Joe Scanlan is an artist based in New York. On the occasion of this year’s curated by_vienna with its general topic art and capital he was invited as curator by Martin Janda Gallery. Scanlans show "The * of Love" proposes that the asterisk [*] of art is love, stating that the crisis of art, whether tomorrow or today, is the difficulty of using artworks to express love in economic terms.
In an interview with German curator Julian Heynen in 2007 you said: "If art must admit that it is just another part of a totalizing consumer society, then its only access to cultural power is to engage that society." To what extend is this statement true for the artists in the curated by_vienna exhibition you conceived for Martin Janda Gallery?
For most artists, engaging the market or consumer society is anathema to art, and they try to avoid it or fight against it. Avoiding it only leaves the finance and the markets to continue dictating the terms of their effect on art; fighting it is arduous and probably hopeless. The best way to engage these forces and influence them is to disarm them with anything that exceeds the instrumentalization of market forces. The love of art cannot be controlled by these forces, but these forces might be mitigated by love.
The exhibition is entitled "The * of Love". What does that mean, also in terms of the work by Dexter Sinister, which can be seen here?
The * simply designates that love is this "extra"-element of art that market forces cannot explain or convey. It can only be referred to, understood, as being beyond description. The limited vocabulary of Dexter Sinister’s computerized voice makes us very aware of this limit, but also what lies beyond its [technology’s] ability to describe and control.
The exhibition feels like a reflection on art-production and art-consumption. Could you please tell something about the different working methods of the artists represented in the show?
Geta Bratescu is a very deliberate artist. She is willing to believe that no gesture, however small, might be imbued with meaning. For me, there is a profound, classical, "Zeno’s paradox" quality to her work whereby paying close attention to things requires an infinite kind of slowing down. Doug Ashford has a similar tempo, but in his prints formalism becomes a kind of pharmaceutical with which to cope with trauma. Not enough of the drug and the trauma persists; too much and you go into a coma. For him, the resulting beauty is a double-edged sword. Polly Korbel takes this "sword", so to speak, and uses it on herself – as in "Work" – or invites the spectator to use it for her – as in "Nailed".
Was it the first time for you as an artist to slip into the role of a curator? How do you feel about it?
No, I used to work at the Renaissance Society in Chicago and co-curated several shows there with Susanne Ghez. And I’ve done it at Princeton University, where I teach. I love putting shows together.
What are you currently working on?
I founded an institution called The Broodthaers Society of America, it is a research centre and archive dedicated to looking at Broodthaers work in the context of American culture. There is not much appreciation of Broodthaers work in the United States, and his work presents ample opportunity for misunderstandings. Rather than suppress those it seems best—and typical of American culture—to accept these misunderstandings and just go with them, celebrate them. I don’t know where that will lead; that’s for the members of the society to determine. You can see some information at www.broodthaers.us.
The * of Love
curated by_Joe Scanlan
Artists: Doug Ashford, Geta Bratescu, Dexter Sinister, Polly Korbel
Galerie Martin Janda, Eschenbachgasse 11, 1010 Wien
More information www.martinjanda.at
Read the text written by Armen Avanessian, which has been serving as theoretical basis for the curators and galleries involved in "curated by_vienna: Tomorrow Today".
curated by_vienna is supported by Vienna Business Agency and its creative center departure. The project aims to intensify the networks between selected Viennese galleries and internationally renowned curators.