Art that reaches beyond itself to describe the limits of what we know—and the immensity of what we don’t—is surveyed in the Walker Art Center exhibition
The Quick and the Dead
premiering April 25–September 27. The show seeks, in part, to ask what is alive and dead within the legacy of conceptual art, featuring some 90 works in a range of media by an international roster of 53 artists. Though the term “conceptual” has been applied to myriad kinds of art, it originally covered works and practices from the 1960s and 1970s that emphasized the idea behind or around a work of art, rather than its visual form. But this basic definition fails to convey the ambitions of many artists who have been variously described as conceptualists. Although some of their work involves unremarkable materials or even borders on the invisible, these artists explore new ways of thinking about time and space, often aspiring to realms and effects that fall outside of our perceptual limitations.
The Quick and the Dead juxtaposes a core group of works from the 1960s and ‘70s with more recent examples that might only loosely qualify as conceptual, featuring new works made for the exhibition and a number that have not been previously shown. The presentation expands beyond the Walker’s main galleries to its public spaces, parking ramp, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and the nearby Basilica of Saint Mary, where John Cage’s work for organ will be performed weekly during the run of the exhibition. Opening-weekend events feature a Walker After Hours Preview Party (Friday, April 24) and lecture by Paris-based artist Sturtevant (Saturday, April 25). A listing of related programs follows.
Whereas Robert Barry’s 1968 sculpture of an electromagnetic energy field creates an invisible presence in the gallery, Kris Martin looks to the unseen inner space of his own body, using new medical-imaging technologies to create a three-dimensional scan of his skull that he then cast in bronze. Still alive (2005), as the title suggests, allows the artist to imagine his body after death. Lygia Clark was fascinated by such inaccessible spaces and made foldable sculptures that had neither front nor back, trying to collapse the distinctions between the hidden and the visible, the past and the future. Pierre Huyghe thinks about time spatially in his work Timekeeper (1999), for which he bores into the gallery wall, revealing successive layers of paint from past exhibitions in an effort to expose the vicissitudes of lost time—a hidden dimension lurking beneath the surface of the museum. Meanwhile, Michael Sailstorfer’s Zeit ist keine Autobahn, Minneapolis (Time is no highway, Minneapolis) (2009), a sculpture of a car tire rotating against the gallery wall at high speed, gradually wears itself down, seeming to stretch time while going nowhere.
Steven Pippin’s 1998 sculpture of two fax machines endlessly call each other on redial, multiplying the static between them and seeming almost to diagram a space of continual reenactment and its residue, while the looped reel-to-reel of Christine Kozlov’s Information: No Theory (1970) does the opposite, perpetually recording but never playing the ambient noise of the gallery. On Kawara’s date paintings mark a gradual progression through the galleries, while in Rivane Neuenschwander’s recent flip-clock of zeros, time passes without appearing to register at all. Some pieces defer themselves into the future, such as the time capsules from the late 1960s by Stephen Kaltenbach.
Space is also treated as an elastic quantity. Helen Mirra’s cloth strips representing the earth’s latitude lines, presented both at full length and wound into a coil, contract and expand geographic space. In a rarely exhibited early Bruce Nauman performance work, the performer is asked to imagine turning himself or herself into a sphere, while a 1966 drawing by mathematician Anthony Phillips diagrams how to turn a sphere inside out. A reverse-autographed mirror, one of Marcel Duchamp’s last works, turns the space of the gallery itself inside out, uncannily casting the viewer onto the other side of the looking glass.
Just as many works in the exhibition attempt to reach beyond themselves, The Quick and the Dead expands outside of the Walker’s main galleries. Kris Martin will bury at an unmarked location on Walker property a human skeleton previously used as an anatomical study specimen. Bruce Nauman’s Microphone/Tree Piece (1971) broadcasts into the gallery the sound from inside a tree at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Groveland Terrace. A previously unrealized 1968 work by Claes Oldenburg, who created the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, also straddles the interior and exterior spaces of the museum. One hundred lemons are buried outside the Bazinet Garden Lobby entrance as part of this work, and one will be excavated each day of the exhibition (until the entire group is unearthed) for display in the lobby on the north wall. Susan Philipsz has created a new audio installation for the Vineland Parking Ramp, and a 1968 sound piece by Adrian Piper will occupy one of the elevators in the Hennepin Lobby that ascends from the Ramp. Pierre Huyghe’s group of 50 wind chimes inspired by a John Cage composition will be installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Using the very natural forces that Cage celebrated as a creative tool, the artist’s chimes deconstruct and constantly recompose one of Cage’s best-known works for piano in an endless performance. And each Thursday during the exhibition, Cage’s Organ2/ASLSP (1987) will be performed at the Basilica of Saint Mary at variable speeds and durations.
The Quick and the Dead considers the romantic legacy of conceptual art, reaffirming its ability to engage with some of the deeper mysteries and questions of our lives. Exhibition curator Peter Eleey says, “throughout history, art has always revealed new worlds and offered us ways of thinking about things beyond the here and now. We expect to see objects when we visit museums, and yet art, like science or religion, allows us to consider those things that go beyond what we can see. It’s a show that is very much about all that is ‘more than meets the eye.’”
Francis Alÿs, Robert Barry, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, James Lee Byars, John Cage, Maurizio Cattelan, Paul Chan, Lygia Clark, Tony Conrad, Tacita Dean, Jason Dodge, Trisha Donnelly, Marcel Duchamp, Harold Edgerton, Ceal Floyer, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roger Hiorns, Douglas Huebler, Pierre Huyghe, The Institute For Figuring, Stephen Kaltenbach, On Kawara, Christine Kozlov, David Lamelas, Louise Lawler, Paul Etienne Lincoln, Mark Manders, Kris Martin, Steve McQueen, Helen Mirra, Catherine Murphy, Bruce Nauman, Rivane Neuenschwander, Claes Oldenburg, Roman Ondák, Giuseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, Anthony Phillips, Adrian Piper, Steven Pippin, Paul Ramírez Jonas, Charles Ray, Tobias Rehberger, Hannah Rickards, Arthur Russell, Michael Sailstorfer, Roman Signer, Simon Starling, John Stezaker, Mladen Stilinović, Sturtevant, and Shomei Tomatsu.
Art on Call Audio Guide
Use your cell phone to hear about the artworks and artists in The Quick and the Dead. Call 612.374.8200 in the galleries and enter the four-digit codes for specific works of art, or download Art on Call to your iPod at newmedia.walkerart.org/aoc.
The Quick and the Dead is accompanied by a 352-page publication featuring 139 color and 53 black-and-white images, documentation of each artist’s work, and an examination of their practice. Providing a larger context for the issues raised in the exhibition are essays addressing time, space, death, and perception by exhibition curator Peter Eleey; Dr. Olaf Blanke, Director of the Brain-Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; Ina Blom, Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo; Peter Osborne, Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London, and an editor of the British journal Radical Philosophy; and Margaret and Christine Wertheim of The Institute For Figuring, Los Angeles. Also included are reprints of texts by diverse luminaries Theodor W. Adorno, Lygia Clark, Allan Kaprow, John McPhee, Oliver Sacks, Robert Smithson, and Jalal Toufic.
Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc., 155 Sixth Avenue, Second Floor, New York, NY 10013, 800.338.2665 (phone), 800.478.3128 (fax), artbook.com, and available at the Walker Art Center Shop, 612.375.7633 (phone), 612.375.7565 (fax).
ISBN 978-0-935640-93-9 $45 ($40.50 Walker members).
The Quick and the Dead is curated by Peter Eleey, Visual Arts Curator at the Walker Art Center. Before joining the Walker in 2007, Eleey served as Curator and Producer at Creative Time in New York, where he oversaw its program and organized numerous exhibitions, major commissions, and public projects with artists including Doug Aitken, Haluk Akakçe, Song Dong, Cai Guo-Qiang, Jim Hodges, Jenny Holzer, Shirazeh Houshiary, Mike Nelson, and Michael Rakowitz. Eleey has written and lectured extensively on contemporary art, and, more specifically, public art. He most recently organized the Walker exhibition Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing (2008).
Walker After Hours Preview Party
Friday, April 24, 9 pm–12 midnight, $35 ($25 Walker members)
Preview the exhibition and enjoy cocktails; complimentary Wolfgang Puck appetizers; scientific artmaking; music by local band To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie and DJ Leonardo; screenings of 52N, Powers of 10, and Crossroads; and Party People Pictures.
After After Hours, stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Basilica of Saint Mary for a free midnight performance of John Cage’s Organ2/ASLSP.
New members receive one free party ticket (or other premium) for joining. Call 612.375.7600 or visit walkerart.org/tickets.
Walker After Hours sponsored by Target.
Opening-Day Artist Talk: Sturtevant
Saturday, April 25, 2 pm, Free
Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk from 1 pm
It’s been said that Sturtevant is the only artist who can’t be copied—but she is best known for making repetitions of works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and Jasper Johns. She began this practice in the 1960s—some 20 years before strategies of appropriation marked the American art world of the 1980s. “The brutal truth is they are not copies; the push and shove is interior movement; the dynamics are the jetting of representation,” says Sturtevant of her work. Her intentions are to “create space for new thinking, to trigger thinking.”
During this rare appearance, the artist will discuss the philosophical base of this radical and influential work and the discourse on “the imposition of our cybernetic world and the zip zap of our digital world with its dangerous potent power.” Sturtevant’s Beuys Fat Chair is prominently featured in the exhibition.
This program is made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.
Target Free Thursday Nights
Thursday, April 30
Music: John Cage’s Organ2/ASLSP, 7 pm, Free
Basilica of Saint Mary, Minneapolis
Performed weekly throughout the run of the exhibition, with a few exceptions. For complete list, visit walkerart.org.
American composer John Cage (1912–1992) adapted Organ²/ASLSP in 1987 from his work ASLSP (1985) for solo piano. The title is derived from his direction to play the work “as slow as possible.” In a 1982 interview, Cage said that he wanted to make his “music so that it doesn’t force the performers of it into a particular groove, but which gives them some space in which they can breathe and do their own work with a degree of originality. I like to make suggestions, and then see what happens, rather than setting down laws and forcing people to follow them.” Christopher Stroh, the Basilica’s principal organist, will perform Organ2/ASLSP at varying speeds weekly through September 24 with a special closing performance on the final day of the exhibition.
Thursday, May 7
Sound Bites: Short Talks About Art, 6:30 and 7 pm
Meet in the Bazinet Garden Lobby
These 15-minute gallery conversations offer illuminating discussion and fresh perspectives. Join a Walker tour guide for a brief insider’s view on The Quick and the Dead.
Mack Lectures: Visions of the Unknown
A pair of talks in July plumbs the depths of human knowledge and understanding, focusing on time travel and the role of aesthetics to enhance our perception. Inspired by the artistic experiments with time and space found in the exhibition, these presentations by today’s visionaries promise to delight and provoke. Free tickets available at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk one hour before each event.
These lectures are made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.
Thursday, July 9
Dr. Ronald Mallett, 7 pm
Ronald Mallett has dedicated his life to something generally regarded as a science-fiction dream: time travel. At the age of 10, his father died suddenly of a heart attack. A year later, a comic book based on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine sparked an interest in time travel that further changed his life. Now, decades later, as a theoretical physicist at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Mallett has designed a time machine with circulating laser beams based on Einstein’s theories of relativity. Pending key technological breakthroughs and funding, he believes that time travel could happen within this century. Join Dr. Mallett for a lecture and demonstration on scientific theories of time-space, as well as a reading from his memoir Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality.
Thursday, July 30
The Institute For Figuring
Crocheting Hyperbolic Space Workshop, 5–6:30 pm
Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab
Lecture, 7 pm
Margaret and Christine Wertheim founded the LA-based Institute For Figuring to illuminate the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science and mathematics. Trained collectively in philosophy, literature, physics, mathematics, and computing, this duo is interested in the figurative technologies that humans have developed through the ages to further our understanding of abstract ideas. The physics of snowflakes, the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, and the mathematics of paper folding are all fodder for the IFF’s undertakings. Their models of hyperbolic space using the craft medium of crochet feature prominently in the exhibition. One of the IFF’s largest projects to date, Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, employs feminine handicraft to exalt the beauty of our planet’s ocean life and alert us to the environmental changes that threaten it.
The evening begins with a crochet workshop to learn simple techniques for knitting hyperbolic forms followed by a lecture on the Institute’s projects that inspire us toward a new way of representing knowledge. Crochet needles and yarn for the workshop are provided.
Target Free Thursday Nights sponsored by Target.
Free First Saturdays are for Families
Saturday, May 2, 10 am–3 pm, Free
Enchanting activities highlight the marvelous ways that artists featured in the exhibition explore time and space through science, technology, and craft.
Performance: Mind Your Magic
11 am and 1 pm
Find out what tricks magician G Sparks has up his sleeve in this humorous show.
Art-Making for the Entire Family: Soundwaves
10 am–3 pm
Make a clatter with Los Angeles–based musician/artists Sarah RaRa and Luke Fischbeck at this instrument-making workshop. At nearby sound stations, make various types of music through experimental methods, such as moving rocks across an electrical field.
Free First Saturday is sponsored by Ameriprise Financial. Program support by Medtronic Foundation. As part of the Walker Art Center’s Raising Creative Kids Initiative, additional support is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Family Activity Sheet
Families can explore the exhibition with a fun set of looking, drawing, and writing exercises that reveal artists’ ideas about time, things we can see, and other subjects we can only dream about. Sheets available at the lobby desks.
All tours free with gallery admission.
Thursday, May 7, 2 pm
Friday, May 15, 2 pm
Thursday, May 21, 2 pm
Friday, May 29, 2 pm
Sunday, May 31, 2 pm
Thursday, June 18, 2 pm
Friday, June 26, 2 pm
Additional tours to be announced.
Gallery Admission, Hours
$10 adults; $8 seniors (65+); $6 students/teens (with ID)
Free to Walker members and children ages 12 and under.
Free with a paid ticket to a same-day Walker event.
Free to all every Thursday evening (5–9 pm) and on the first Saturday of each month (10 am–5 pm).
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 11 am–5 pm
Thursday 11 am–9 pm