A Riddle Exhibition
I would argue that one can never know what happened to that missing dollar. This is due to the fact that the existence of that dollar lies in some mental interstice, and those are evasive, mutating spaces. They are conditioned by language, and in the particular case of this exhibition, by intensities of interpretation, mediated by information.
San Francisco-based curators Chris Fitzpatrick and Post Brothers stage an exhibition at Proyectos Monclova in Mexico City including works by 13 international artists. The project’s point of departure was the famous riddle of the missing dollar, where the missing element is implied by the content of the question, but doesn’t necessarily exist. Works featured in the exhibition refer to loss of information in space and language transactions, as well as information that is concealed from view and only tangentially evoked, inviting the spectator to fill in the missing part and sort out each piece’s riddle.
The opening question alludes to themes of deferral, repetition, miscommunication, interpretation and incompleteness. In a broad sense, the curatorial interest seemed to orbit around a fetishization of the mental operation whereby one identifies an hidden element in a process, just by thinking about it (accessing its potential blind spots). That is, an acknowledging of and a marveling at the presence of the void in the imagination.
Such intentions are clearly perceived in a black-and-white photo by Etienne Chambaud, which was discarded as an official piece of US history from the FSA archives, because of having a hole punched in it. Chambaud filled the hole with another image, creating a framed lenticular print that might now become an official piece of art history. Other lucid examples include Mario Garcia Torres’s compression of time in the projection of a blank slide that was carried in his pocket for 15 days, Joshua Martinez’s silver gelatin emulsion without an image recorded in it, and Adriana Lara’s solitaire game played with only jokers to subvert the intended functions of image processing devices. Mahony collective staged a recounting of the disputed possession of Moctezuma’s feather crown by the Austrian Museum of Art History, as key ownership and legitimacy issues are still being discussed in this historical mystery. Mahony sent the gallery a stereotypical tourist Tyrolean hat with a pheasant feather. A delicate post-colonial subject then becomes a joke, a matter of historical gossip where information wears out in time.
(Mahony Operación Pavo 2011.)
The curatorial interests elicit an inevitably esoteric frame of reference, given that magic and the occult deal with systems of concealed action, which operate through the mediation of belief. This is nonetheless banalized in Will Rogan’s feng shui crystal balls, half painted in black and hung at ‘eyelid level’, so as to obstruct its harmonizing intentions, and in Brandon Walls Olsen’s negative crystal ball, mirrored in the inside (so we are told) and selfishly deceiving on the outside. As the curators themselves observe:“These distracting procedures disclose possibilities and embellish situations; they concede to logics outside of necessity.”
One of the key debates of this exhibitions located between a serious interrogation of the imaginative potential of mental riddles and a self-complacency generated by certain works that somehow have it all figured out from the beginning (they are inventing the missing dollar instead of looking for it). The latter seem to function as celebrations of the wit of their creators. That abundance of wit might urge one to come up with a grand conclusion that would solve the exhibition’s mystery, something that would make sense, maybe…or at least with a sentence that gathers all of its disparate threads in one effort, like a trophy. But that sentence is not as simple as: there is no missing dollar.
(Adriana Lara Solitaire, 2010.)