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Regulated Fool's Milk Meadow - click opera
February 2010
 
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Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 01:33 am
Regulated Fool's Milk Meadow

That's the name of the current show at the Berlin Guggenheim. It's an installation by a young American artist called Phoebe Washburn. I didn't know, when I went to see it yesterday, that she showed with my New York gallerist, Zach Feuer; I just liked the title, and the poster.

Phoebe has built a big wooden yurt-factory-greenhouse thing in the Guggenheim's space. It's by far the most interesting show I've seen in there -- I instantly warmed to her choice of materials: pencils, sticky labels in hot pink and orange, raw plyboard, water tubing, fluorescent lights and polythene sheeting. It's the sort of stuff you see in Manhattan's Chinatown, pragmatic, cheap and charming. Washburn has assembled it into a sort of zany ecosystem: a conveyor belt helps grow, light and water boxes of grass which will eventually tile the factory's own roof.



It reminded me a bit of Wim Delvoye's Cloaca, a 2002 installation at the New Museum which mimicked digestion. Cloaca got fed regularly, broke down the food chemically in various glass-walled compartments, and daily delivered an inoffensive-smelling little green turd, for the amusement of visitors, at lunchtime. It also reminded me, weirdly enough, of Austrian artist Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, who also put grass on roofs.

Washburn, who's also created a lovely pond entitled Vacational Trappings and Wildlife Worries (her titles are as good as Klee's), is interested in self-enclosed systems, microcosms, recycling, and "absurd patterns of production". Being a bit of a fan of fuse boxes and control panels, I was happy to see some eccentric clusters of Dymo labelling machines, bull clips, pencils held in place like emergency fire tools, and various simply-labelled monitoring and regulating devices, all pinned to raw wooden boards.

Since we've been talking recently about "folk soul", I thought I should note that Washburn is quite happy to slot her work into the category of "American folk soul":

"I am... interested to see how this project will read in Berlin," she says. "In my opinion, it seems like a very American project. There is a big "yard culture" in America and it is in full force right now in these summer months. Yards have become a symbol of one's status. People see your yard as an extension of your house. It seems like house, car, and yard are the three big markers of one's social status in most of America, which makes sense because they are the most visible and obvious markers of status. So I definitely think that there is a strong American influence in this project. And it will be interesting to see how it reads in another culture. For me, the irony of all of this is that I live and work in an area where I see almost no green space. So obviously, I am making generalizations about American yard culture but I think there is some truth to this."

So how did it read in Berlin? Well, I thought of Fujimori's architecture when I saw the installation, and Mongolian yurts, and Manhattan Chinatown, and a Belgian artist's shit machine, and an Austrian artist's architecture. But it did also feel like an American hardware store, or the fish store Washburn visits in the accompanying video. And I suspect there is something rather Protestant about it all -- the emphasis on plain materials and on work.

17CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)

WHITE BOYS + JAPANESE GIRLS


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mandyrose
mandyrose
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 04:33 am (UTC)

Ooooh, boy, I was giving guided tours of this all summer!:

http://www.highlandssanctuary.org/7Caves/EtawahGorge2.jpg

Beauty creatures.


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mandyrose
mandyrose
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)

Mmmm... you mean like these? Bonus round: name this plant!

http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/images/veg/Cliffs_Dunes/Sullivantia_VK.low.jpg


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mandyrose
mandyrose
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 05:16 am (UTC)

That's beautiful! You know what freaks me out? Dodder. That stuff is just really scary. I'll stop dweebing out on plants now. :)


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womanonfire
womanonfire
Auriea.
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 09:11 am (UTC)
patrick blanc

that's fascinating!


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xoskeleton
xoskeleton
xoskeleton
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)

I agree with the American analysis, actually, though I would say that the ethic is less Protestant than immigrant. I am reminded (perhaps this is superficial) of Sarah Sze. Remember that explosion?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)

Yeah, economic migrant style is a good description. There are parts of cities all over the world that look like this.

Some say there are parallels between certain Protestant preferences and Oriental Asian ones. A certain Stoicism, undemonstrativeness, deferment of gratification, hard work.


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bonniemac
Bonnie MacAllister
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Phoebe was delighted with your review

From my husband:
"Art told his daughter Phoebe about the review, and she was delighted with it.
You could let Momus know if'n you like.
(In my day it would have taken weeks for this info to cross the Atlantic back and forth, but. . . )
--Old grumpy"


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Phoebe was delighted with your review

Yay!


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 03:59 am (UTC)


seeing these pictures i get the feeling this project somewhat resembles berlin itself.

the yokohama ship terminal is a nice example of grass on roof


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bonniemac
Bonnie MacAllister
Wed, Aug. 22nd, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
strange coincidence

We just had a Phoebe Washburn show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Phila. My husband works with her father at Temple Medical School!


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