International exhibitions

International 2009 Archives

For the blind man in the dark room...
Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (USA)

11.09.2009 - 03.01.2010

07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

Our story begins in Ancient Greece with Socrates announcing : "I know that I know nothing". Clearly, confusion has always been at the heart of wisdom.

Centuries later came a statement many have attributed to Charles Darwin : "A mathematician is like a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that ins't there." As a sciencist committed to cataloguing, explaning, and drawing a clear picture of nature, Darwin mocked the mathematician's inhability to describe the physical world in anothing but abstract and speculative terms.

But artists also understand the world in speculative terms. With their help, we can learn to enjoy the experience of not-knowing, unlearning, and the playfulness of being in the dark.

Sarah Crowner puts two issues of The Blind Man (edited by Marcel Duchamp, Henri-Pierre Roché and Beatrice Wood in 1917) back into circulation, available for sale of their original cover prices at 10 and 15 cents. Seaking an explanation of a painting, Marcel Broodthaers interviews the cat in a 1970 sound recording. For their 16 mm film, Rosalind Nashashisi and Lucy Skaer drift through the dark corridors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, using a strabe light to illuminate fragments of statues and small vessels. And an anonymous illustration of a curiosity cabinet from 1672 reminds us that museums have long offered a space to enjoy the discovery of extraordinary things we do not understand.

In The Fight Way (1983), Peter Fischli and David Weiss dress in rat and bear costumes and meander through the infinitely beautiful Swiss countryside, stopping to consider extistential questions along the way. Their playful revelations are also represented in a newly revised series of diagrams. Rachel Harrison presents her own version of Darwinian exploration in Voyage of the Beagle, Two (2008), a series of fifty-eight photographs of portraits, busts, and other unclassificable faces. A selection of her abstract monochrome sculptures stand nearly.

Matt Mullican's large site-specific installation animates his epic topology - a highly subjective theory that separates our existence into five worlds, which he outlines in the hundreds of drawings, rubbings, and bulletin boards on view. Prefering the folkloric and the miniature, Patrick von Caeckenbergh presents his intricate and massive hat, which tells the tale of a man unable to town struggling to rid his crowded head of the weight of too much knowledge. Alongside, Rosemarie Trockel quietly responds with the blank store of a non-reflective ceramic mirror.

Between the First World War and his death in 1964, to the noise of the modern era's machines, wars, and technology, Giorgio Morandi painted table-top arrangements of bottles and bowls over and over again. Dedicating his life to the traditional form of still-life painting, he seemed to insist that even the most familiar exercise would be a speculative proposition that one would never fully understand. Bruno Munari, in a similar spirit, playfully searches for comfort in an uncomfortable chair.

In a major new sculptural installation that recalls itinerant communities and life off-the-grid, Dave Hulfish Bailey constructs a sprawling research laboratory built in modular parts, which fold out from the metal frame of a boat trailer. With one pound of strawberries in thirty-four small photographs, Hans-Peter Feldmann points to the inevitable incompleteness of categorization. In Ayse Ermen's film, a coffee fortune-seller predicts the future with unflinching confidence. And in Eric Duyckaert's selection of videos, the artists plays the role of an expert-professor, explaining a series of complex ideas in arguments that hold together logically, yet still seem impossibly absurd.

Based on an imaginary face-off between Nietzsche's wise eagle-serpent (from his 1883-85 philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra), and Rimbaud's dumb donkey (from his 1946 poem Bottom), Jimmy Raskin's new installation documents the artist's own struggle to understand how art can be a form of critical thought and strategic subversion, without extinguishing the often unruly and vulnerable poetic act. Also linked to language, hesitation, and doubt are new works by Frances Stark. The two-channel projection Chillida (Forms and Feelings) (2006), by Falke Pisano, considers the act of subjective interpretation itself. Finally, bringing the exhibition back to mathematicians and to blindness, Mariana Castillo Deball hangs a car-sized piñata in the shape of a Klein Bottle in the museum's performance space. On the exhibition's last day, a crowd of blindfolded museum visitors will break it apart.

Les artistes : Anonymous, Dave Hulfish Bailey, Marcel Broodthaers, Sarah Crowner, Mariana Castillo Deball, Eric Duyckaerts, Ayse Erkmen, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Rachel Harrison, Giorgio Morandi, Matt Mullican, Bruno Munari, Nashashibi/Skaer, Falke Pisano, Jimmy Raskin, Frances Stark, Rosemarie Trockel, Patrick van Caeckenbergh and David William.


Exhibition 11 September 2009 - 3 January 2010. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, 3750 Washington Boulevard - St. Louis, Missouri 63108 (USA). Opening hours Wednesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm, Sunday 11am - 4pm.

Special exhibition tour

For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn't there will travel to an additional American venue, and a slightly modified version of the exhibition will simultaneously travel to three European venues :

Contemporary Art Museum St Louis : Septembre 11, 2009 - January 3, 2010
ICA, London : December 3, 2009 - January 31, 2010
MOCAD, Detroit : February 5 - April 4, 2010
de Appel, Amsterdam : February - April, 2010
Culturgest, Lisbon : May - August, 2010

For the blind man in the dark room...Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved