Art Collective MTAA Tops iCommons Exhibition Review!

by Art Fag City on June 17, 2007 Reviews


My full review of the icommons Artist in Residence exhibition can be found on the icommons site now. I have taken the liberty of sampling a larger portion of the text than I usually do, for no other reason really than to give readers the opportunity to read a little more meat on this site before deciding to click to another.

iCommoners and the artists in residence had the good fortune of sharing the street outside the gallery with every drunk teenager in the city last night. I suppose I should feel sorry for the six or seven boys I saw through the course of the evening hunched over a sink in a bathroom, but seeing as how I recognized a lot of these guys as the cat callers who had annoyed me earlier that day, my sympathy isn't what it might be otherwise.

The exhibition itself looks good over all. Not much larger than a mid to large sized bedroom, the gallery presents a real challenge to work with, so it has to be said the artists did an excellent job of creating a space that didn't immediately evoke feelings of claustrophobia. Supporting this statement, Dubrovnik's gallery goers were by far the most eager to engage in participate in the work than any other I have seen this year, (barring perhaps the art rock concert by the Final Run-Ins at Taxter and Spengemann gallery in New York two weeks ago), a crowd behavior that simply would not occur if the gallery was installed poorly.

Individual works are of varied success, largely reflecting the portability of the artist's practice. In that respect probably the most successful work in the show, came from the New York art collective MTAA whose net art piece On Kawara Update displayed beautifully on an “antique” computer screen dating to (I'm guessing) the early 90's. Unlike some many art titles that leave viewers befuddled, this work tells you exactly what the piece does. Drawing upon the canonical On Kawara's “Today Series”, an ongoing project whereby the artist creates Spartan black canvases with only the date, and a separate collection of news clippings from the day, MTAA's update recreates that same canvas for the web as a splash page displaying only the date which is also a link to a program that pulls news stories from that day with Creative Commons licenses [editors note: apparently most newsfeeds are CC licensed so MTAA decided it wasn't worth the effort to make a specific filter]. Now, to be honest, I've always had problems buying into the original series MTAA draw inspiration from, namely because the artist spent a life time doing the project without apparently getting bored of it. For me, this piece immeasurably improves the latter not only because the filter [if it existed] adds a layer of specificity to the work, but by automating the repetitive aspect of the work, thereby eliminating criticisms lodged against artists who remake the same piece through out their lifetime.

Working with the familiar, shows up in other strong works in the show. For example, Ana Husman's, Make Yourself at Home and Welcome!!! , a free travel guide for tourists, informs icommoners about local customs, and warns of common missteps that might identify you as an annoying visitor. “Avoid walking in the small gutter along the Stradun”, Husman tells us, “Otherwise they say you will never get married!” Knowledge I wish I had known prior to arriving also shows up in the book. “Citizens of Dubrovnik rarely know the names of streets.” The artist doesn't add cab drivers to this observation, but anyone who took a cab from the Dubrovnik airport can. Probably my favorite part of this book comes from Marcell Mars introduction, who bemoans the inherent lack of “retellability” of the sublime in art. In a community that seeks and trumpets the sublime over almost any other attribute in work, I find it refreshing that someone has taken the time to point out the value of art with mime like qualities. Nobody will argue that the discipline needs to communicate, but the idea that art that renders the viewer speechless is somehow inherently better seems awfully narrow to me.

To read the full review click here.

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