About a strange ad and a visit to the bathroom: Joseph Kosuth and Robert Morris recreate the past at Jan Mot (Brussels)
Don’t you hate it when you can’t find the answer to a riddle? Luckily I had forgotten about the one that had kept my mind busy for a day or so. Until I entered into Jan Mot gallery (Brussels), weeks later. There it was, on the table, that newspaper, opened on the same page that had caught my attention June 3rd. Suddenly I remembered that peculiar ad I had been staring at, that morning, sipping my coffee, not understanding what it was trying to tell me. It was part of an exhibition? Yes, and probably one of the strangest recent shows in Brussels too (through July 23; so: last days!).
Two newspapers on a table, in the one room. De Standaard and Le Soir. Plus the booklet Jan Mot publishes bimonthly. And a brochure in a glass display case in the other room. That’s it. (Well, no, but I’ll come to that in a bit.) It’s all part of one of the trips back into art history that Jan Mot sets up once in a while.
This time the gallerist “recreated” a show organized by art pioneer, exhibition maker and conceptual art key player Seth Siegelaub in 1969 at Bradford Junior College, in Bradford, Massachusetts, with work by conceptual artists Joseph Kosuth and Robert Morris. And recreating meant: doing what Kosuth did back then (with his consent). Putting an ad in three newspapers. So that’s what I saw on that morning in June. Not your regular small ad, but “a work of art” by the now 71-year old American conceptual artist. As New York-based writer and curator Jacob King writes in Mot’s booklet: “By this time (1969), publishing had become Siegelaub’s preferred mode of presentation, or to put it another way, most of the work he championed existed primarily in its distribution as printed matter.”
But why printed matter? I found this quote by Kosuth (in Arts Magazine, 1969): “Like the other work, it’s an attempt to deal with abstraction. The largest change has been in its form of presentation going (…) to the purchasing of spaces in newspapers and periodicals. (…) This way the immateriality of the work is stressed and any possible connections to painting are severed. The new work is not connected with a precious object – it’s accessible to as many people as are interested: it’s nondecorative – having nothing to do with architecture; it can be brought into the home or museum but wasn’t made with either in mind; it can be dealt with by being torn out of its publication and inserted into a notebook or stapled to the wall – or not torn out at all – but any such decision is unrelated to the art. My role as an artist ends with the work’s publication.” (from Biennials and Beyond – Exhibitions That Made Art History 1962-2002, Phaidon, p. 89)
For the other work in the exhibition, by Robert Morris – apart from the original exhibition brochure, in that glass display case – the gallery assistant will advise you to go to the bathroom. And that’s no joke. The towel dispenser will hand you a piece of paper with the words “There are two temperatures: one outside, one inside” printed on it (it is the title of the work). Back down in the gallery you’ll find a piece of paper on which the outside and inside (the bathroom) temperatures are noted everyday.
Strange? I told you so. Jan Mot’s opening show of next season promises to be something special as well, combining sound pieces by Joachim Koester & Stefan Pedersen, daybeds by Juliaan Lampens and lamps by Jonathan Muecke. It’s a collaboration with Brussels-based Maniera, which commissions architects and artists to develop limited edition furniture series (September 9 through October 10).
You’ll find issue 102 of Jan Mot’s bimonthly hereunder, with the ad plus an essay by Jacob King.
102_May 2016-Jan Mot newspaper