Category Archives: WORDS


Lisa Ruyter [Venice Biennale, 2013] (this is meant to be a written version of a Lisa Ruyter work)

Architecture is a stealth participant of the Encyclopedic Palace, Massimiliano Gioni’s proposal of a new, and somewhat authorless architectural form. Time, as it often does, will tell.

I will now try to perform this architecture.

The Arsenale is a great place to start. Think of it as a digestive system (but only for now). The long passage has a pretty great ending deep inside someone’s bowels.

Gioni’s narrative, as did mine, begins just after the entry of the Arsenale, where the title work of the exhibition, Marino Auriti’s “The Encylopedic Palace,” is paired with the Nigerian women’s hairstyle archive/catalog of J.D.’Okhai Ojeikere. Already a few key elements of the architecture of this exhibition are in place; personal and social identity expression and human attempts to record everything, a search for a way to frame and capture and preserve the world. The Encyclopedic Palace proposes a museum of all human knowledge, a map of the world. For now.

Nature is added to what constitutes ‘everything,’ so at the same time this old binary is noted, it is put into place in a broader sense. Chris Williams’ sinister photos of hyper-realistic artificial flowers is already an archive of an archive. Micro-macro scale shifts and continuity of ‘natural’ forms are echoed between Lin Xue and Roberto Cuoghi. The nature vs man binary has morphed into the natural vs the artificial and the hybrid is born, a queer resistance to tendencies of categorization.

Behind the walls containing Eliot Porter’s birds and Edward Spelterini’s aerial photographs of mountains and cities are two filmworks, which echo and invert something of what is on the skin of the rooms containing them.

Behind the aerial photos of mountains and cities, (an early attempt to make images capturing the world) the work by Camile Henrot includes the phrase ‘in the beginning’ bringing an arch equation of religion and creationism to the artist and anthropologist, along with quotations of contemporary use of computers in these pursuits.

Across the hall, behind the birds (nature), Neal Beloufa imagines a future present of telepathy, time compression and fantastic movements through space and time.

A tricky question is now in place regarding the difference between creation vs archiving, and with the films, representation vs narrative. Is it better to get an overview and attempt to capture everything, or can we find everything within specific objects? The location of the author begins to be determined by gesture. Gesture is a character and at this juncture, Gioni’s own gestures included.

Gioni has introduced a number of binaries, which together hint not at a blanket, or a web, but something multi-dimensional. His gestures are at times illustrative and at others performative.

Some gestures are illustrated metaphorically, rather than performed in the next room. The trees of Patrick Van Caeckenbergh, trees with human entries, tree vaginas. Human enters nature. The body-masses of Hans Josephson appear sprouted out of the material of the earth itself, perhaps the offspring of this union. Nature becomes (not yet authorless) architecture and not just a landscape.

Notably, the traditionally gendered relationship of human vs nature has been removed.

Ștefan Bertalan finds geometries in the study of plants and in the evolution of their growth. Yüksel Arsalan illustrates the various narratives in his images, describing the intersections of historical, personal and religious narratives. Time becomes an image as well, whether it is found in the growth of a single plant or in the intertwining narratives around an individual life.

Capture becomes a gesture, an odd inversion, doomed to fail at its original intentions, as all representation will. But as we understand and accept that, other possibilities emerge. Gesture becomes an integral part of this architectural form. An argument can be made that gestures are lost to this architecture, that they are images even before they happen. The idea of existing in a present moment, becomes a failure, an impossibility, as limited as any other photographic image.

And yet, somehow there is still theater.

The film projector installation by João Marcia Gusmão and Pedro Paiva is a collection/archive of gestures from an elephant grabbing a peanut to people making or assembling things, in slow motion, human and animal effort presented side by side.

Gesture does seem to be knowledge when it becomes touch. Even put to images, we can see the universe in everyday life. So how is it possible to preserve all of these gestures in an Encyclopedic Palace along with all of this other knowledge?

For the moment, there is still a human body being described by the architecture of this exhibition, a human body that navigates along these intercrossing, nostalgic, binary structures.

Phylida Barlow’s meteorites announce a darker vision that comes with the surrealism of Jakub Julian Ziółkowski. Dismemberment, disease and pathology are a kind of anti-gesture, rather than something the body does, it is something that happens to the body, at least this is true in the catalog of all biological things. Morphing and shapeshifting is not always so healthy. Now there is the diseased and the healthy body.

With Eugene von Brunchenheim paintings and photos of his wife looking blissed out or recently fucked, the psychedelic is now in place. Steve Mc Queen presents a human projection into outerspace, to some unknown other. From here, a domestic departure from the broader themes between the individual and the universe. This room occupies the binary space that was formed with the acceleration of a scientific practice called psychology. Suddenly our bodies are containers, architecture, there is inside and there is outside, with endless numbers of windows, and entries but almost no exits. Outer space is something to project to but never physically or corporeally. So now it is not just a diseased or healthy body, it is also a diseased or healthy mind determining what should or should not be added to the palace. Even our furniture becomes dysfunctional as Jessica Jackson Hutchins shows, perhaps it is morphing to our sick bodies. The healthy is now more abstract than the diseased.

This disfunction / pathology transforms Phylida Barlow’s gigantic balls into something cancerous, a scale shift. What has happened? We have tried to reach the universe, which we stopped reaching for with our bodies, by mistaking it for what goes on in our heads. We think this was done to us, it could not possibly be the result of our own movements and gestures.

There is a kind of hopelessness in the long archive video bank Kan Xuan masoleums/tombs moving snapshots animated from still photos. It seems not possible to reanimate something that was never animate. It is no surprise that there is hardly any sex for anyone so far in the palace (except perhaps for the ‘outsider artist’ Eugene von Brunchenheim and his wife.)

Danh Vo’s room shows objects and building materials containing an archive of their (colonialist?) history – a material image and a material index. (The photograms become physical material) Images, as in photographically and representationally dead images, are beginning to take material form. Nearby, Matthew Monahan attempts to recreate the human form out of similar historically imprinted ‘building’ material.

Ed Atkins film “The Trick Brain” contains footage of surrealist Andre Breton’s personal objects, which is somehow intended to describe Breton’s expanded body and at the same time describe this archive as a destructive force to that body. After dismemberment it should be no surprise to find corpses everywhere.

What is to be done about all of this? Are these pathologies something to be eradicated or is the pathology something that we are supposed to bring into our palace? If we bring it in will it infect everything else? Or will it be a grander and more perfect map of the world?

Of course many of the solutions bring with them even more problems.

R Crumb illustrates a famous story, the Book of Genesis, installed in a room surrounding the mysterious, sinisterly sweet creatures of Shinichi Sawada. Gioni is posting his own architecturally cartoonish depiction of insider-outsider literalness, in case we have not gotten the picture yet. R Crumb’s raw and deviant but socially acceptable application of this biblical story is surrounding the work of the speechless and autistic ceramicist, a circle in a square.

Rosella Biscotti literally works with the medium of imprisoned women. She appropriates their dreams and their compost in a work exhibited a short vaporetto ride away.

In the same room, transplanted Senegalese Papa Ibra Tall’s pictures and tapestries attempt to deploy color and patterning as a vehicle of national and racial identity and as an anti-colonialist statement.

Frederick Bruly Bouabec’s approach is an attempt to record everything, through the founding of his own religion, (The Order of the Persecuted!) his own language and collection of all things through notational drawings.

Arthur Bispo do Rosário made a lifetime of work interned in a psychiatric hospital. In his objects he attempts to make a record of every thought or vision.

Haroun Faroki documents people interacting with memorials, rituals by gestureless, presumably non-interned or otherwise isolated people against monuments to corpses. If it were installed a few rooms before, or later, it might read very differently.

Farocki’s point seems to echo the narrative of the show, that there is some degree of cross culture universalism or even faith in the idea of contact with or connection to something that ‘cannot be reached,’ something universal that has been divided up by labels of woman, artist, insane, immigrant, visionary.

A question of appropriation and some suspicions about anthropology emerge in relation to this hunting and gathering of all things in the universe.

Matt Mullican attempts to transcribe the experience of inhabiting a state of altered boundaries into an environment consisting of pictograms that emerged while in such a state, but somehow mediated outside of that state. It is perhaps an attempt at changing the nature of representation, or rather displacing it, stepping aside, not necessarily the construction or map of his mind, but perhaps a guide to a field of action/interaction in an overly mediated world.

In Jos De Gruyter /Harald Thys’ film the characters have even loss the ability to express their lives through death. Michael Schmidt records his study of European industrial food production.

Aurelien Froment’s film discusses mnemonic strategies for memory recording, such as using imaginary architecture and images to aid recall.

One approach to expression might be to study the production of expression and identity of others. Sharon Hayes restages Pasolini style interviews in the US to present systems of sexual identity building within social groups. Tamar Guimarães and Kasper Akhøj tries to visualize a landscape occupied by the spirits of recently dead people from a map created by Brazil’s Spiritist community.

After this catalog of proposals/ strategies, and negations/deaths of various individual engagements, the zombie apocalypse is in full force as released by Paweł Althamer.

Gioni begins to perform his own solution to this question of everything with a show within a show, curated by an artist, specifically Cindy Sherman, who is known for taking various identities, hybrids and deformities in her own work.

The room is a collection of figurative representation. Architecture was seemingly left behind. After the zombie apocalypse of Paweł Althamer, it is a nice break to stop and focus on the human body.

Though there are plenty of things in this room that have links to past Gioni projects, it does have Cindy Sherman’s name and is convincing as such. It is also another paragraph in our narrative so lets look carefully.

In this room (subdivided into a few rooms) are more or less figurative representations of the human form by John de Andrea, George Condo, Paul McCarthy, Jim Shaw, Jimmie Durham, Phyllis Galembo, the makers of Pano drawings, Laurie Simmons and Alan McCollum, Norbert Ghisolan, Vlassis Canaries, Duane Hanson, Hans Schärer, Miroslaw Balka, (ex votos from Santaurio di Romituzzo), James Castle, Hans Bellmer, Pierre Molinier, Carol Rama, Herbert List, Charles Ray, Enrico Baj, and Sergey Zarva.

The Hatian vodou flags are not entirely figurative looking but given the ‘representation’ behind the magical talisman, a conceptual argument can be made that they are.

A work of Linda Fregni Nagler (The Hidden Mother) – uses a collection of photographs, and Cindy Sherman’s photo album collection is a nice scale and location shift, or maybe even a talisman, like a locket on a necklace, in this contained section. The Rosemarie Trockel vitrines in the context of Gioni’s show, remind us that Rosemarie Trockel is a giant that has had no small influence on curators like Gioni.

One thing stands out as being notably different within this archive of figurative representations: Robert Gober’s house. One might be attempted to make an arc for it as we might do with the Nagler or the Trockel or the Voodou, but mostly the biggest question is “what is this house doing in here?”

It, of course, is carrying, along with the Rosemarie Trockel, and a number of other works in this room, the arc of our narrative, which is now converting bodies into architecture.

In the next room we move to the interior of that Gober house in a more contemporarily contained version in Ryan Trecartin’s (and Ryan Trecartin/Lizzy Fitch) grand installation. We are left with our own choice of whether to immerse ourselves completely into the frenzied immersive vernacular of Ryan Trecartin (and Ryan Trecartin/Lizzy Fitch).

After the Trecartin/Fitch theater, is a more classic gallery exhibition where Wade Guyton’s digital appropriations of late 60’s attitudes seem at first jarring and a little out of place. The long, vertical works of Alice Channer and the monochromes of Pamela Rosencranz are a contrast to the insistent figuration of the previous rooms, it makes no sense to introduce minimalism at this point so lets go with the digital vs the analog. Ah! This is still all about the realm of images, even though it seemed a moment that abstraction threatened our belief in the flatness of images. Does flatness exist at all? It begins to seem an illusion. The digital and digital replication has fueled an acceleration of the changeability of the nature of images, archives, libraries, museums and encyclopedias. They are now self-replicating, self-recording.

Yet again it is the work of a woman artist that literally whispers a hint of where this narrative is going. The digital panel in Pamela Rosencranz’ series of blue rectangles “Because They Try to Bore Holes- Death of Yves Klein” is delivering the next architectural development of this exhibition.

A digital robotic voice is saying things such as “pigments enter your skin, protect your skin, painting is dangerous, colors are dangerous, if you had no skin your bodily fluids will seep out.” There is even a warning about smoking. All warnings about one’s skin being penetrated, creating anxiety about the dissolution of the protective barrier between our insides and the world. And in fact that is exactly what is beginning to happen at this point in the Arsenale.

Gioni is describing the evolution towards an architecture with no skin. The membrane became completely permeable, and has now dissolved. In 1993, our systems of sattelites, tv, radio and telephone networks were already an architecture of sorts, but in 1993, this still seemed like a reference to flatness, a mirror, a blanket and a skin. 20 years later, we have completely occupied the space within all of this flatness. There is no flatness to this at all. Flatness is an illusion.

Professor of Architecture Beatriz Colomina proposed a skinless architecture as a future a few days before the Biennale opening at the Kunsthalle Wien in her talk called “Illness as Metaphor in Modern Architecture,” where architecture has followed the technologies of imaging devices used to seek out pathologies from x-rays to CT and MRI scans. I would propose that this skinless architecture has been there for some time, and we do not need to make a building to realize something that is already constructed.

Lets remind ourselves that the definition of technology is not so far away from the definition of representation. Insistent media specificity predicts that we will find plenty of artists trying to use the materials of our decaying technologies to challenge some of these indexical assumptions.

Albert Oehlen uses images as image-making matter. James Richards takes this image processing into the filmic realm. Simon Denny sculptural installation uses representations and images of spent image technologies. Channa Horwitz makes geometries, patterns and structures intended at a synesthesia with sound and movement, rather than indexical representation. Prabhavathi Meppayil in this context is a delicate homage to a former analog of wire connections, and handcrafted surfaces.

Mark Le Kay’s “The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things” touring exhibition that does not exist, but is in fact a remodel of another exhibition. Here is yet another show within a show, but then again, importantly, it is not. The suggestion is that when we are finally pulled through and completely transformed by our images, there may yet again be a chance for animism.

Helen Marten’s “Orchids, or a Hemispherical Bottom” presents various “image cultures” in physical and virtual form, a meditation of “humanity’s conquest of nature” ironically questionable.

Helen Marten and Mark Le Kay expanded responses to this question of massive image material overload announce the dissolution of many of the binary concepts that we swallowed at the beginning of the Arsenale.

The last big room of this long passage is a bath in a large Stan Van der Beek installation of image cacaphony. We no longer have the choice to ‘opt out’ of this total imageverse as we were able to in the Trecartin (and Ryan Trecartin/Lizzy Fitch) room.

By now, very close to the end of our digestive tract, the divisions between archive, museum, encyclopedia, library, and so on have dissolved to the point of total permeability, we are no longer protected, more like we have been digested ourselves, and here is the final turn of Gioni’s multidimensional narrative.

The future and the past inform the present, but what if your present is not so nice, what if there is a pathology in your architecture? Perhaps you must operate.

After a healing moment (or anesthesia?) with the light balls and constructions of Otto Piene we are plunged, very succinctly into the concluding remarks in the pathology of some nameless body depicted in the filmwork “Da Vinci” by Yuri Ancarani.

The film starts with a blue beating thing – an organ with no body. It is perhaps an underwater scene. Operation tools start to poke through sometimes intimate sometimes violent, intimate from inside, violent from the outside view. From the outside view, the doctors/robots working on the patient have the roughness of an auto mechanic. We see the patient’s hands, but little more to indicate that it is human flesh.

The machine and instruments have labels such as Da Vinci / Intuitive / Bipolar. We see the doctors from tv’s point of view. Are we the patient? Or are we the tv?

Hands of doctors are attached and detached, it is a strangely mediated touch. And there is even smoke (!) inside the nameless body at some point. Could that mean we have found a habitable planet?

To practice using the DaVinci machine, there is a simulation with dominos. One false move ends with dominoes falling over.

Gioni’s final gestures (in this particular sector of the exhibition) are older works, a Bruce Nauman from 91 called “Raw Material a continuous shift – mmmm” which is paired with Dieter Roth’s ‘solo scenes’ (97-98), a video diary of the artist’s ‘everyday life’.

In this room the artist’s body dissolves, and ours is beginning to go with it. What happens if there is no body? If there is no body, can there be a corpse? Can there be pathologies? Can there be mental illness? Insanity? Judgement? Heros? Victims? Lovers? Haters?

Why is this thing that Gioni has made architecture? And not landscape? Or a depiction of landscape? Not because it has an author here, although that is very convenient for this purpose. It is architecture because it is the space we move in. I do not have an answer that has ever convinced anyone in the last 20 years. Isn’t there a field called landscape architecture?

The final work, Walter De Maria’s “Apollo’s Ectasy” (1990) comes at the end and in fact does feel more like an object on the ground, something that went through the entire digestive process, something that establishes our relationship to it, rather than something that is enveloping us, the immersive (and thankfully not overly moist) environment of the journey up until here.

Walter De Maria is the end point. It is not just the period at the end of the sentence, it is the exit of a carefully built, not quite yet authorless, architectural environment. Our pathologically determined architectural mass has passed a Freudian turd.

I overheard a complaint that Gioni’s exhibition was almost entirely about personal narratives, with political and social dimensions left out of the picture. I completely disagree. How can something that makes such a clear argument for us to stop taking the work of women, the work of people from different cultures, as a pathology or a cancer to be removed from our system, or to be cataloged and tagged and preserved in the name of science or other ‘higher orders’ – how can this be only about personal narratives, and not socially involved or political?

When will this new attitude become form?

When we get too caught up in specific objects, there is a destruction involved. Not only a destruction of the object, but also a kind of suicide. Let’s take off from the gorgeous and complex Walter De Maria turd at the end of the Arsenale exhibition.

But first, that question again, about the curator as artist, or the artist as curator? If you have been thinking up until now that this Biennale is remarkably free of ‘the market,’ lets not forget that our common definition for these sort of ‘encyclopedic’ attempts at preservation, gathering, archiving, saving, and so on has often been called “collecting.”

I leave you for now with an image of two other works by the artist in the Prada Foundation’s re-presentation of Harald Szeeman’s “Live in Your Head – when attitudes become form.”

Walter De Maria “Art by telephone” 1967

It is a telephone on the floor and nearby this telephone is a sign that says “If this telephone rings, you may answer it. Walter De Maria is on the line and would like to talk to you.”

Nearby is:

Walter De Maria “Suicide and Black Telephone” 1966-67 in Artist Studio, New York City, 1966–67

It is a photographic depiction of the piece above, I suppose installed in the artist’s studio.

This is not a conceptual death. This is a real and literal death. >< Blumen for Peter Noever

Blumen for Peter Noever

Friday May 28, 2010 | 08:42 by Lisa Ruyter


Originally posted at



As South Korea and the world tries to sort the best response to the latest provocations from North Korea, an exhibition of contemporary ‘official’ art of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea) opened at the MAK (the Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna, with a rather dodgy title. “Flowers for Kim Il Sung” was launched despite opposition and questions about the nature of the museum’s collaboration with the Pyongyang regime.

By admission of MAK director Peter Noever in a number of interviews, the work is presented without any critical context.

Perhaps there is no other art in North Korea, as it seems the MAK believes. While that may be true, it is hard to imagine that much first hand research went into that position being taken. Perhaps the director’s trip to the DPRK was not so unlike this one taken by Vice correspondents:


Watch all three episodes. But perhaps it is another experience for a European museum director.

Surely there is a difference between exhibiting a display of historical propaganda versus a contemporary, active one constructed through forced labor and dictated entirely by one family’s aesthetic viewpoint, if you can even call it that.

The MAK makes a case that this show fits in a tradition of previous exhibitions centering about specific political systems, and yet the defense of this show is that it is about aesthetics, not politics, and about seeing the visual production of an ‘other.’ It is hard to imagine that this will open doors for us to see anything except what the current regime wants us to see.

Beyond the occasional report in English that this show is causing big controversy in Austria, the picture left behind for outsiders is the critical context created for the Museum itself through the multiple, self-condemning interviews with the director of this museum saying, among other things, that this is the same as showing Russian constructivism.

Anyway, the images are out there now, for all of you to see, and let’s hope for now everyone’s curiosity about the art of the DPRK and the architecture of Pyongyang (presented in this exhibition as the model city, a Gesamtkunstwerk, a manifesto of Juche ideals with Utopian elements) is satisfied. What you do not see in these pictures is that there is no electricity, no items to buy in the supermarket, destroyed farmland, extreme poverty, and even in this model city of Pyongyang, reportedly only two hours of drinking water available per day, and not enough food to feed even high-ranking military officers.

The show seems to exist merely as a provocation itself. If this is the case, is there a benefit gained over what is lost here in the sense of academic scholarship and institutional research? That is Mr. Noever’s core argument in defense of the show. I am open to new experiences if someone can back it up, however I fear what a lack of education does for visitors in this case.


Reference material (there’s plenty more than this):

MAK website in English:

Some perspective from a North Korean defector living now in Vienna:

Interview with Peter Noever:

Matthias Dusini, who wrote the review below, has interviewed Peter Noever about this exhibition (Falter Nr. 20/10 19.5.10 p. 33) I could not link to that but here is his take: >< Berlin calling

Berlin calling

Tuesday May 4, 2010 | 10:11 by Lisa Ruyter

originally published at


A cheap plane ticket purchased on a whim resulted in me attending Berlin’s recent “Gallery Weekend” (and the May 1 ‘riots’ party). As I have not really been to Berlin in years, it gave me a lot to think about. I decided to go with an open mind and little advance research, to get a reasonable overview of the scene. I did find out about a few openings, but also came across velvet ropes and guest lists.

My first impression is that the scene is much, much bigger than before, so big that one really needs to make choices about what to see and do. I guess there are 500 some galleries in Berlin, 40 of which participated in Gallery Weekend.

My second impression is that the Gallery Weekend was trying to be just that—a weekend for a carefully selected group of people. If you came, like me, without a particular invitation, you were pretty much on your own. If I didn’t know people in Berlin, I would not have met a soul. I would have eaten every meal alone. I imagine that would have turned me off deeply if I were a serious collector who didn’t have a particular gallery invitation.

My third impression was that the programming was decidedly blue chippy international artists, rather than being focused on the new and local talent on which Berlin has built its reputation.

I do wonder what exactly this Gallery Weekend is meant to accomplish. Zürich has done them for years. There, it is clear where you are supposed to be and when; there are gallery clusters, so the openings are split over three days for the three clusters. There is talk of a gallery weekend to come in Vienna, where I live, in September. We could organize it on the Zürich model, as the galleries already cooperate in coordinating their openings. But it is also quite easy to imagine it being organized in a way that leaves out new arrivals and curious outsiders. (This week in Vienna we have an art fair, but also a new kind of event, for the second year. A selected group of galleries have organized shows, all curated by artists, on the theme of “Art & Film” (

And what of the upcoming New York gallery weekend? Are so few people buying in New York that such an event is necessary? Are these meant to be an alternative to art fairs? Is it necessary to have an event in order for sales to happen? Does the size of a city change the meaning of such an event?

My main question, in the end: is this event model really sustainable? As soon as there is a group of galleries presenting what you can already see anywhere else in the world, the rest, the core local scene, seems irrelevant. And yet, that is often where the good stuff is. Will people continue to visit if they think the local scene is irrelevant? >< Art Fairs: one artists viewpoint

originally published at

Art fairs: one artist’s viewpoint

Tuesday May 27, 2008 | 10:16


With Art Basel around the corner, this just in from Lisa Ruyter in Vienna:

When I was commissioned to do the art for The Armory Show 2004 catalog, I wrote an introduction that was a rhapsody about my love of art fairs. Not so many years before that, I began showing at Art Basel with Art & Public gallery, with such clear, positive results that I decided to make my largest and most risky piece, a Stations of the Cross, for a five day exhibition at Art Unlimited, with the support of Pierre Huber. This seems like ages ago, but it really isn’t, and my changing feelings about fairs are probably mostly a reflection of my own growth rather than a reflection of trends of the marketplace.

Since then, I have continued to participate in fairs in different ways, including with my own eponymously named gallery, presenting work by other artists. I see the limitations more and more clearly. I am very aware that it gave me an opportunity to develop a broad and solid international system of support for myself as an artist, and with that, secure a large degree of freedom to live wherever I want in the world. I can put my focus on getting involved deeply in local scenes that I really love, and to take much larger risks with my artwork when I want to. It has allowed me to indulge my independence without self-destructing.

As long as these fairs continue in their current popularity and with galleries as their primary clientele, they will continue to be a measure of what makes an important gallery (and also an unimportant gallery). For example, an artist can significantly raise his or her profile by signing up with a gallery that regularly gets into Frieze or Basel, and often there is only room for one or two other fairs in the world to share that top status. To me Basel holds the top spot because it always put the artworks first. But that is another discussion.

What makes the galleries important within these top fairs are the same things that have always made galleries great: priority given to the best possible presentation of an artist’s work and vision, the attention to developing an institutional following for an artist, and a program that
somehow has a strong relationship to its home base, wherever that might be. It follows with these things, that they also cultivate relationships with collections that will lead to long-term positive results. I think it is easy to tell the difference between a gallery with a clear program and vision, or at least a plan, and a gallery that is just hopping from fair to fair without ever leaving that system. One type has a reason to exist beyond, and the foundation to survive a market turndown and one type does not, just like the last time around. I really don’t think in the end that survival has anything to do with money, nor is our situation so different from what has passed before.


I can put a solo show at an art fair on my bio, but will I ever get a serious review, or will I ever have a serious conversation with a curator about where this work is going? I doubt it. And the work will likely be sold and scattered, especially as a painter, before it is given a chance to stick to anything. So here I am again; I just have to have faith that of the gabillions of people who saw it, one might remember it even two months later. I have come to believe that the best art experiences – even in such a mass-market situation – are really only meaningful to a small handful of people. It only takes one person seeing a show to make something really great happen, and in my years of showing, I know that this is much more likely to happen at a small and remote gallery than the greatest art fair in the world. For example my Stations of the Cross – 14 panels at 12 x 8 feet each, eventually was shown installed the way a “stations” would be in a church in Regensburg, Germany, the scariest exhibition of my life, that had a kind of a mass for an opening. There were maybe two or three art world people who saw it in this context because I was too afraid to tell people about it, but it was ultimately the most genuine and rewarding exhibition that I have ever done. It would never have happened without one single curator seeing it at Basel, and this is the kind of experience that I live for. It was what I expected at the fair, but did not get until two years later in a church. Who knew?

At this time, I am not represented by any gallery in New York or London. The art fairs serve as my perfect London and New York gallery for me at this moment where I don’t seem to fit any particular mold and I am not really a New York artist anymore. All of my dealers show at the major fairs, so I can keep myself in everyone’s mind with a minimal effort once a year, and then do the real work with them back at home, until I come to a new understanding of that big city context.

The Armory Show 2004 Artist Commission

Originally published in The Armory Show 2004 catalog

I love art fairs. I love art fairs because I love art and art is what I live for.

Although the project of making images for the Armory Show was presented to me with few guidelines, there was a strong suggestion to keep the theme related to ‘New York.’ The first places that came to mind were ones I have photographed repeatedly, especially Central Park, but they did not seem to relate to the excitement that is generated when the show is in town. It dawned on me that this is not the New York that the Armory Show is really about.

The Armory Show is about the people of New York, and those who come to visit, not about the place itself. It is about the interaction of ideas, the connections that are made and lost and remade, the juxtapositions of artworks and gallery programs, and all the slippages of human interaction. It is these that make this show something more than a trade show, for it grew out of the idea that this major center of cultural production is made all the greater by inviting colleagues from around the world to come and participate in the energy of this city.

This event is exciting to me. During the Armory Show, the intense compression of being at an art fair becomes every-day life, if only for a week. It reminds me of the county fair when I was a kid, which was actually the first place that I ever showed things that I made. This is a very young fair, and it is great to feel a part of something that is still being defined.

I love exhibiting at art fairs. At a fair, showing work is performance, it is ‘show-business’. It is collaborative because of the many agendas in play all at once. Positive or negative, there is instant gratification of an audience response for which there is absolutely no substitute. Things happen so fast at an art fair, ideas, trends, acceptance, rejection, interest, loss of interest, discovery and rediscovery; all the things that get people excited or upset about art, all bubble to the surface. Although there are wonderful, random juxtapositions of artworks and gallery programs, and you never know whom you will run into, very little happens by chance.

I love art fairs because I love galleries, and the often intensely personal vision that drives their programs. At an art fair, galleries are on display, as raw and exposed as any artist ever is during their own show. I loved Pat Hearn and I especially loved Colin DeLand, both of whom were involved in this fair and both of whom are no longer with us. Colin significantly shaped my understanding of being an artist in the world, and I had no idea just how much until he was gone.

For me, art is taking a position in the world, and that is what is measured at events like an art fair.

I like to think that people who come to the Armory Show who are not familiar with the participants can get an idea of what a complicated and wonderful thing it is to make art, to show art, to buy and sell art, and most importantly to look at art and to find that there is a place for themselves in all of this.


Lisa Ruyter

New York / Vienna 2003

Artforum: Top Ten

Originally published in Artforum

September 2001, p 48

Lisa Ruyter

Lisa Ruyter, a New York-based artist, exhibited most recently at the Galerie Georg Kargl in Vienna. She is currently working on a solo show due to go on view next year at Berlin’s Arndt & Partner.

  1. Olaf Breuning: Olaf Breuning’s sculptures often look like sets for his photographs, which often look like stills from his films, which often look like documentation of his sculptures. While creating a highly sophisticated, media-unspecific practice, he skirts kitsch, rearranging pop clichés in a way that disrupts any high/low discussion. This fall, New York’s Metro Pictures will be showing Apes, a sculptural installation that debuted at the Kunstverein Freiburg in June.  With a low-tech presentation that includes spooky music, smoke machines, dirt, trees, and primates with glowing eyes, Apes is wholly lacking in irony. You walk away with a pure moment, a stolen pleasure, an embarrasingly sweet feeling.
  2. Jessica Craig-Martin: The formal brutality of Craig-Martin’s flash photography flattens out the deepest space. She might be the photographer Warhol couldn’t be. Shooting people desperate to be seen at parties but with no desire to protect her subjects’ vanity, she opportunistically crops out their primary identifying features – faces, essential body parts. I’m curious to see her work develop now that people know what comes out of her camera. Will the parties change her or will she change parties?
  3. Muntean/Rosenblum: Known for paintings based on magazine photos of teenagers, this collaborative team also makes sculptural installations that include “performances”—a person leaning against a sculpted car or sitting on a handmade workout bench. Coming upon live props can be unnerving, as if you’d discovered the mannequins in a store window were alive. M&R took me to “The Blue Lagoon,” a group of contractor’s model homes located in a lot near the Vienna Ikea. For their next show at Galerie Georg Kargl, the duo will erect a façade based on one of these houses.
  4. Mary Heilmann: In the future, when we ask, “What did an abstract painting look like at the end of the twentieth century?” the answer may well be, “Like a Mary Heilmann.” Her bright, playful abstract canvases never look dated and can handle just about any context. It’s rewarding to see a seasoned pro prove to be hipper than anyone else around.
  5. Brice Dellsperger: Assigning the name Body Double to almost everything he does, Dellsperger remakes specific movie scenes (often from Brian De Palma films), replacing the original actors with pierced transvestites via video collage. He has done the museum cruising scene from Dressed to Kill twice, setting it once in Euro Disney and once in the Kunstmuseum Wiesbaden. Amplifying the effects of De Palma’s constant doubling, he appropriates the work of the master appropriator. Check out, a site created for Body Double X, his recent full-length remake of a popular lowbrow French melodrama from the mid-’70s, in which every role is played by an actor named Jean-Luc Verna. It gets really disorienting, especially when a half-dozen characters are on screen at once.
  6. Kim Sooja:  Kim Sooja makes videos in which she is often at the center of the frame, facing away from the camera, absolutely motionless. This allows us to observe actions around her (and in some cases reactions to her) – a flowing river and the reflections of the sky, a rocky landscape under clouds, a busy street. Her work, which sometimes incorporates multiple-channel projections and installations of bright Korean fabrics, provokes a consideration of the displaced self.
  7. Rachel Harrison: Harrison forces sculpture and photography to live together, however awkwardly, and in so doing, brings up one of the key challenges of modern life: How do we negotiate between physical and depicted space in a world where most lived space also functions as representation, or virtual reality? As place becomes more and more generic, her pictures show us a world where human presence defies the empty repetition of mass-market architecture; when she weds her pictures to a physical structure, the match is at once lifeless and exciting – the art equivalent to being stranded in an airport.
  8. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog: A good way to brush up on these seminal American photographers like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee. But there’s much more than Farm Security Administration images here. The most entertaining way to navigate is to search “all categories / collections” and just type in a few of your favorite things or random words like ‘dream’ or ‘hair.’ The results are fast and fascinating, and the site can put you in touch with the odd idea of being “American.”
  9. Lily van der Stokker: Straddling those twin conceits—the intimate and the public—van der Stokker’s wall paintings and furniture accompaniments function as performance art rather than objets d’art. Her paintings flaunt bright pastel colors and decoratively psychedelic patterns that are unabashedly pleasing, but there’s a conceptual end—a challenge to the role of the artist as pleasure provider— which fits snugly with the decidedly less-than-commercial format of work on walls. Her recent large-scale outdoor commissions, such as The Pink Building, created for Hannover’s Expo 2000, take her funky stuff and makes it epic.
  10. Mitchell Algus Gallery (New York) Algus scours his collection of magazines, catalogues, and textbooks, to rediscover artists who, despite having been fundamental to the development of art trends in the ’60s and ’70s, weren’t written into the canon because they didn’t fit the categories of the moment. With a season timed to draw comparisons between his artists and current, flashy trend-setters, Algus’s increasingly attracts well-respected critics and fashionable artists who are willing to acknowledge the amnesia that goes hand in hand with fashion. No other gallery in New York so convincingly undermines received wisdom—and history.