25.SEP.2008   31.OCT.2008


Gareth James, English by birth (London 1970) but American by adoption (he has been living and working in New York since 1997), divides his research between artistic production and theoretical reflection. In 2006 he took centre stage at Franco Soffiantino's art gallery with a performing project developed by four hands along with Cesare Pietroiusti. Today he takes on the role of theorist and curator. It is this ambivalence or the “dilemma”, as he prefers to call it, that acts as the thread and cohesive factor between the two activities. More specifically: the analysis of the dilemma, intended as a linguistic construction and not as a search for contents, leads to two possible outcomes, it manifests itself through two ambivalent activities. In the previously mentioned exhibition (11 November 2006), the artist James, a fine connoisseur of the Lacanian theory, claimed: “The problem with drawing on a piece of paper is not what to draw, but the fact that the paper has two faces". Now, just like back then, also for the curator James the focus has shifted on to the ambiguous manifestations of the form rather than on to the contents of the message. On the play of linguistic twist whose elements, depending on the way they are fitted, may result in different and even contradictory interpretations. The dilemma becomes a subject, an opportunity to seek, a potential of experience and not an obstacle to overcome in order to find one single solution, the best possible one. There is no search for values, but the analysis of the structures underlying the contents, which, if adequately broken down, may give rise to multiple interpretations. Hermann’s grid is a black and white grid, a fixed, bidimensional pattern which, by definition, should not result in any digression. However, the grid, by some kind of optical illusion, seems to be moving, to be fading into light rays that are projected on to the black insides of the squares.Despite this, the human eye cannot stare at what is static by construction, hence the optical illusion of a grid consisting of vibrating lights. Even the curator’s idea only emerges to disappear, leaving behind an illusion where each artist becomes an unaware curator of the exhibition for which he was selected: Gareth James invites artists who have influenced his choice, imposing themselves upon him by means of their stubbornness and independence. Hence, choosing, though passively. The concept of choice itself is linguistically broken down, the search for contents is replaced by a dialogue whose participating subjects play a role and only take on value within the dialogue itself. Confirming it and at the same time contradicting it. The curator James creates principles of selection to which all selected artists answer. All but one for each of the categories created. The dilemma, the ambivalence, the illusion, the exception that confirms the rule, the play of structures that are broken down and then put back together. The artist James plays with the curator’s practice as a means of his work, as an excuse for artistic creation which manifests itself not through an artefact, but through the composition of works by other artists.The works, observed one by one, appear to focus, rather than on their content, on the linguistic value acquired through the dialogue established with the surrounding area hosting them and among one another. Each work acquires value within the dialogue, but they could lose it altogether in a different context.

"Requests to artists from commercial galleries to curate exhibitions of young emerging artists always produces a double-bind. In the English language, a double bind is a dilemma in communication in which a person receives two or more confl icting messages and one message contradicts the other, a situation in which the person will be put in the wrong however they respond. The recipient of the message cannot comment on the confl ict, resolve it, nor opt out of the situation. Further complications exist when double binds are part of an ongoing relationship to which the person is committed. To say yes to such requests is to allow oneself to be put in the position of seeing one’s name put to work, to give legitimacy to younger artists who neither need nor want it, guaranteeing their value like a national Bank standing behind its currency or its mischievous investment banks. Artists curating exhibitions is meant to soften the brute act of selection but it cannot: it merely personalizes the whole affair so that it seems more accidental, softens the whole business with a charming glow of subjectivity. But this much is indisputable: life often seems to be designed for little more than a slow attempt to make a Name which you fi rst encounter as an alienated refl ection running ahead of you eventually coincide marginally more with your singular existence than with a statistical effect - and feeling one’s name returning so easily to its function of distinction within institutional force fi elds produces a bad mood. To say no however, is to be ridiculously cautious, not to say pedantic: a miserly and selfi sh character. While opting out is ruled out and crossed out, a strong form of ambivalence opens onto other possibilities: displacement and condensation are two operations that are curious for their presence both within the subjective and objective registers of meaning production. Central in Freud’s work, they appear again in Roman Jakobson’s structural analysis of language and art. The solution then is clear: pass the Buck - displace and condense the curatorial problem onto another subject/structure conjunction - Ludimar Hermann (1838-1914) gave his name (voluntarily) to an optical illusion, and it provides us with a fi eld upon which names, structural functions, and provisional positions might be seen, maddeningly fl itting in and out of view. From this point all that was left for me to do was to curate in a strong form of ambivalence, where the curatorial idea emerges only to be defeated and disappear: invert the normal power relation of selection by inviting artists who have exerted a power over me in their extreme stubbornness and independence, then form a list of rules to which there is at least one artist who forms the exception:

1. All of the artists in this exhibition are artists.
1b. All of the artists in this exhibition in this exhibition are young.
2. All of the artists in this exhibition have been my students.
3. All of the artists in this exhibition work collaboratively.
3b. All of the artists in this exhibition know each other.
4. All of the artists in this exhibition were excited to participate and needed no persuasion.
5. All of the artists in this exhibition represent a network of relations and interest that exceeds that of this exhibition.

The artists are: Eric Anglès, Jason Boughton, Thomas Torres Cordova, Taylor Kretschmar, John Kelsey and Sylvère Lotringer, Charles Mayton, Eileen Quinlan, Amelia Saddington, Josh Tonsfeldt."

Gareth James, New York, September 2008