DE 27/08/2013 - 21/09/2013 A


More Than Meets the Eye

Cristina Ricupero (2013)

Just as in a good detective story, art history is actually filled with enigmas, myths and unsolved riddles that seem to be only waiting to be investigated and unravelled. There are paintings that look like the perfect hideout for well-hidden secrets. Trying to solve these intellectual puzzles is a pleasure for all ages and seasons and practically no one is immune to this cultural temptation. Seen from that approach, the art gallery almost becomes the “scene of the crime”.

The dark side of human nature has always fascinated and inspired artists but it was not until the 19th century that this aspect took a more radical stance. The subtle links between art and crime can be traced to ancient times but were only theorized in the 19th century when Thomas De Quincey published his infamous essay “On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts” (1827). In this seminal essay De Quincey ironically proposes that murder should be analysed from an aesthetic rather than an ethical or sociological point of view. The development of photography was also crucial, as Walter Benjamin has noted, for the appearance of criminology and its sensational representation in the tabloid press, ultimately leading to the popularisation of detective stories. The detective story, according to Benjamin, could only come to exist when human beings developed the ability to leave permanent traces behind them as an unmistakable evidence of their existence. Later cinema picked up on this and became the perfect medium to capture and transform the dubious charms of violence into pleasurable images.

What makes crime stories continuously fascinating is the fact that the division between the criminal, the victims and the audience are constantly blurred. We are all potential victims and maybe, why not, can become possible criminals.

The exhibition ‘Suspicious Minds’ will mainly focus on contemporary artists that cross the bridges linking art and the aesthetics of crime. Beyond crime, there is always the everlasting question of Evil, and therefore any project that deals with art and crime will ultimately force us to examine the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. Like the artist who constantly resists the temptation not to leave traces, the serial killer will “sign” his murders with his own personal mark to ensure recognition. This project is thus the perfect occasion to discuss questions of authorship, authenticity, trickery and fraud. “Suspicious Minds” aims to bring together detective fiction and contemporary art, going beyond the dichotomy between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste, highlighting the double bind of ‘Crime as Art’ and ‘Art as Crime’. ‘Suspicious Minds’ will therefore necessarily re-open the debate on the links between the avant-garde, modernism and popular culture.

This exhibition will thus invoke the spirits of the modern crime genre in Literature, the Visual Arts, Architecture and Cinema, to transform Galeria Vermelho’s rooms into multiple ‘crime scenes’.

The exhibition’s aim is not to serve as a mere illustration or commentary to the theme. Instead, participating artists will deal in different ways with the overall theme. Some works will directly address the subject matter whereas others will function in a more mental, historic or conceptual way through sub-themes such as: artworks as hideouts for hidden secrets; the modern crime genre and detective stories; the aesthetics of crime (exquisite corpses and the cinematic); the image of the artist as marginal; law, order and transgression; authorship, authenticity, trickery and frauds; the art gallery as the scene of the crime/art crimes; how society creates evil, us (West) against them (other non-Western countries).
The works on view can reflect the obsessive curiosity and interpretation of the detective, the narcissistic identification with the criminal as well as the spectator’s fetishist pleasure. Some projects deal with authenticity and frauds, what could be considered by some as ‘art crimes’; others tend to represent crime as macabre and sublime as in the cinematic while a few proposals provide evidence of public historical events – the social, political crimes. A few projects can actually combine these three main tendencies.

With his monumental installation ‘Strictu’, Cildo Meireles confronts the viewer with a space that evokes an interrogation chamber where a barely lit small table is surrounded by a very long chain containing steel balls and handcuffs. The interrogation lamp illuminates a small piece of paper revealing a statement by the Ku Klux Klan: “We want to steal their time. We want to steal their space. We want to steal their mind.” Here mind and body control are at centre stage. The ultimate violence of these words alludes to authoritarianism, but for Meireles it can take many forms, the social, political obvious sense but also the cultural artistic one. He also offers the spectator the freedom to interact with the piece or not by putting the handcuffs on and pulling the weight of the prison ball and physically experiencing oppression and restraint.

With ‘Apagamentos’, Rosângela Rennó re-works photographs initially taken by the forensic police. These appropriations of anonymous faces that reveal private tragedies and crimes contain a high level of narrative impact functioning a bit like ‘amnesia documents’. Rennó transforms scenes that were almost erased and forgotten, into literary fiction.
Eva Grubinger puts up a flag and a brass plaque on the facade of the gallery turning it into 'the ‘Embassy of Eitopomar', an utopian kingdom in the Amazon jungle ruled by the evil master villain Dr. Mabuse.

Gabriel Lester recreates a fully decorated and conceivable living room in one of the gallery spaces; although ‘Habitat Sequence’ does not necessarily aim to depict a ‘crime scene’, it definitely evokes it by its phantasmagoric, eerie quality.

Dora Longo Bahia takes us close to contemporary wars as she revisits Jacques Louis David’s ‘Marat assassiné’ by re-painting the masterpiece on recycled army tent; she juxtaposes it with another painting featuring the image of the corpse of a student leader, Edson Luiz, who had been killed by the military police in 1968 during the Brazilian dictatorship, and vandalizes both with red color acrylic paint during the opening of the show.

Kader Attia presents a slide show, part of his ongoing research ‘The Culture of Fear: An Invention of Evil # 2’, which includes images from his own private collection of newspapers and comic strips that repeatedly seem to depict the non-Western person as a beast or monster, showing how these images were manipulated by pro-colonial propaganda pretending to have a civilizing mission.

Censorship, sensationalist newspaper headlines as well as crime and police brutality have featured in Antonio Manuel’s oeuvre, tracing the upheavals of Brazilian history over the last forty years. He will present two of his well-known interventions in newspapers from the 70’s where he juxtaposes political and aesthetic situations as well as a most recent installation called ‘Fantasma’ (Phantom), that creates a ‘disseminated image of the spectator by the press as the witness to a crime’.

Gustavo von Ha brings us back the spirit of the Modernist Brazilian Movement of 1922, including re-known artist Tarsila de Amaral, with a series of appropriations he sets up in a Beaux-Arts décor. In this same wavelength, Sandra Gamarra presents copies of the well-known series by German artist Gerard Richter, ‘October 18, 1977’ – paintings based on photos taken from the media of members of the terrorist organization Baader-Meinhof in the mid-70s.

Lili Reynaud-Dewar, will present an installation, ‘Speaking of Revolt, Media and Beauty’ that comprises a series of sculptures: objects (books, plaster casts, clothes) covered with black make-up alongside a film she has made with her friend and former professor Pierre Ciquel, where they discuss Jean Genet’s life and oeuvre. The film addresses questions such as Genet's engagement aside the Black Panthers and the Palestinians and basically what it takes to be a writer, an activist and a thief altogether.

‘Crime Master’ is a new work by Dias & Riedweg especially made for the exhibition, consisting of an already existing photo from the series ‘O espelho da tarde’ and a new film. The main protagonist of the film (who also appears in the photo) dreams that he steals his own photo from the art gallery and takes it to his house in the favela ‘Alemao’. Issues dealing with the artist as potential criminal and authenticity are central.

On March 10, 1914, Mary Richardson went into the National Gallery in London and repeatedly stabbed the painting ‘The Toilet of Venus’ by Velasquez. The artist book ‘Elements of Beauty’ by Carla Zaccagnini brings together material and documentation on a series of similar actions by the group Suffragettes that took place in art galleries and museums. This book mainly focuses on interventions where the work of art literally becomes the victim.

Most of Jean-Luc Blanc’s paintings and drawings are totally embedded in the world of cinema and press cuttings. They actually function a bit like ‘film stills’, images he carefully chooses to borrow and re-stage from his favorite films, ranging from classic film noir, thrillers to rather unknown B-movies. He will paint the entrance wall of the gallery like the front cover of a ‘pulp magazine’ signing it with the title of show ‘Suspicious Minds’ and will also present a set of new drawings.

For many years now, Brice Dellsperger has been busy remaking film sequences of his favorite films (‘Twin Peaks’, ‘Dressed to Kill’, ‘Star Wars’ and many others) where he or other actors always play all roles. As part of his ongoing film series called ‘Body Double’ he revisits Brian de Palma and cult underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger with ‘Body Double 1’ and ‘Body Double 26’. Again, in the spirit of the cinematic, gothic B-movie style film ‘Goner’ by Aida Ruilova features a young woman being recurrently attacked by obscure, invisible forces punctuated by a highly rhythmatic and frightening soundtrack that invades the space and transforms the viewer into a voyeur. ‘Suspicious Minds’ will also present objects, props, posters and a film-extract of ‘A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma’ (‘At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul’) by cult B-movie filmmaker José Mojica Marin, who is also known by his alter-ego Zé do Caixão (‘Coffin Joe’), paying tribute to the great master and pioneer of Brazilian horror film.

In a quite different mode, Asli Cavusoglu, mimics the television crime series genre (‘crime scenes investigations’) by bringing together and confronting art professionals with forensic experts. In her film installation ‘Murder in Three Acts’, exhibitions function as crime scenes and art works become murder weapons. While Sven Augustijen’s film, ‘L’école des pickpockets’, between documentary and fiction, presents the audience with two professional thieves that give a master-class in the art of pickpocketism.

Fabian Marti pays tribute to Hélio Oiticica with a series of prints that make direct reference to the artist’s well-known ‘Cosmococas’; the artist duo Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima present ‘Armas.obj’ which are life-size paper enlargements of pistols, rifles and snipers found in video-games and will also make small bullet holes on different walls of the gallery, a work called ‘Bala Perdida’; Regina Parra shows a series of small paintings entitled ‘Controle’, that were based on images taken from surveillance cameras right before tragic incidents; Guga Ferraz presents painting-collages that literally ‘map-out’ crimes in the city of Rio de Janeiro; Marcelo Cidade proposes a bench like sculpture which is chained to the wall and where the spectator can comfortably read a book called ‘A Arte de Furtar’ (‘The Art of Stealing’) by José Ubaldo Ribeiro while José Carlos Martinat has torn out a graffiti from the urban space of the city featuring the words ‘Proibido’ (Forbidden).

These are the many stories that visitors to the show will be offered as puzzles to be unraveled.

‘Suspicious Minds’ aims to bring together a few selected artists from Europe and the US together with Brazilian artists from the gallery and elsewhere. It is mainly set up as a collaboration and cooperation between Galeria Vermelho and curator Cristina Ricupero. Another version of this exhibition project will be presented at the Witte de With in Rotterdam in January 2014.