Smoke Signal

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

On Monday, the Fundação Bienal do Mercosul announced my appointment as the chief curator of the 9th Mercosul Biennial, scheduled to open on September 13, 2013 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. A press release of this announcement, and, perhaps most importantly, a curatorial statement for the biennial, can be found here. All the while, I will continue to work as curator of contemporary art of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Seems like I should also begin writing more regularly here, posting research-in-progress.

To join me in the adventure of organizing the biennial, I’ve brought together a team of curators and educators that I highly respect. The team includes Raimundas Malašauskas, a curator who I’ve collaborated on several projects before, as well as the educator Mônica Hoff and the curator Bernardo de Souza, both based in Porto Alegre. They will be closely involved in the curatorial research, including the artist selection, commission of new work, and the conceptualization of the biennial’s exhibitions and educational programming.

In addition, an interesting group of curators will be engaged in the research towards the biennial through a curatorial fellowship program. I’ve called this program the “Cloud Fellows,” as they will help determine the shape, the place and the experience of information in the biennial. They will certainly also influence the artist’s selection –are already doing so– and project development in general. These are the fellows: Sarah Demeuse, based in New York City, and co-founder of Rivet; Daniela Pérez, based in Mexico City, and co-founder of De Sitio; Julia Rebouças, based in Belo Horizonte, and member of the curatorial team of Inhotim; and, Dominic Willsdon, based in San Francisco, and the Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMoMA.

The appointment of the curatorial team for the 9th Mercosul Biennial was publicly announced through a smoke signal on Monday, August 13, 2012 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The image above is of this event; it was taken by Cristiano Sant Anna (

On Hypnotic Shows and Paper Exhibitions

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

A while back, I wrote here about Raimundas Malašauskas mesmerizing Hypnotic Show—an exhibition that an audience experiences while hypnotized. It’s one of those curatorial projects that I wish had occurred to me… but it would have been impossible, my mind works differently, even while in trance. The latest iteration of Hypnotic Show took place in Turin, Italy last November within the framework of the art fair Artissima. On that occasion, the show had a slightly different format (for a description, please read the earlier post linked above). For that new iteration, Raimundas invited me and three other peers—Angie Keefer, John Menick and Robert Snowden—to write scripts about historic exhibitions.

We wrote scripts for about thirty or so other exhibitions, which were used as instruction pieces generating the phenomenological experience of the hypnotized audiences. Once in a state of trance, audiences could time-travel and experience exhibitions like the first Documenta (1955) curated by Arnold Bode in Kassel, Germany; witness the Charioteer of Delphi (474 BC) at the Delphi Archaeological Museum in Greece; visit Information (1970) curated by Kynaston McShine at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and, walk around the city of Ghent and visit private homes to see the various projects of Chambres d’amis (1986), a multi-sited exhibition curated by Jan Hoet for the Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst in Antwerp.

Artissima published a small book with the scripts for this latest iteration of the Hypnotic Show, and you can download it here for your perusal—to read or use for getting hypnotized at your own risk.

Image: Tomorrow evening, at McNally Jackson Books in New York, Raimundas Malašauskas launches his book of collected texts, Paper Exhibition. Some Ten Years of Writing, published by Sandberg Institute, Kunstverein Publishing, Sternberg Press and The Baltic Notebooks by Anthony Blunt.

Some Independents

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

There are a number of independent curators whom I have had a sustained dialogue with in the last decade or so. How and when we met is unclear; how we have maintained a dialogue is easier to say: the decade’s digital penpal frenzy has kept us together. But the pressing — albeit unvoiced — question of our epistolary exchanges is if we will continue relying on brief descriptions and low-res pics to share our curatorial projects. Implicit in this question is an interest in cultural developments happening beyond one’s local scene, and of the increasingly expanding global community bound by intellectual affinities. In addition, traveling to see every exhibition is impossible, and relying on published reviews in trade magazines and newspapers is an unsatisfactory convention. So, it’s a delight to know that independent curators who have documented their projects are sharing the materials online. Here are three cases:

Raimundas Malasauskas, a Lithuanian curator who now lives most of his time in Paris and whom I’ve collaborated with on several occasions, has posted online material relating to many of his unconventional and innovative exhibitions (leaving out most of the ones he realized at CAC in Vilnius, where he worked as curator during the 1990s, for that institutional website). Regine Basha, based in New York City, has recently launched her exhibition portfolio, also including a section of her published writing and links to her web-based projects including Pablo Leon de la Barra, originally from Mexico City but based in London for some time now, has a blog where he posts images of art he sees during his travels, as well as entries on his projects. (He founded the blog in 2000, but it’s significantly active since 2007.) Their sites tell of interesting projects taking place anywhere from a museum gallery to a white cube constructed in a far-off desert in Texas, from a basement at the Pompidou in Paris to a jungle in Colombia, even an exhibition inside a living brain.

Image: Rene Gabri for Ultimiere (2005) in


Monday, March 9th, 2009

Some weeks ago, Manhattan saw the arrival of Hypnotic Show, one of Raimundas Malasauskas’ latest curatorial projects and certainly one of his most mesmerizing. The inaugural Hypnotic Show took place last year at Silverman Gallery in San Francisco. I experienced its second iteration, which took place at Artists Space in New York.

Technically speaking, there are differences between mesmerizing and the practice of hypnotizing. But in today’s vernacular these terms are used inter-changeably. The first term derives from the name of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who is known as a predecessor of hypnotism. Working primarily in Paris, his used magnets for curing, and his trance, which is referred since as mesmerism, were based on some kind of universal magnetic fluid that, according to him, existed between people and was bound to gravity. This idea was highly debated during his lifetime.

By the nineteenth century, when the word hypnosis became current, the medical study of trance shifted to a study in psychology and away from physics. Hypnosis was used to study a patient’s physical and mental response while asleep. Some of the more successful experiments of deep trance are attributed to the late work of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) in his research of neurosis and hysteria. After some period of questioning and debunking, it was in the twentieth century, particularly after World War II, that hypnosis was again embraced by the medical community, not surprisingly, by military doctors.

While there were many other practicioners of mesmerism, hypnosis and other forms of trance, it was Mesmer and Charcot’s peculiar medical practices that the popular image of the hypnotic séance is modeled from. The showmanship around hypnosis, however, has increasingly grown since Mesmer’s times. It is the dependence, the interest-filled and willing submission, really, of the patient to the hypnotizer that is raised to the level of awe or spectacle.

For Hypnotic Show, Raimundas commissioned several artists to create immaterial artworks to be tangibly experienced under hypnosis. While only a couple of contributions are drawings or images, the main submissions are succinctly drafted text pieces. These are descriptive texts detailing encounters with phenomena and art, written as instructive walks or detailed travels. The hypnotized wanderer enters in and out of scenes, encountering images, objects, and situations of different kinds. Like in dream state, many times these encounters suggest the hypnotized to define or name things, even on occasions to take authorship of certain artworks or moments that they come across.

This is how you begin to experience Deric Carner’s artwork: You are walking down a path. You are watching where you place your feet. There are loose rocks. You are surrounded by vegetation. It’s dark and dusty. The work continues until you recognize an object that is mysteriously rising from the horizon but that is, you think, quite clearly not the sun. The hypnotizer then transitions to another work, the contribution by Will Holder. This time you encounter an image of Elvis Presley. A poster that becomes three-dimensional. You find yourself interacting with Elvis.

These are only two of more than a dozen artworks commissioned by Raimundas, who hands the exhibition as script to a professional hypnotizer, Marcos Lutyens. To experience the exhibition, then, the public convenes at a gallery for the séance. In the backdrop, a video by Patrizio di Massimo rendered a seal in fade-ins and close-ups. In the foreground, the curator and hypnotizer lead the event. At Artists Space, there were about ten people who volunteered for hypnosis; they were in fact audience of the exhibition. The rest of us there, the majority, were merely spectators bearing witness to their experience. And while not in a state of trance, at least imagining what it could feel to be in that place.

In the press release—a document written as a responded list of Frequently Asked Questions—the curator described this unconventional and allegedly immaterial exhibition as “a temporary social structure for engaging into creative cognitive acts through shared practices of art and hypnosis.” At the end of the séance at Artists Space, Raimundas explained that he sought to place an exhibition in the brain. The weight given to physical site is interesting. It opened a discussion that is less about memory or imagination, than about sense and sensibility, or as he suggested, of neurology.

“Tricksters or fakes, assistants or ‘toons, they are exemplars of the coming community.”

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Since the publication of his Autobiography of Howard Hughes in 1972, the life of writer Clifford Iriving has been nothing but adventure. That book was a “fake” and unauthorized biography of the eccentric aviator and film director Howard Hughes (1905-1976), an American tycoon billionaire who died in 1976 after being in reclusion the last years of his life. The so-called autobiography, a creative concoction of Clifford Irving and his conspirator Dick Suskind, caused a scandal when the reclusive Hughes declared it a hoax, ending in the imprisonment of the authors.

In an attempt to revisit the process and controversy of the book’s making, or say, the life of one its authors, Clifford Irving himself, Miramax produced the film The Hoax. Lying somewhere between dramatization and fictionalization, this film is loosely based on Clifford Irving’s story, narrated first and most accurately in a book by him with the same title. The film was released in 2007; the book published in 1981. Not surprisingly, the film is far from and adaptation of his book, and Clifford Irving claims it a hoax in itself.

Fakes. Hoaxes. Cons. Doubles. Re-makings. Multiple narratives. These are also the subjects of Orson Welle’s 1974 film F for Fake, wherein Clifford Irving plays himself—or not. Finally, we can get to know. This year, his autobiography, Phantom Rosebuds by Clifford Irving was published by Dexter Sinister and this along with the exhibition as event as book tour with the savvy title The Clifford Irving Show is produced by curator Raimundas Malasauskas. To date, it has been presented in California at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in collaboration with Art 2102 in Los Angeles.

I had the luck of sitting next to Clifford Irving on an air-flight to China some weeks ago. It was a special flight, indeed, filled with coincidence and surprise. It was the perfect way to meet the man. Inspired by the writer’s lifetime and work, as well as by the self-designated Fake Market and shadow economies that I experienced while traveling in China, I interviewed Clifford Irving some days after we met on air. Click below to read this interview and to get more details on Phantom Rosebuds and The Clifford Irving Show.