Is Hans Ulrich Obrist full of shit? This week, the New Yorker published a 10,000 word resumé spilling even more verbiage about Obrist’s curatorial style of vacuuming information and returning marathonic shows in an on-the-go 24-hour art viewing lifestyle.
Just a preview from the piece:
The story of how he discovered Instagram is typical. During a breakfast in 2012 with Ryan Trecartin, the video artist downloaded the app onto Obrist’s phone (without asking). Next, Trecartin posted to his Instagram followers that H.U.O. had signed up. Obrist was curious, but he wondered what to do with the new tool. Inspiration was sparked by other well-known friends. On a visit to Normandy, he went for a walk with Etel Adnan, the Lebanese artist. During a rainstorm, they stopped at a café, and she wrote him a poem, by hand. This made Obrist remember Umberto Eco’s comments on how handwriting was vanishing; he also thought of marvellous faxes he had received, all handwritten, from J. G. Ballard, when he interviewed him, in 2003. Adnan’s handwritten poem became one of Obrist’s first Instagram posts. Soon afterward, he remembered that another friend, the artist Joseph Grigely, who is deaf, uses Post-It notes to communicate; they are often incorporated into his art. H.U.O. began asking dozens of artists to write something on a Post-It.
The rest of is basically more of this, in a nutshell, what capitalism looks like in curating: move as much product as possible, while reenforcing the quality with a sprinkling of references to somebody else who had an idea.
The piece also mentions a couple of personal facts, few of which are news if you’ve been reading the dozens of interviews over the years:
- He sleeps four hours a night.
- He maintains an apartment to house 10,000 books.
- He liberally uses the word Gesamtkunstwerk.
- He feels we ought to “create a continuum with history”.
- His official nickname is H.U.O.
- He’s been described as “off-putting”. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle has called his curating style “deeply irritating” (no further explanation mentioned).
- He congratulates everybody on everything. (To John Baldessari: “Congratulations…None of this work was here six months ago!”)
- H.U.O. references a total of 32 names in the piece.
Obrist is to the arts, what Zoolander’s Hansel is to modelling.
In the words of Hansel:
Sting is a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.