Bernadette Corporation: 2000 Wasted Years at Artists Space

by Corinna Kirsch on October 12, 2012 Reviews

Bernadette Corporation: 2000 Wasted Years looks more like a fashion showroom than an art exhibition. For the past eighteen years, the Bernadette Corporation has taken a rebellious stance toward art: they’ve designed clothes, published magazines, customized terry cloth towels, altering just about anything that’s not a painting on canvas. They don’t give a damn; anything goes with their corporate ethos, because the world as we know it is a shithole.

At Artists Space, the gallery is full of black lacquered vitrines, vinyl advertisements, and fashion mannequins touting the art collective’s logo “BC.” Videos show models sashaying down the runway in BC-designed clothes and a film trailer starring Chloë Sevigny. There’s even a large-scale printout of a Village Voice review and a statement from Chris Kraus praising their poem “A Billion and Change.” All these ads would seem like excessive self-congratulation, but BC is a corporation, after all. They can get away with it.

It’s hard to nail down exactly what BC does. Sure, they’re a corporation, but a corporation that sells what, exactly? They’re a bit schizophrenic in their choice of projects, extending their brand’s reach into everything from poems to fashion shows to movie trailers to BC-branded potatoes. Such a random array of projects is bound to produce confusion, and you can’t show all those things in a gallery anyway. Those potatoes, for instance, aren’t in the exhibition; they’ve been flattened into photos.

That confusion about what BC does and their enormous, scatterbrained output probably explains why the curators have included so much text in 2000 Wasted Years, like the year-by-year history that ribbons its way around the space. There’s no way to get a sense of how much BC has produced without some context; otherwise, the exhibition just feels like wandering around an archive.

So, what, specifically, has the corporation done lately? Well, for one, there’s that sexting and plumbing project, A Haven for the Soul, which they realized for a 2010 exhibition held at Galerie NEU in Berlin.

Bernadette Corporation, "go girl," 2010. Dornbracht plumbing fixture with two machine engravings and one sandblast etching.

One of the works in that project, go girl, a bathroom faucet, lies curled up on its side, flaccid and fetal-like in a well-lit vitrine. The only thing that distinguishes this art faucet from any other standard bathroom faucet shows in its engraving. The text comes from commenters’ responses to Rihanna’s leaked cell-phone pics from 2009:

(3-July-2009) “there’s no proof that’s hers? Why the FUCK are they saying it is what’s the proof? It doesn’t even show her face. Nipple rings big turn off for me anyway.”

BC doesn’t cast judgement about whether sexting, faucets, or online commenters are a good thing. Instead, they just show the way the world works: we have bathrooms, we have phones, and now, we have nude cell phone pics. It’s a general “whatever” statement about the world, and maybe it’s like pop art in that way, but its that lack of a clear stance that makes me doubt how seriously they take their own project.

That aloofness is reflected in the group’s writings, like “2000 Wasted Years: Corporate Responsibility and the Swine We Are,” reprinted on a lightbox in the gallery:

There is only now a possibility of never having anything worthwhile to do. So get it together with your friends! Steal yourself some time to think and time to kill. It’s good to run with your gang, in the city or country.

For BC, when nothing is worthwhile, it doesn’t matter what you do (think, kill, or run) or where you do it (in the city or country), just make sure to do it in league with your friends. I just don’t buy this lesson that’s still the same after eighteen years of BC: you can start a corporation, send dirty pictures, make a film, whatever you want. It seems like a depressing way to waste 2,000 years.  

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