ARCHIVE: realUNreal, 2003

April 16, 2013


“Art itself possesses no type of social impact. It is its contextualisation
which gives it its power.” Lucy Lippard


realUNreal is an exhibition of nine curators asked to draw a line between the real and unreal politics of the gallery; to negotiate the space between art and image, image and text, text and idea, idea and art.  It is an exhibition without artwork. It asks these curators, including writers, educators, and administrators, to present one original text, written specifically for the exhibition, as context for one or more artwork.   The overall plan is that each project is presented in a space where it gains significance and efficacy that can guarantee its social, political and media impact.

These artworks are  slide projections, distilled as an idealized space of image and text. A blend of two myths, the one of Sisyphus and The Cave/Plato. This idealized space derives a new significance and efficacy from its own re-contextualization of these curatorial experiments in the gallery, re-inventing their social, political, and media impact.   As Lucy Lippard once wrote, “Art itself possesses no type of social impact. It is its contextualization which gives it power.” “It must become the axe for the frozen sea within us.” (Franz Kafka)

This unreal exhibition explores the hybrid creation of artwork and its context as a third entity, bringing self-critique to this changed, alternate work of art as a combination and co-opting of its originals.

–Shmulik Krampf


Featured Curators:

Lawrence R. Rinder / Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York


Ralph Rugoff /Director, CCAC Wattis , Oakland, CA


Stephan Barbarino / Director of the Lake Art Project, Füssen, Germany


David Bonetti / Writer, Teacher at San Francisco Art Institute, CA


Arnold J. Kemp with Kevin Killian / Curator of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA


Shmulik Krampf Goodman /realUNreal gallerist,San Francisco, CA


-Simon Lamunière / Director of Centre pour l’Image Contemporaine, Geneva, Switzerland


 –Marcia Tanner / Independent Curator, Curator – New Langton Arts, San Francisco, CA


Yozo Yamaguchi / Curator, Contemporary Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan


Featured Artists:

Nayland  Blake, Mark Dion, Anthony Discenza, Dan Estabrook, Jason Fox,(Jeffrey Vallance(Cur)), Knutte Wester, Matthew Higgs, Nina Katchadourian, Luisa Kazanas, Arvydas Maminishkis, Joseph Marioni, John Meyer, Rachael Neubauer, Philip Ross, David Simpson,Peter Tollens, Fred Wilson, Yoram Wolberger,Jun’ya Yamride,Koji Abe, and Samuel Yates

realUNreal exhibition 

February 13 – March 14, 2003

Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery

Supported by the University of Reno Nevada 


Art Week Review

“realUNreal at Sheppard Gallery, UNR”
Kirk Robertson, May 2003, Volume 34, Issue 4, Page 21-22

The gallery is dark. Only the back wall is lit and three stools lurk in front of it like a trio of Duchampian readymades, minus the bicycle wheel. Hung on the wall is a series of framed 8-1/2-by-11-inch texts. The only other thing in the gallery is a slide projector on auto, projecting images of twenty-two artists. Texts as artworks, objects as reproductions: conceptualism lives large. Here, in a process of inversion, nine curators have been cast into the role of artist, creating works out of ideas and others¹ art. Their “texts” become both object and context within an exhibition where “artworks” exist solely as reproductions in a slide show.

Curators usually work behind the scenes, managing people and practical details as much as lofty ideas. The exhibition reveals that curatorial agendas are often clouded or compromised by viewers¹ perception and the politics of space: selection, exclusion, installation, contextualization. Here, we are told, “each project is presented, contextualized in a space in which it gains a new significance and efficacy that can guarantee it social, political, and media impact.” In the accompanying catalog, organizer/curator Shmulik Krampf Goodman suggests that this cohabitation of text/context and reproductions represents an “idealized” space, one that blends Plato¹s cave and the myth of Sisyphus. There¹s something to this: we perceive the world indirectly, seeing reality only via the framed texts and the flickering slide images on the darkened walls. And, just when we think we¹ve got a handle on the paradigm of the moment, it slips out of our hands and rolls down to the bottom of the hill.

So what do the curators dream of contextualizing? Stephan Barbarino builds a bridge between Ludwig¹s Neuschwanstein and the works of some late-twentieth century artists. David Bonetti isolates four paintings by four artists in four separate rooms. Arnold Kemp and Kevin Killian use seven artists to forge an assemblage of forgotten fragments: eviction notices, gallery announcements, grant deadlines and video surveillance. Simon Lamunière ponders relationships between physical museums (in which we set one piece next to another) and virtual space (in which we scroll a list). Lawrence Rinder conjures objects through a series of memento mori‹teenage memories, Emperor Hadrian and world flea markets‹that ask us to consider what we adore. Ralph Rugoff suggests both that uncertainty is necessary for discovery, and that a 800-HELP number would be helpful to address issues of viewer irrelevance at exhibitions. Marcia Tanner sees curating as an art form that makes connections visible, but also one whose expectations of gratified desire always leave you wanting more. Yozo Yamaguchi ponders the gap between museums and the “I,” where and how private motives become public collections.

After the 1970s when it asserted the primacy of idea over visual, conceptual art has aged into part of the establishment. Concept now plays a major structural role in contemporary works, but often must share the stage with the formal. Similarly, successful curatorial initiative requires an intellectual impetus requited by visual objects. This exhibition returns conceptualism to her throne, placing the object and the visual secondary to the ideas they manifest and those the curator finds interesting. And, like any group show, this one is variable in its content and its ability to engage.

Duchamp long ago suggested that the artist could re-think things, could re-make meaning by re-contextualizing objects. Conceptual art and the legions of didactic museum wall texts that followed attempted to teach us how to read standing up, something I continue to resist. So perched on the readymade, I scanned the texts, with the click-click of the projector punctuating my thoughts. In this state of equilibrium, I realize that the ability of texts or images to document experience will always be an illusion.

realUNreal closed in March at the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, at the University of Nevada, Reno.