That was it, then

February 2nd, 2009  | Categories: Bidder vs. Ledia Carroll

Here you can see the last alteration to the PWC 1st Public White Cube in the SF MOMA in San Francisco. What agitations we have had to deal with! Our leg was pulled once, when a bidder didn’t change anything at all and conned us instead into believing in a digital manipulation, and then Scott MacLeod constructed a “Situation Room” that led to diplomatic resentment between him, the PWC-team, and a leading member of the museum staff. And shortly before the end, Aiofe van Linden Tol simply made mincemeat of everything and presented the Public White Cube as a post-apocalyptic heap of shards. As a consequence, what our last winner Emanuel Tschumi has realised now appears almost tame by comparison. Tschumi is a professional. He is an art director and designer in Zurich. And so he sets a milder tone. Our final is pure poetry.

Tschumi, prominent graphic artist of the otherwise strictly typographic Zurich scene, borrowed an old issue of the magazine “Twen” from 1968, a water-shed year in Europe, from his good friend Willy Fleckhaus‘ archive, and has sent one page half way around the world by courier. He included a few pins in the package and asked the museum team to hang it up, unframed, somewhere in view of our webcam. Twen was a slick magazine with outstanding graphics; an epochal boost in the graphic design zeitgeist and a libertarian mag promoting the liberated Radical Chic. And Fleckhaus was co-founder of this free-thinking gazette, at least before he influenced the book and magazine design of bourgeois West German intellectualism at Suhrkamp and a major German daily newspaper. Fleckhaus is a hero of graphic design in Europe, who died – quite suitably – in Italy.

And what do we see in the PWC today? A naked couple on a horse, riding through a landscape of dunes with their tracks in the sand visible in the foreground. Alas, the romance of youth! Soft-core kitsch. Sexual liberation for older newspaper voyeurs. But then there is the charm, the commercial utopia of a world now perished, an item of published private taste on a museum wall. Tschumi wants to reconcile us with ourselves, and in the process he has got hold of an original for the museum – an original with an aura. He sends it in the post from old Europe to the Pacific coast. Sure, it is an “original” that comes from a magazine distributed in a large edition. But it is still a collector’s piece. He would like it to be placed – almost ironically, one might suppose – so that it is visible from the webcam. In the end, is that what’s left of the idea of participation? A romantic, transfiguring signal from the past? But in the end, even when you’re riding off into the sun, points for performance always count. Tschumi – expert on art books and friend to artists – has explained quite casually how appropriation works. He doesn’t take the museum seriously. He has created a memorial to Willy Fleckhaus, but only a small, an ironic memorial. It doesn’t matter what you hang on the walls. The important thing is that your clothes fit comfortably and that you ignore the deadly solemnity of museum politics.

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