Agency is the generic name of a Brussels-based agency established in 1992 by Kobe Matthys. Agency constitutes a growing list of things that resist the division between categories of “culture” and “nature”. These things are mostly derived from juridical processes and contested issues of intellectual property (copyright, patent, trademark, etc.). Intellectual property relies on the division between culture and nature. Each thing on the list invokes the moment of hesitation in terms of that division. Agency calls things forth from its list via varying assemblies inside exhibitions, performances, publications, etc. Each assembly speculates topologically on a different question.
In Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983, Darboven’s numerical indices punctuate a stream of ready-made imagery appropriated from books, magazines, postcards and elsewhere. The piece’s 1590 pages of visual montage and text sit in frames of exactly the same size, hung in a floor to ceiling grid that covers the walls of the exhibition site with a quasi-taxonomic chart of visual culture. Nineteen objects tied to everyday life, art and to German history complete the installation. This tapestry of pictorial, print, and handwritten information is subdivided into groups of like images pertaining to historical, cultural and political themes.
Notes and Itineraries 1975 – 2004 (by Kim Levin – New York based artists) offers an alternative model that crosses the borders between art writing and art making. It deals in a very literal sense with time and history, memory and meaning. This longterm project tracks the peregrinations of New York’s exhibition spaces as they shifted from Soho to the East Village and back again and then to Chelsea and elsewhere, and it traces the course of artists who, like Nancy Spero and Jeff Koons, started out in group shows in East Village galleries long before they were household names. It began as a working method for me as a critic whose job required that I cover a lot of ground. It also functioned, in a way, autobiographically, listing the galleries (with addresses) and exhibitions (with dates of shows) in the order in which I intended to see them, as well as noting my appointments, my shopping lists, and my instant reactions to the art. Later it became a two-room installation in a New York gallery, a somewhat perplexing and unexpected artwork that questions the distinctions between the visible, the legible, and the visual.
As for my archive, it fills ten metal filing cabinets, plus twenty cardboard boxes stacked underneath and behind my furniture, and also a dozen shoeboxes containing postcard announcements from exhibitions going back to the 1970s and up to the present: downtown, uptown, out-of-town, and elsewhere. What excuse do I have? Well, for one thing, I had studied Egyptian archaeology and much was made of the importance of primary sources. When I abandoned archaeological studies to write about contemporary art, my Egyptology professor asked: ‘How can you do it?’ ‘How can I do what?’ I replied, uncomprehending. ‘There are no experts, no references, no primary sources’, he said with consternation. And with all the presumptiveness of youthful innocence verging on arrogance, I proclaimed: ‘I will be the primary source for future archaeologists.’ I also admit to a bit of an obsessive streak, and no one ever taught me to throw meaningful things away. The Finnish artist Jussi Kivi collects everything and anything having to do with firefighting. I collect, or rather, accumulate historical art stuff that tends to get thrown away, the byproducts of my work as an art critic. But I do not collect everything, as a true collector would. Great quantities of press releases, announcements, and posters arrive in the mail that are of little interest to me. I recycle those. I save them for someone who has been compiling his own complete and cross-referenced archive of the art scene for the past forty years. Once a month he takes away a couple of shopping bags crammed with art ephemera. It pleases me that they too have been saved from oblivion. Text by Kim Levin
Turkey’s most famous living novelist is holding a pair of dentures in a room packed with ephemera reflecting everyday Turkish life of the past three decades. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006 and author of My Name is Red (1998) and Snow (2002), is standing among a sea of objects—sewing machines, clocks, soda-bottle tops, buttons, lottery tickets, china dogs, birdcages, cigarette lighters and false teeth—that will soon go on display in The Museum of Innocence, a four-storey building in the Çukurcuma neighbourhood, central Istanbul. This venue, not just a chamber of curiosities, is the real-life incarnation of the museum painstakingly assembled and detailed in his book The Museum of Innocence (2008). The institution, which is due to open “[before] next year” according to Pamuk, will house 83 wooden boxes related to the book’s 83 chapters. Each box will be filled with items—both ready-made pieces and commissioned works of art—that reflect each chapter, thereby covering a 30-year period in the history of modern Istanbul from 1975 when the novel begins.
Homer Lusk Collyer (November 6, 1881 – March 21, 1947) and Langley Collyer (October 3, 1885 – March 1947) were two American brothers who became famous because of their snobbish nature, filth in their home, and compulsive hoarding. For decades, neighborhood rumors swirled around the rarely seen, unemployed men and their home at 2078 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 128th Street), in Manhattan, where they obsessively collected newspapers, books, furniture, musical instruments, and many other items, with booby traps set up in corridors and doorways to protect against intruders. Both were eventually found dead in the Harlem brownstone where they had lived as hermits, surrounded by over 130 tons of waste that they had amassed over several decades.