The New Museum’s second triennial exhibition, The Ungovernables—which follows 2009’s Younger Than Jesus—opened on Wednesday, and it’s much, much more engaging and satisfying than its overcrowded and too-predictable predecessor. (There are, to be fair, a couple of impressively bad works in this show as well.) Though it features a surprising number of paintings, sculptures and drawings, it also abounds in new media, installation, performance and ephemeral works by loosely formed collectives and continent-spanning collaborative groups, making it all the more true to its title. These are The Ungovernables‘ least governable artworks.
Ala Younis, Masao Adachi & Koji Wakamatsu, Doa Aly, Cevdet Erek and Kamal Mufti’s “Tin Soldiers”: Only intelligible from a certain vantage point in the NuMu’s lobby gallery, these 8-bit army men are like a chiptune remix of Holbein’s “The Ambassadors.”
Adrian Villar Rojas’s “A Person Loved Me”: This crash-landed Styrofoam space station is like sci-fi Cyprien Gaillard—and possibly part of a model from Aliens.
Jose Antonio Macotela’s “Habemus Gasoline”: This DIY (and functional!) crude oil refinery made from parts of a tequila distiller is so ungovernable it’s defying a U.S.-Mexico trade agreement!
Cinthia Marcelle’s “ALL THIS THIS HERE”: If nobody steps in this piece’s puddle between now and April 22, when The Ungovernables closes, it will be a miracle.
Rita Ponce de Leon’s “Acepto que nada es mio (I accept that nothing is mine)”: This collection of tiny, tiny drawings on view in a table-top display case is ungovernable by virtue of both its radical distortion of scale and almost impossible to fully appreciate level of detail.
Abigail DeVille’s “Dark Day”: Installed in the NuMu’s always challenging shaft space in the staircase between the third and fourth floors, DeVille’s messy piece made of found trash is pure anarchy and impossible to see in full.
Julia Dault’s “Untitled 19 (3:00pm – 8:30 pm, February 4, 2012)”: Diault’s sculptures are terrific, specifically this one with its kaleidoscopic lower third. They’re also terrifying because they seem forever poised to spring on viewers like some sort of art rat trap.
Pilvi Takala’s “The Trainee/Working at Deloitte for a Month”: If The Office were actually a documentary about a real workplace, it would be a lot like this hilarious bit of performance art/readymade absurdism, for which Takala took an office job and spent all day very deliberately and clearly doing nothing while her bewildered colleagues grew increasingly flabbergasted.
Rayyane Tabet’s “1989”: This strange bit of architectural distortion looks like a remnant from the NuMu’s just-closed Carsten Holler show.
Pratchaya Phinthong’s “What I learned I no longer know; the little I still know, I guessed”: Cleverly, but also depressingly, Phinthong’s pile of Zimbabwean bills is more valuable as an artwork than as currency.
The New Museum’s 2012 triennial, The Ungovernables is on view through April 22.
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