Bad shows are very much in demand these days. There is a trend towards attitudes that stay vague, and oscillate between nonsense and decorated conceptualism. Their most important point is that they are consumed as cool. In French, one could call these shows "gratuites" or "n'importe quoi", in music, one could call them "etudes" or studies, and on Wooster street, one could call each of them "it looks great (but nobody knows why)" (see the review by Rainald Schuhmacher).
The plot of Liam Gillick's "Erasmus is late" is nostalgic, not even obsessive, but ambitious and well orchestrated: to rewrite, restage, and reinvent an opera by Erasmus who nobody happens to know. The medium of this recreation is a very well known and resonating ensemble of supporting galleries and writers. The entire cycle was staged in three parts, in Paris in May, in Stuttgart in summer and in NY right now. On the stage, there was never much to see, to listen to, to understand and to grasp. But still everything was handled in a virtuous allegro of smart self-referentiality, supported by adapted figures from the repertoire of neo-conceptual art and staged brilliantly in accurate design that could decorate Anna Sui's boutique as well as the ceiling, the bar, the toilet or the sound system of Twilo (club, just reopened in the space of the former "Sound Factory" on 27th street).
These shows all share the mute Wagnerian suggestion, that there is/was a lot to believe in: and that is the chic and powerful support structure that is hosting this young, charming and smart British artist who wants to be loved.
Fashion, Formalism and operesque Functions for Featured Friends seem to be the Food left for the Fine, thin and uptight class of remaining galleries. Unfortunately, in spite of the sweet ambient sound I can't help to ask myself: What the Fuck is it? What should I learn from these shows since I already understand how well elitist international support groups function when they are synchronized? What kind of refrain should I whisper? This series of shows doesn't even try to play out the conflictual collective memory that they pretend to deal with. The narrative space he opens up is completely closed and uncritical to its own history and materiality. It sounds like high art in green permeated aprons with head phones and a selective musical menu for first class travelers. What is all this well presented and well designed decorum for, since the artificially and fairy tale like pretext, with all its formalistic scores, sucks. If it wouldn't be so pretentiously sophisticated in its hip look and modest style formation one could try to rescue its gratuitousness. Precisely the old hymns simply wasting symbolic terrain, once more, seems to be the desired melodies for a cheering welcome reception. Is there really nothing more to say left, nothing more to care about, nothing more to show or to play within a structure of collective responsibility? Do we need this intergalatic cloning sound?
Unfortunately, Liam Gillick's enterprise is just an unreflected visual and
conceptual Offenbach [bland 19th cent. operetta composer-ed.] of the late, (too late)
20th century on a Barbie stage for well to do adults. You don't need sealing wax
for your ears but opera glasses and a certain resistance to the seductive launching
business as usual. In this sense this operetta is grandious.
Who are you? Can you read? Have you not heard of Charles Darwin and his brother Erasmus? Can you not tell the difference between an art exhibition and an opera? At what moment does the Marxist re-reading at the heart of the book "Erasmus is Late" become an operetta? If you had read the book you would find out that it is a guide to London and an investigation of the conditions that led to the development of both socialism and western capitalism. Where does the opera part come in. Here in Italy we remain mystified as to why this badly informed review remains floating on the Internet. Under certain circumstances it is a mistake to apply only Greenburgian formalist readings to art, but then again . . . Learn to read.
Since when did obsessive become an useful criterian for arts today?