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Review/Letter

 

 

 

 

Athena Papadopoulos
HONEYMOON IN PICKLE PARADISE
9 – 19 October 2014
Room 322, The Landmark Hotel London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Installation View,
Athena Papadopoulos,
The Bumping Ugly What Goes Bump in the Night, (2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Installation View,
Athena Papadopoulos,
Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise

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Performance View, Athena Papadopoulos & Mr & Mrs Philip Cath,
Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise
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Performance View, Athena Papadopoulos & Mr & Mrs Philip Cath,
Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

wedding
Mr & Mrs Philip Cath, 1999

 

 

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Installation View, Athena Papadopoulos, Limited Edition AP t-shirt (2014), UStrephon goes to Porkys, (2013),Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise (Temptation Island) V, (2014)

 

Dear Athena,

Thank you ever so kindly for the invitation to take part in your Honeymoon in Pickle Paradise exhibition, in room 322 at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. You must be thrilled with how critically acclaimed your show became during Frieze week, aka the “Art Sport Invitational” of London.

You began the week as an art nobody (apart from showing in the New Contemporaries) and by 19th Oct you were a star. How dreamy to be listed in the press alongside Ed Fornieles and Ryan Trecartin as being ‘the show to see’ outside of the fair and manage to get works into an amazing private collection.

I know how hard it was for you going to bed drunk at 5am night after night because of the relentless partying with the VIPs, but you did well not to get sacked from your shitty day job. I don’t think people appreciate just how hard it is to go out every night, with a fabulous outfit, and be engaging and witty for 7 nights straight, but your dedication paid off dear…. by the end of the week, you had officially emerged, covered with gold dust, or even better, art buzz dust! WTF! Why even the Serpentine Extinction Marathon was begging to come use your space for Jesse Darling’s performance by the last day of your hotel room show. Well done you!

Bunnykins, you know I am a long time believer in your genius, and of course I am totally envious, but you are a true maker and artist to the dying and bitter end. You already know how much I love your paintings, so forgive me if I just skim over the fact they were predictably incredible. (I was already loving them when I saw them at your Chisenhale studio, and tell me, why don’t all art patrons help young artists get studio awards? -because since you were awarded that residency, your work has accelerated toward a startling maturity in a short time.

But back to your show, your irreverent hang was the best part; who knew any artist could take on the gentle luxury of the 5★ Landmark’s Hotel room (taupe, gold, beige and sand palette) just like any other medium? I also never realised just how many people have a pickle phobia, but rest assured you deepened that phobia for them with the repulsive pickles scattered on the floor of the marble shower like little green penis turds. Jasmine, one of your curators, said the hang was all instinct for you, and how you selected pickle jars to prop the canvases against the wall rather spontaneously; you make those display witticisms look easy girl! (Did I detect a hint of ‘contemporary art aesthetic’ sarcasm in there?)

If I wasn’t a impecunious artist, the piece of yours I would most love to acquire are those chunky sculptural resin discs, filled with cigarette butts and studio floor detritus. I could gaze endlessly into the depths of their own easy self-knowing. Oh the stories it could tell! Can’t you just see it working in Anita Zabludowicz’s formal living room next to her (potentially) artwork phone, or maybe it was actually just a phone because it looked exactly like the hotel phone. Do you remember Morgan Quaintance and I studied that phone carefully for like a whole 10 minutes speculating whether it was ‘work’ or not?

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Installation View, Athena Papadopoulos, Hooty & the Bar Fly: Live from the Bar Floor, (2014), peanuts, chicken bones, cigarette butt, rubber, passport photograph, Canadian Loonie and wasp in clear resin,  18.5 x 3 cm

 But back to your show, also meriting a mention were the ridiculous soft sculptural objects that appear to be very failed sofa pillows in supersized scale. They had a distinct grotesqueness to them which actually became more menacing the longer I spent time studying the surface, like when we slept in your exhibition. The drawing of the woman’s face started coming out to me, criticising me whilst I was drifting off to slumber/ aka passing out, and then she criticised the man sitting next to her in the drawing. The vibrant line of your drawings, ironed on to the surface were somehow invisible when I “looked” at the works during the show during the private view, but like psychedelic toys that become animated when children go to sleep, so did your drawings. Creepy, but I liked it.

In this show, your work appeared to be a careless and messy carnival / collage, rammed with a multitude of autobiographical photos and drawings, objects who refuse to entirely exist in one designation, upset against their own materiality. And if I could just say, I love your approach in using the platitudes of fluids to mark with, like paint, Pepto Bismol and hair colour, together in an assemblage on the surface. I suspect viewers will overlook the real emotional impact of the work when they are show-hopping, and are not likely to see any the dark family stuff, because you know well that feeling of when you go to a show and we do that quick image-merchandising scan, skimming the space, looking superficially to see what the show looks I love that when Flint had his show at SpaceNY, he made his work so eye wateringly dense, it was immune to show scan. (I meant to ask him when he was here for dinner after installing the Liverpool biennale, but surely his intention is about deliberately arresting this phenomenon) But regardless, this remains a problem for all artists, (thank you Saatchi for telling the world you should get art like you do ads, in just a few secs flat)

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 Installation View, Athena Papadopoulos, AA II, (2014), image transfers on cotton, thread, canvas, Pepto-Bismol, bleach, market pen, nail polish, Fibrefill stuffing on steel garden chairs, 145 x 140 x 50cmm

Anyway, Athena, In our private conversations, when you and I were at Goldsmtihs, we always came back to the problem that we have both as painters; the image of the work betrays the art of it because the image processes so quickly in the eye of the viewer, that it excludes further, deeper interpretations of the art. There are two ways in which this is punctured: one surrounds the necessary performative nature of the painter, and the other the fetishisation of the painter’s processes, both of which serve to infuse the image and canvas with further layers of context.

Alex Bacon just wrote about this fetishisation of the white male painter’s process in his response to Saltz’s Zombie Paintings, and how the market just eats this up. But of course, it is just dawning on me that, in general, paintings are indeed dependent on that accompanying narration, stories about the paintings to tell around the sales-pitch fire…(This artists dips his canvas in plate metal, this artist hires someone to print his canvases in the moonlight, etc..)

But wonderfully, with your work, I feel, this external narration is not worked up by an enthusing gallerist with an eye to a sale, but rather It is imbued with your very and real actual life and it makes more dense your lusciously comical surface.

Guess what Phil and my story is? It used to be just being married (wow), which was too weird and boring. So now, the new story is. Phil and I don’t sell the paintings, and we renounce the determination of what we do as even “art”, so take that art world. (But here is the rub, it looks and smells exactly fucking like art.   We make and do things that seem like art, yet we refuse this of our objects and identity. ) What’s left to do in the art world that you can’t actually do as an artist? Nothing. This is it. This is the kind of art you get when all we have are crumbs and the biographical to work with. (next essay: crumb hybridity)

You know when Philip and I describe to our friends outside of the artworld what we do, to the friends who are brain surgeons, QCs and WHO policy makers, we demure by saying discreetly “we make bullshit.” We generally take nothing, and make things from nothingness. But there is a genuine craft to making this connoisseurial bullshit. It takes very talented people to do it well and someone really clever to accelerate that commodity of works into being worth something which surpasses its materiality by the power of hundreds of thousands.

But in my heart, I still just do love those paintings, as I loved the other works in your show.  Maybe your work, and our work is all based on the real in a cynical world, the paradox between the connoisseurial bullshit and the private love of painting. This week, I’ve been obsessed on Adorno’s primitivism. I luuuuv primitivism theories. There are things, yeah?, that are better than other things. For instance, paintings, music and stories are masterful, enduring mediums. People like to make marks, listen to pop songs, and read and watch narratives. For that matter, the most primitive action of all -people like to collect, like the hunter gatherers did, or hunter-collectors still do today. (ps I have taken a few liberties with Adorno) But he gives me permission to like it all, even when I know the post-post modernist in me realises the fatality of it, and yearns to escape from the endless irony.

But getting back to the idea of painter as performer, we had our first half idea; to take your show title, as a propositional challenge, and to re-enact our wedding night with as much authenticity as possible in your Honeymoon in Pickles Paradise. Our follow-on half-idea was to cast you as our narrator, because Emal.in’s web text it says you are “performative” so why not have you read out (and perform being you) a factual script whilst we performed ‘attidues’ from our story? Which conveniently turned out to have a 18th century provenance as a early form of performance art, known as Mimoplastic Art.

As you know, in real life,we had no audience for our real wedding in 2000. No one was there apart from Jeff Warrin, film and video artist from Silt, (Whitney, SFmoma, NYmoma) and he was there just to shoot the film. So our actual marriage at City Hall in San Francisco had no viewers, but was just officiated by mayor Willie Brown and his chief of protocol. Viewerless, but documented.

As we developed our research for our performance/happening we discovered how slippery history is, how corrupted it becomes in the retelling, which provokes new histories to form on top of it. Listen, everybody does this, just think of the last holiday you took, and how you described it to someone else upon your return. The story you tell never gives an accurate view of what it actually was, how you felt, who you were on it, but is just unwittingly morphs into a twitterish post card summary, which gets better by the time you tell it, so by the 10th person your fiction is settled, and you begin to actually believe it yourself this fable-ised version of your actual experience.

Anyway, we fretted deeply at bringing in all of our carefully preserved documents, our real love letters, and original print outs of those conversations, which were recorded in Instant Messenger on AOL in 1999. (We recreated huge ridiculous floral bouquets for the hotel room, because I wanted them as grotesque as your sculptures.)

Our performance is almost impossible to write about, because the experience doesn’t fit into language, the elements are too eccentric and unruly to contain and furthermore had too much sincerity to manage rationally explaining. Some said it was beautiful though.

Last night we poured over Instagram photos of our performance in your exhibition, which upon reflection we decided was one of the best nights of our lives. I saw someone’s photo with Larkin, that excessively charming guy from Massimo Di Carlo gallery, in bed with us as we signed photos the spectators had queued for. The image brings such an altered idea to how it felt to be in the bed. From the image, it looks almost like a John and Yoko moment, but that just happened to be where we ended up after completing the “attitudes” from our spectacular lovemaking session as narrated by you.

We clearly had no idea what we would ‘achieve’ with the performance, (does any performance artist ever?) but it was profound and productive for our practice. I thought the satirical fog machine would be a success, and of course, fog is the root of all affect. But I really liked that the girl who cried whilst watching because she was so moved by our absurd mimoplasty, or maybe it reminded her of her failed marriage and the hopes she had had; it seemed risky knowing strangers were reading our letters and remembering their own blossoming love affairs whilst they held in their hands the archives of ours. Some viewers thought it was all an elaborate construct, and I overheard that someone, allegedly really important, said “it was the best thing they had seen during Frieze”. Thank you random, anonymous somebody important, whoever you were, wherever you are now. Nobody can ever take your comment away from us.

I can’t help wanting to write review of your show (possibly for Kaleidoscope?) I know others are reviewing it, but I wanted to capture the deep –‘real’ of that amazing moment when art seems to do all of the right things, for the right people at precisely the right moment.

Somehow I know that even the brightest, most insightful writer, couldn’t’ capture what happening during your ascension to art heaven during Frieze, and how could they, an art stranger describe the inside of your outside? How does any reviewer ever capture the diaspora of little half ideas that join together, how can they describe Joselit’s little networks that are growing like baby art crystals, accelerating ferociously when fed properly. I think they are much better understood in the context of everything around them.

Is artwork there just to look with our eyes? What about this unseen context, like how your dreamy curators, Leopold and Jasmine, both of whom are clever, well mannered and freakishly well connected, risked so much to get you that show. Bravo to them, self-funding the exhibition was a huge gamble, and based simply on them believing in your work. What of your generosity, roping in your friends from Goldsmiths to join in on the show. And so on…

Well lastly Athena, we offer you an enormous congratulations for officially emerging! Your show was brilliant. I’ve always known you are the real deal. Thank you again and eternally for asking us to perform.

It feels like we have had a cellular change in our sluggish bodies since Saturday, but now onto hoping our choice of lead paint doesn’t poison us too bad, it is a nightmare to track down, and as a bonus, completely deadly and illegal If you crash and fall into any dreaded P.S.B, (post show blues) which can sneak up on you, especially after the heights of your power week, text me, but I know once you are in that studio, it is all magic time. Lots of Love, Khloe