RE: The Nor’easter Blows
The Northeaster blows,
Among all the winds the one
I love the best, because it portends
A fiery spirit and a good journey to sailors.
— Remembrance, Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
Michal Martychowiec once pointed out the conceptual duality of the Northeaster. The natural phenomenon forebodes an impending harsh weather as well as an uplifting sentiment, but the Romanticist conception of it tactfully ignores potential contradictions in favor of sublimating the mood. At last, the disastrous aspect of the natural phenomenon survives, albeit rendered curiously implicit.
The Nor’easter Blows features three works of Martychowiec, The incredulity of Saint Thomas (2016), The shrine to summon the souls (2013), and In memory (2013). The incredulity of Saint Thomas, an artwork committed to reflecting on Western art history, sits at the exhibition’s conceptual center with its reverberating, cyclic parodying potential hidden beneath the veneer of glowing absurdity. The title refers to the biblical story of Thomas the Apostle, who was at first skeptical of the resurrection of Jesus but believed in it once he beheld Jesus. Martychowiec connects this story to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, consumerist objects that paradoxically question artistic ingenuity while being sanctified into art objects. For this installation, like before, Martychowiec instructed the curators to salvage two dusty pieces of abandoned glass, break one, and assemble them in the gallery in order to parrot Duchamp’s The Large Glass (collected by the Philadelphia Museum of Art). Six indoor palms flank and frame the glass, with their shadows cast afar and interacting with the cherry-blossom trees of The shrine to summon the souls. Beyond Duchamp, the artist also pokes fun at Henri Rousseau’s jungles and art collectors’ Architecture Digest-worthy homes. Well aware of the self-implication of his parody, Martychowiec partakes in it anyway.
More slippages occur below the glistening surfaces that we call art and beauty once we manage to mine their fugitive narratives. Martychowiec shot the video The shrine to summon the souls at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a Shinto shrine famous for both its cherry blossoms and the consecration of Japan’s war casualties and veterans, including 1068 convicted WWII war criminals. In the video, the soundtrack (voiceover and music) of Gastone Ferranti and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s La Rabbia (“Anger”), a 1963 documentary film that revisits modern wars and revolutions from a humanist angle, co-occurs with amputated views of the Shrine. The least referential among the artworks shown, In memory implores the audience to place meanings onto its slide-projected colors and shapes. But the meanings stay unstable as the slides quickly disintegrate at prolonged projection.
To Martychowiec, histories are concoct-able and artists are particularly well equipped to invent their own; all they need are combinations of signifiers that make narratives appear convincing. Yet when the Nor’easter blows, the signifiers in its proximity reveal their duplicity.
(Jacob Zhichen Zhang)
Retake, reply, review, respond, remember, resist, return, record, recycle…Re- as a Latin prefix means again, again and again, repetition, opposition, backward, withdrawal.
Re: as a two-volume exhibition revisits history, material history, art history, collective memory, personal remembrance, moments of serendipity, fragments rediscovered…
The Nor’easter Blows
19th October – 3rd November 2018
Tamer Hassan and Armand Yervant Tufenkian
9th November – 1st December 2018
This exhibition accompanies Reminiscing/Reinventing, a SAIC-sponsored graduate symposium on nostalgia and media scheduled to take place on October 26, 2018.
Artists Michal Martychowiec, Tamer Hassan and Armand Yervant Tufenkian
Curator Jacob Zhicheng Zhang