Saturday, 24 January 2015

Reads Like a Book

Reads Like a Book is a newly opened exhibition on books (which often might be neither legible nor made of paper), the next chapter of the ambitious, long-term programme entitled Book Lovers, curated by David Maroto and Joanna Zielińska. As they explain its aim is to “investigate the many ways in which artists conceive their novels as part of their art projects”. The mistery how to exhibit a novel in the museum has remained unsolved but the project already generated some desirable confusion among art book aficionados, materialising in the form of a reading room, mammoth collection of artists’ novels  (already acquired by M HKA), seminar, conferences or staged public readings. Reads Like a Book is the most conventional (as far as it can be) chapter of Maroto and Zielińska’s investigation, as a set of installation works by Jill Magid, Cheng Ran and Lindsay Seers at Cricoteka, the Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor. They all struggle with the narrative and fictitious characters, which have been sort of kidnapped from the book pages (making an adaptation of a non-existing material is absolutely all right!) and transformed into spatial forms. There are beautiful failures in the show, like the narrow spiral reading room by Ran, which content (pages of the artist's novel framed and hung on the wall) is obviously impossible to digest in such conditions – an experience which might be compared to an attempt of watching 3-hour long video during a busy exhibition opening.  But there are also other elements by Ran, which compensate the frustration of the compulsive viewer like myself, who tries to consume every little bit of the show. 
Magid and Seer’s works are splendid – rich and multi-layered. Magid solved the riddle of how to display a book by arranging a constellation of some “exhausted” objects (eg. a "dead" pedestal which projects a blank slide - it’s not difficult to feel empathy toward the object who has fallen so miserably that might be mistaken for a bench!), mixing up Faust’s story with a shooting in Texas. Seers’ work takes time – it consists of two films, a sculpture and a book which is supposed to be taken and read afterwards (see it below, already domesticated). All in all, this is a set of three-dimensional novels to be walked into and skimmed, 
compiling a spectral textual assemblage in your own head.