Why is it performative- and process-based art practices that don’t fit the mould of gallery ‘object’ are, when push comes to curatorial and institutional shove, objectified, and therefore demystified for an observer who seemingly hasn’t got time, or the possibility of engaging fully with such artworks in the first place? This opinion comes on the dusty trail of a series of galloping overviews of EVA International 2014, that revealed, more than anything else, that we have neither time, energy, interest nor editorial room to invest in artworks that took months, if not years to conceive and realise, especially within the grand scale of the biennale. In these Road Runner reviews the fast and the furious get the ink. Whereas the less colourful ‘Wile E. Coyotes’ are left hanging in a breeze of stray tumbleweeds and spinning compasses, while the audience rushes to catch the last bus home with bright lights and sparkly razzmatazz tickling their synapses.

David Horvitz’s commissioned project for EVA International 2014 is a case in point. While on a brief residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the American artist continued to live on California time, documenting and textually ruminating on his dusk-to-dawn urban excursions, with snails and foxes and used condoms scuttling in his whirligig shadow. Horvitz’s project is a lively and timely artwork when told, coming on the back of some recent theoretical publications regarding sleepless capitalism, such as Jonathan Crary’s 24/7. But it loses its silly energy installed as it is as a slideshow/timer/printed email correspondence at the Kerry Group plant. I interviewed the artist in Phoenix Park at twilight while he was living the night fantastic (watch here), and feel that the resulting display does zero justice to the experience I had with the artist, and the experiences he shared with me through storytelling.

Is there an alternative way of communicating such storytelling artworks? Would it be better if Horvitz just sat on a stage before an audience and told story his experience? No props. Just him. His voice. His memory. Does the way the artist photographs his quotidian habits in Dublin lend some aesthetic value? I’m not so sure? The display at the Kerry Group plant does the job of illustrating Horvitz’s process  – the included timer set on California time showing the obvious 8hr difference from Limerick, makes sure the viewer doesn’t lose the temporal plot – but it removes the physical and psychical ache that I imagine Horvitz experienced during his time in Dublin. In an anthology of artist writings from the ’80s entitled Blasted Allegories, editor Brian Wallis insightfully obverses via Walter Benjamin: “...in storytelling (as opposed to literature) meaning resides not simply in the text itself or in the subject matter, but in the transmission of experience. Storytelling is a direct transmission of social interaction.”1 For me, Horvitz, the performer has left the building, along with the residue of his experiences.

Catalan artist Martí Anson is another storymaker-cum-storyteller commissioned by Bassam El Baroni for EVA International. Like Horvitz’s, his art is usually better told, not objectified. Stories that Anson has made in the past include: Fizcarraldo (2005), destroying a sailboat he spent fifty-five days building after it failed to fit through the workshop's exit door; Martí i factory (2009), building with his own hands, a 5:1 scale replica of a 150 year old factory from his hometown, inspired by the commotion caused by its proposed demolition for a planned mall; Pavelló Català. Arquitecte Anònim (2013), the construction of a copy of a holiday home built by his father, knowing beforehand that the commissioning funds wouldn’t be enough to complete it.

Anson’s project for EVA14 – Mataró: Laboratory of Spain – is another architectonic stand-in for biographical experience; lit-up by the número uno stage set of capitalism: the bank. The creative spring for Anson’s laboratory is the removal of the Caixa Laietana bank billboard in the artist’s hometown of Mataró in 2013, which seemingly gilded his and his generation’s childhood in neon. Blending nostalgia with protest, his ‘laboratory’ takes foothold in what was perhaps a run-of-the-mill office for the daily administration at the Kerry Group plant. Anson has displayed a series of original Mataró tourist postcards from the 1970s through to 2013, alongside a site-specific postcard made for the occasion – depicting Anson’s laboratory against the Limerick City skyline and a handwritten letter that drips of the nostalgic fallout from the billboard’s absence. This content is dressed inside and outside the office by a representation of the partial framework of the Caixa Laietana billboard, including a timber ‘Shannonsider’ edition of the billboard on the office facade, which anchors the work in Limerick.

Like Anson, American conceptual artist Laurence Weiner also created a socio-economic rebus with the help of a bankrupt bank and a billboard in downtown Belgrade, 2008, when he placed a billboard on the former Beaobank with the words PLACED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE LIGHT. All evidence of the Beaobank had been wiped clean from the high-rise that had overlooked the city’s rapid post-socialist expansion, except for a textual advertising billboard that was missing a few teeth, lisping out “A CA BAMA” – loosely translated as ‘with you’ in Serbian. PLACED ON EITHER SIDE OF THE LIGHT (with you) suggests a moment of stasis between choice and potential. In the blink of an eye, however, ‘Light’ shifts terrifyingly quick in signification, from deliverance to demise; all dependent on what tunnel you are gazing down.

Weiner’s on the ledge ambiguity is absent from Horvitz’s and Anson’s commissioned projects for EVA International 2014; assured storytelling displaces any visual ambivalence in their art. What is left from both their processes at the Kerry Group plant are mere information points or signposts to experience and research. But if you pull on the brakes and let the dust settle, crumbs of experience can be followed to some degree. “Beep Beep”!!


Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists, Brian Wallis (Ed), MIT Press, 1987. p. xii.


#4/ ‘Dear David Horvitz & Martí Anson’







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