Shotgun Review

Hauntology

By Jessica Brier September 14, 2010

 

These days, there is an obsession quietly floating around over the relationship between art and memory. The exhibition Hauntology at BAM/PFA illustrates this idea in a neat, single-gallery presentation of fifty works from the museum’s permanent collection. Quoting Jacques Derrida, curators Lawrence Rinder (also Director of BAM/PFA) and Scott Hewicker site the notion of the “persistence of a ‘present past’” as the central thesis of the show. In their introductory wall text, the curators explain their approach to connecting selections from the museum’s recent acquisitions as “intuitive,” attempting to capture the spirit of Derrida’s idea rather than to illustrate it. Rinder established this curatorial approach most recently with Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked Eye, his inaugural exhibition as Director of BAM/PFA. Galaxy, like Hauntology, presented permanent collection works through free association, mixing the classical with the contemporary and showcasing the museum’s eclectic permanent collection. In recalling Hauntology, I also can’t help but remember the recent exhibition Haunted, an exhibition of contemporary photography and media works at the Guggenheim in New York on view this summer. Haunted posited that the nature of lens-based media lends itself particularly to the depiction of the ephemeral, haunting qualities of memory and the melding of present and past.

Gallery view, Hauntology, co-curated by Lawrence Rinder and Scott Hewicker.  Photo: Silbia Savage. (Courtesy BAM/PFA.)

While Hauntology is not medium-specific, it revisits the complexity of art’s relationship to documentation—in both its attempts to capture memory and depict ephemerality and embody these phenomena through medium and method. Highlights of Hauntology include a monochromatic painting by Ad Reinhardt (one example of a sizable sample of abstract works in the show, adding an interesting layer of conceptual mystery) and Ivan Seal’s constantly looping Stuttering Piano (2007), which provides an undeniably haunting soundtrack to the show. Other notable pieces are Lutz Bacher’s 1997 film Olympiad, both haunting and funny and Paul Siestema’s Ship Drawing (2009), a beautiful diptych well-paired next to Paul Schiek’s Similar to Baptism (2007), a chromogenic print that captures a slice of menacing ocean water. Rinder and Hewicker’s curatorial choices are intriguing and, as with Galaxy, leave me wanting to know more.

 

Hauntology is on view at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive through December 5, 2010.

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