Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery
Photo Jason Mandella
I made up my entire review of Christian Jankowski’s piece “Review.” Thankfully, no one will read it: it’s sealed in a bottle for display, along with the handwritten responses of more than 80 other critics. The piece is, itself, the reviews. Currently, they’re arranged in groupings that resemble small islands on the floor of Friedrich Petzel Gallery.
So how accurate was my made-up review? I’d republish it here so you all could judge for yourself, but Jankowski told me I shouldn’t do that. “For me the idea is that all of the reviews are not published… If what is written in the bottle-review becomes public, the bottle as an artwork is destroyed and loses its point.” Jankowski likened the piece to capturing ghosts in a bottle.
This makes a review of my review a little difficult, but I don’t think I’m divulging that much when I say I wasn’t that far off. You don’t need to experience a room full of bottled reviews to know that a piece no one reads communicates nothing. Past that, there’s nothing particularly substantial about looking about a bunch of bottles around your ankles.
That much was easy to anticipate, though I didn’t get all the details right. While I correctly predicted wine bottles would be the critics’ bottle of choice, I got all the participants wrong. Emma Allen, Bill Arning and Tyler Coburn are among the first names credited in the show (the list is alphabetical), and they weren’t on my list. Neither was Carolina Miranda from ARTnews and I know her personally.
There are more of these kinds of details vis-a-vis the art work, but the list is about as interesting as reading someone’s corrected homework assignment. More importantly, it doesn’t tell us anything about the art that we didn’t already know. In his earlier work, Jankowski has hired fortune tellers and pastors to talk about art; both were given a platform to present their views. Critics aren’t given this privilege.
Neither is anyone else. Inasmuch as this show, Discourse News (through July 28), can be seen as antagonistic to the writer, it’s arguably even more so to the viewer. A neon sign drawn from a doodle in an old Friedrich Petzel address book reads “Visitors, You’re Boring Me to Death,” and the video in the back room, “The Eye of Dubai,” is nearly inaudible. According to the press release, the artists and his film crew were guided through the city blindfolded by a local artist named Rami Farook. The noise makes it almost impossible to watch.
So far as I can tell, the art in this show is the act of removing any trace of communication about the concrete.
A few years ago, when I lived my life as an artist, I probably would have found Discourse News amusing. I believed that art should be elusive, and I’d guess Jankowski feels the same. The sentiment is very much ingrained in his work. As an artist that may be a useful belief: elusive images and objects say more than words in the hands of accomplished makers. As a viewer, though, I’d rather learn from what others have to say.