Shotgun Review

From Chicago: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

By Shotgun Reviews September 25, 2012

Industry of the Ordinary’s practice brings to mind John Baldessari’s famous dictum: “Given the choice between an elegant idea and a dumb idea, I’m going to go with the dumb idea.” The Chicago duo, referred to as IOTO, takes a dorky, unheroic stance, sneaking subjects into the halls of art that others might deem too trivial for inclusion. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, their ten-year survey at the Chicago Cultural Center, is a paean to banalities, witticisms, and the joys of simple interaction. Among the works on view are a dollar bill made out of a Bible (Tender, 2005), a photograph of two adulterers wearing only animal masks (Affair, 2008), and a foosball table that can be used for its designated purpose.

IOTO are at pains to show that art is not an individualistic enterprise for them. Works by other Chicago-area artists, such as Jim Zimpel’s large installation Angle (2012), form an integral part of their exhibition. But although they’ve included fellow artists in their retrospective, some of IOTO’s own pieces suggest that they take an ironic stance toward the notion of uncritical celebration of artistic community. Their video Everyone (2012) lists the names of all of the artists working in Chicago—it could be understood as a celebratory piece, but who is going to read all of those names? And who


Industry of the Ordinary. Tender ($1 bill), 2005; paper pulped from a bible and graphite; 8.5 x 21.75 in. Courtesy of the Artists and the Chicago Cultural Center.

is going to remember all of them? The work is thus an intentional failure. But that doesn’t mean it is a bad work: failure can be conceptually fertile in contemporary art.¹

IOTO’s practice aims to reunite art and life while also underlining the fact that art is a special zone within capitalist culture. The dominant mindset devalues failure and the ordinary, encouraging people to market and present themselves as winners or to stand apart from the crowd. It seems like the only institution that could proudly display banners with the words “I want to be ordinary” on its facade is a contemporary art space. IOTO’s retrospective provokes thoughts as to art’s humanistic mission as well as art’s privilege.


Sic Transit Gloria Mundi is on view at Chicago Cultural Center through February 17, 2013.


Julia Glosemeyer is a writer based in San Francisco. She is the art correspondent for the Eventseekr blog.


1. "Art is about success and failure at the same time. Design needs to be successful. But art—that is, twentieth-century art, modern art—accepts failure. The main topic of modern art, and postmodern and contemporary art, is failure. It's the impossibility of doing art, in fact, and art constantly demonstrates this impossibility, this failure of its own project. Art is the other side of design, the other side of utopia." Boris Groys, interview with ARTINFO,

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