
*Those cool cracked glass vitrines posted in Fedex Boxes by Walead Beshty*

*Pierre Huyghe’s 
Streamside Day Follies*

*Olaf Breuning*
Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory
*Thomas Eakins*

*Wolfgang Tillmans*

*Charles Ray Family Romance*
*Hans Bellmar*

*Sarah Lucas*
*Philippe Halsman Voluptas Mors*

*Jenny Saville*
*Nuremberg Rally*
*Diane Arbus*
*Julius and Ethel Rosenberg*
*Vito Acconci*

*Gilbert and George*

Gordon Matta-Clark Splitting
*Jeff Wall The Flooded Grave*
*John Bock* 

*Ceal Floyer*
*On Kawara Date Paintings* 
*Mark Rothko*
*Paul McCarthy Pinocchio*

*Shelley Duvall The Shining*

LUIS JACOB, ALBUM XII (DETAIL), image montage in plastic laminate panels, 148 panels, (2013-14), Limerick City Gallery; photo: author.


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