in the Category: art

A gesamtkunstwerk with a smashing cure

About a month ago, It Never Ends – Part 2 was launched at KANAL – Centre Pompidou. Similar to the first part of his grand exhibition project, John M. Armleder brought together his flock of befriended artists – dead or alive – to the former Citroën building in Brussels. Although most of the works were already on view in the first episode of the show, a few interesting additions were made. In a mix between (self-)glorification and nostalgia, the Swiss curator offered us a show that was at times alluring and amusing.

Text by Camille Bladt
Photos shot in Kanal by Pommelien Koolen

As I entered KANAL and passed Charlemagne Palestine’s stuffed animals (2020) and Armleder’s Stairways to Heaven (2020) among others, I almost couldn’t suppress my impatience to discover the announced presentation of the Flux Boxes. Back in the sixties and seventies, Fluxus related artists such as George Maciunas, George Brecht and Ben Vautier, created these little toolkits based on the objective of democratisation while using - and at the same time criticizing - strategies of consumer capitalism. Filled with objects, event scores, cards and all sorts of material, these little boxes were made to be easily (re)produced, to be handled, and to act in everyday life. Despite these noble premises, the Flux Boxes presented here were deprived of their original critical potential and found themselves almost completely 'museumized' within an otherwise quite vibrant exhibition. Captured inside display cases and on pictures on the walls, the once so vivid pieces became merely ghosts of themselves as they were reduced to historical artefacts. But, I must agree, the current health situation and the inevitable conservatism prudence in displaying works of art, do not allow manipulation of any kind. 

I almost couldn’t suppress my impatience to discover the announced presentation of the Flux Boxes

Continuing our walk through Armleder’s art landscape, a huge golden mushroom arises next to the Christmas trees. Referring to composer John Cage, who apparently really liked mushrooms, Silvy Fleury presents us with a shimmering sculpture coated with car paint. Taking into account Fleury’s former ironic gestures towards a male-dominated art world, this enclosed phallic fungus stands up between the other works.

Other additions to the show, such as the 'spectacular installation' of Christian Marclay and the screenings on the top floor (Hommage à l’Antologie), winked as well at past Fluxus times. With his two rows of Musical Chairs (1996) against a backdrop of photographed disposable printed matter such as candy wrappers, plastic bags and magazine clippings, all showing musical notations, Marclay tributed George Brecht and his chair events. Finally, Armleder caught the attentive visitor with a subtle rearrangement of his gigantic work Quicksand 3 and a playful another addition with Senza Titolo of Maurizio Cattelan, for which the Italian provocateur decorated the rear window of a red Fiat with a small Armleder doll. 

Armleder caught the attentive visitor with a subtle rearrangement

Reflecting on Armleder’s grand gesture for KANAL, I couldn’t help but question the outcome of this evolving exhibition. A format like this offers the curator the time to develop an argument and the luxury of not having to kill his darlings but to just show them all. Where it not that, apart from a ‘John M. Armleder network analysis’ with an endless amount of references to a certain movement from the sixties, no concrete argument is to be found.

Furthermore, in times like these, when the world of visual culture is in constant flux - no pun intended - how engaging is it to show almost the same exhibition twice, only adding or rearranging a few pieces? Nevertheless, to fill an institution like KANAL with such an overall concept like the Swiss curator presented us is as overwhelming for the audience as it is generous from his side. This gesamtkunstwerk– with next to performances and screenings also a tearoom, a library and workshop – is a smashing cure for those who have been locked up in their bubble for too long.

It Never Ends - KANAL
Become a part of Subbacultcha and visit the exhibition for free until 25 April.
Registration is not required, members can show up at the entrance