"Assembling another platform (Ghost version)", 2016.


Venue and location

Sturtevant, Claire Fontaine, Bernadette Corporation, Reena Spauling, Jutta Koethler, Tiqqun, Giorgio Agamben

Organised by David Cheers

Proposal and scheme for an exhibition looking at Claire Fontaine, Bernadette Corporation, Sturtevant, Reena Spauling

Ideas for an exhibitionless practice 

Outline for an exhibition that doesn’t need to take place. To do two things, establish “an imageless art practice” and through its construction bring together artists and groups that question the existing formation of art, individual and group exhibition formats, and the ready-made artist*, where all positions and roles are already formulated when we step into them.

What is an imageless art practice?

[It is a “way” of] Engaging [with] art without using its forms, platforms, content, concepts, [so] stripping away the visual material content of existing art platforms.

“To work out what an imageless art practice is I want to adopt methods from film and theatre, with reference to the structure of a novel, by organising (my) thinking and text in the form of a series of “Out Takes and Rehearsals”.  To try out different styles, to confront my own dry, rigid way of confessional writing, which often comes across as pulling together pieces of information rather than actual thinking. To pose questions and to go down different threads of thinking that gravitates towards a type of text that captures “an imageless art practice.” Let us start from the very beginning when this imageless art practice is not so clear, we have to ask ourselves “Can any text embody an imageless art form?” [Or is that a different question?] What type of specific text or style or narrative embodies an imageless art practice? Whatever the answer is, and whatever this entity is, I want to link establishing an imageless art practice with assembling another platform outside obsolescence and stasis “to rupture the existing order*.” The regime of non-growth and non-development that hinders development*, the non-time or the slowing down of time that we have entered and exist in today,  seems to make it redundant to think of any other idea before this fundamental problem is resolved, because new work and new concepts are unable to say anything.  

Trap 1

Yet we also need to ask ourselves whether this is yet another trap, another objective we can never accomplish, another delusion that belongs to the conservative momentum towards reinventing existing platforms? Or are we caught in a trap by simply imagining it is possible to find a route out of obsolescence and stasis?

Trap 2

Yet Sturtevant and Claire Fontaine’s “acts” are traps, so we have another type of trap. This trap draws the viewer into a situation until they realise (or not) they are part of a set of cultural rituals. And it is only when the viewer realises something is happening, that the work is pulled out of the surrounding banality, out of its slumber, and activated. One moment it is unrecognised, part of the background, the next moment alive. This sleep can last many years, 10, 15 years or longer for instance, sometimes it may never be brought alive. It is up to the viewer to be able to switch the work on or to leave it switched off. The work* as a trap, that attract and draw the viewer in, which is what happens when we go to an opening or enter a gallery, so that the viewer is steered into the centre of this historically specific set of rituals and historically specific manner of thinking attached to existing cultural forms. Outside these forms, where thinking is dislocated from cultural forms and rituals, there is only dizziness and disorientation (to paraphrase Sturtevant).

Loop 1

The exhibition is the space of visibility where “visibility is power.” Where the press release operates as a mediation on the exhibition, representing both the exhibition in this formation and possibility and other formations and manifestations. The press release principle role is to transmit stable information from one exhibition to the next, which we are trying to disrupt here. Yet it also says “exhibition” without its material content. So here we are looking at integrating the press release as an exhibition emptied of its existing forms and conventions, meshed together with a text to navigate towards an idea of an imageless art practice. [This is just quickly sketched out and requires considerable rethinking and revision.]

Loop 2

This scheme looks at the orthodox exhibition format as the embodiment of obsolescence and stasis, but also the possibility of an exhibition* as a route out of obsolescence and stasis as in this case. The exhibition pools practices [Sturtevant, Claire Fontaine, Bernadette Corporation] that formulate similar procedures and methodologies. And what they have in common is a deliberate strategy to deflect and obscure what is taking place. They operate underground, out of view, often invisible, which seems to contradict and go against the notion that exhibitions are a coupling and equating of visibility and power. They are a form of Archaeology and institutional critique that instead of building a picture of an institution undermines and liquefies solid facts and forms of the institution. They dissolve the institution/ Our starting point is  the link between practices that operate across all aspects of the elements and attributes that make up the exhibition form – comprising artists, artists name, exhibition, display, press release, books, and performance. A network that links together all the parts, the sum of the attributes of the orthodox art world seen in the round, the sum of the material qualities that comprise the presentation of art as a totality to undermine that totality and destabilize that totality. This is the material totality and the limit of what is possible, and through its destabilization and mutation something else is glimpsed.

Loop 3

It is the framing of this totality, or rather its evocation, that is revealed in Sturtevant’s “repetitions”, exposing thinking attached to physical form and ceremonies, and in doing so questioning the very nature of thinking, and in the late works giving space to raw thinking, to make evident that we do think through showing the act of thinking, and not what to think or regulate thinking. [As a critique and in opposition to Conceptual art practices]

In that respect we are looking at stratified practices. Meaning that camouflaged, secret works and activities take place whether the viewer is conscious of this or not, where multiple practices nest into each other – art works, text, theory, philosophy, lectures, performance, music. So the surface shell, the shell that meets the viewer, pushes into visibility while at the same time shielding the actual acts, which is the real content of the practice. This shell pushes into the limit of what is possible within the conventions of the orthodox exhibition, and behind that other activities push against these limits. So we have an illusion of something static and visual within the matrix of existing attributes and a program to open out and break the existing paralysis.

Loop 4

Bring together into one imaginary space practices (Sturtevant, Claire Fontaine, Reena Spauling and Bernadette Corporation) that appear to be doing something similar, that merge, overlap and bleed into each other’s practice. That put in the way obstacles to understanding what is taking place, along with frustrating and deflecting the use of normalised language and concepts to describe this art. By grouping together these practices highlights the very limitations of static forms in capturing and displaying practices concerned with framing the very historically specific edifice, ceremonies and rituals that we take part in when we conjure up The Art World, but is nevertheless invisible to us. These both highlight the limits of the tools at our disposal and how to glimpse new platforms from within the space of obsolescence.

Loop 5

At any point on entering the Art World we consolidate and fix in place the existing order through replicating its constituent parts – artist, artwork, exhibition – gelling together and reaffirming that order, where even to think and put into words these problems gels together this order. This problem is clearly materialised in both the fixed positions of the individual and group show model*. We are trapped in a matrix of obsolescence*, where an exit is not so obvious, and maybe not possible. When the choice from existing workable examples* and strategies are limited and “almost” non-existent, /maybe Bernadette Corporation* offer one possible strategy. The example* I want to look at that point where one Bernadette Corporation manifestation came to an end (but only in appearance) through mutating into two further groups Reena Spauling, taken from the title of a novel by Bernadette Corporation, and Clare Fontaine (although this link is an error), maybe it was just a coincidence that Claire Fontaine appeared at the same time this manifestation of Bernadette Corporation came to an end. Both Bernadette Corporation and its off spring Reena Spauling undergo continuous mutation, and specifically Reena Spauling which is more focused on the breakdown of the identity that shape the art world, mutating from a multi authored novel, into a gallery, artist’s group, dealer, critic, with unknown authors moving continuously between different groups and disciplines. This is the clearest example of the break down and dissolving of a clear distinguishable shape of the artist, art work, and boundary between disciplines. Furthermore we can say this is a form, movement, shape shifting that evades being pinned down, that moves on before we register what is taking place, before its activities are captured in “normalised terms”, where the common effect is a series of blurs, leading to increasing confusion.  A practice that consciously refuses to use existing platforms, the internal liquefying of existing concepts, identities, language and formats, ending in the dissolution of the very art world, structure, language and concepts*.

Loop 6

So we have to ask what is possible within this existing matrix. On the one hand there are practices that deliberately highlight the limit of what is concretely possible, where there is an appearance that nothing can be said or possible within the given order, rather than wishing away these problems, a process of continuous liquidification that limits what is possible even further. An implosion of what is possible along with the existing platforms, concepts and language.  On the other hand we are confronted and seduced by sweeping statements made by [realist and political art] practices that give the illusion that the state of affairs can be captured, that something can be said, yet has no effect on the state of affairs, “where we find the strange phenomenon of the space of art exploding to such an extent that it mimics and parallels the World.” So we have two Worlds.

Loop 7

Shape shifting

The Art World is shaped by product, branding, market forces and Capitalism, which is probably to obvious to mention, but which is rarely discussed, or if discussed, discussed badly and not very convincingly, and often avoided when discussing art. It is an embarrassment that lurks constantly in the background, primarily because to talk of such things leads to difficulties and complexities that is both uncomfortable and extremely difficult to address, and is maybe seen as simple minded. This is in part due to the censorship operating at the centre of art. And the margin of operating today is very narrow. For one thing it is difficult like so many aspects of the art world to find precise information about the business side of the art world, and how much money is being made and the precise link between the money side of the art world and the objects and ideas produced by artists. Nevertheless if we take the step to confront these contradictions how do we find workable methods to expose art mirroring Global Capitalism, where on a certain level art is the clearest example and symbol of Global Capitalism. So if we are looking at Globalisation through the prism of a practice and world that mirrors Global Capitalism where is the sense of such acts? It seems that this very aspect infiltrates, contaminates and nullifies every single work of art whether critical, political or commercial, if such artificial positions and differences exist. Yet we want to use the space of art to evaluate this from inside, against the background of the exhaustion and dead end of critical regulatory thinking. / [*There is a big gap and shift here.] There are a cluster of groups and practitioners who confront these problems and whose very strategy blurs and tests out the fixity of art as a ready-made, to frustrate the perpetual replicating of the identical format from one exhibition and project to the next, the fixing, naming, replicating, limiting language and thinking to the existing order, where we end up opposite to the critical position against the stasis of the existing order and its political system. How is it possible (or even rationale and sensible) to organise an exhibition that captures these practices, which is even difficult when the exhibition format only treats fixed entities, unless it takes a fluid and performative approach. Where the surface form is a barrier to obscure from the viewer fluid constant changes, although the surface appearance are repeatedly swapped, exchanged, moved, where we find continuous flux in stark contrast to fixity, clarity and difference.


David Goldenberg is a UK based artist. He was educated as a painter at Wimbledon School of Art and at KIAD in Art theory, Art and Architecture. In 1992, at the Museum of Installation, he exhibited “Microwaves and Frozen Stills”, his first fully realised work, which crystallised threads of ideas he would develop for the next twenty years, whether the spatial role of art, the relationship between art and its architectural setting, the role of the audience, to problems in locating adequate narratives to make sense of the role of art, globalisation and colonialism. The work was included in two Thames and Hudson books – Installation Art and New Media Art. The following year he started to exhibit outside the UK with the group show Sei Dabi in Hamburg, Germany which included Walid Raad, then 50X50 at the Schipper Krome Gallery, Cologne, Germany, and Printed Matter in New York, USA. Throughout the 1990’s the MOI exhibition was adopted as the principle template for a series of shows in the UK (funded by ACE), Europe and the USA, which allowed the opportunity to test out the conventions of staging art. Towards the end of the 1990’s the projects took on a more experimental nature culminating in the “Homeless Project” in London, which looked at “an art that has no fixed site”. The material that came out of this and subsequent projects can be found in the Curating Degree Zero archive in the library of the school of art in Zurich, Switzerland. The two key ideas examined during this time are Steven Willet’s concept of Participatory Practices and Ute Meta Bauer’s idea of curating as an extension of both an art practice and as a critical practice. Towards the end of the 1990’s he was introduced to the German theorist Michael Lingers concept of Post Autonomy. From 1998 he started part time lecturing in curating at Goldsmiths University leading to the ACE funded symposium on “Curating post institutions” at the ICA, London. Followed by part time lecturing on Post Autonomy, Curating and Art theory at KIAD, Wimbledon School of Art and St Martins School of art; Public talks at Iniva, SLG and the commemoration of Gustav Metzger’s work “Conference in a fork lift truck” , then as a Part time critic for London Arts with Sacha Craddock. From 2000 following his inclusion in Tate Modern’s Century City he started to exhibit in Museums in Europe that included Kolnisher and Bonner Kunstvereins, Shedhalle, Zurich, Switzerland and outside Europe at the ICA, Philadelphia, USA, from 2002 he started to take part in Biennials first with the Sharjah Biennial, followed by the Istanbul Biennial, Berlin Biennial, Venice Biennial, Mongolian Biennial, Caspian Sea Biennial, Bodrum Biennial and the Mobile Biennial of Southern Romania. During this time he established close links with the new media project The Thing, Frankfurt who organised the launch of the first website dedicated to Post Autonomy. The site became the platform for in-depth discussions on Participatory practices, Globalisation, Colonialism and the theorisation of Post Autonomy. 2000 also saw a substantial shift in focus towards a more critical treatment of Participatory Practices and gravitation towards Post Autonomy as the nucleus of subsequent thinking and practice, these experiments in participatory practices led to texts for Fillip magazine in 2008 and 2010. Further shifts occurred in 2010 and 2013 with the development of “Post Autonomy as a practice to test out Biennials”, as outlined in a text delivered for the Mongolian Land art Biennial in 2010, then the clarification and expansion of Post Autonomy through introducing the second term – Participating Cultures – and a fundamental rethinking of the role of art in a Global context by using the platforms of biennials and exhibitions, as developed in shows in Milan and “The Transformation of Art” installation for the Venice Biennial in 2013 [which can also be seen as a response to the MOI show of 1992]. This was followed by a new concerted effort to locate new terms and concepts for new platforms to stage art, culminating in conferences to rethink the Biennial form at the Caspian Sea Biennial conference, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2013, and the text “Between Revolution and Heresy”, published in the Bucharest Biennial reader in 2014.