Tanya Leighton, Kurfürstenstraße 156, 10785 Berlin

  • Fallen Warrior
    Title : Fallen Warrior
  • Glass House
    Title : Glass House
  • Installation for Specific Part of the Body
    Title : Installation for Specific Part of the Body
  • Take a line for a wlk
    Title : Take a line for a wlk
  • Tea on The Knee
    Title : Tea on The Knee
  • Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 3
    Title : Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 3
  • Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 4
    Title : Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 4
  • Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 5
    Title : Waiter Waiter Curator Curator Installation view 5

Review by Jenny Nachtigall

‘Waiter Waiter Curator Curator’, Bruce McLean’s first solo show in Berlin, testifies to his critical engagement with the place of sculpture in the imminent collapse of modernist paradigms of permanence and immobility. It reveals McLean’s desire to frustrate the art world’s spectacle of the artistic persona with trenchant satirical interventions. Spread over three rooms, the exhibition at Tanya Leighton Gallery presents a careful selection of photographic documentations of McLean’s sculptures, performance projects and films, focussing primarily on the period from the 1960s to the 80s. What is perhaps most rewarding in ‘Waiter Waiter Curator Curator’ is the experience of an eruption of medium-specificity, the collapse of clear-cut distinctions between sculpture and performance that enfolds from one room to another.

In the first room a slide projector throws images of McLean’s ‘Early Works, 1965-1971’ onto the white gallery wall. Arrangements of found objects such as ‘Installation for Street and Fence’ (1967) or ‘Sculpture for Wall and Street’ (1967) appear and quickly disappear. The rapid rotation of the slides makes it hard to focus, drawing the gaze irresistibly towards the adjacent window. Where does the gallery end’ The waste of the city - some scattered stones, a broken beer bottle - congregates in a transient everyday sculpture that troubles distinctions between inside and outside, sculpture and waste. Clearly, the tendency of messing with institutional and artistic categories was present in McLean’s practice early on. Subsequently this led to the interrogation of sharply delineated boundaries between the subject and object of art in his ‘pose’ works.

Ascending to the second room the notorious ‘Pose Works for Plinths I’ (1971) comes into sight. A series of photographs shows McLean performing different poses on plinths, overtly ridiculing the reclining figures of Henry Moore. Embracing the plinth as defining characteristic of sculpture, McLean simultaneously devalues its authority and introduces ‘pose’, the body as sculpture. The concept of ‘Pose’ describes the exploration of the possibilities of sculpture by means of performance. The body of the artist becomes the primary material of an ephemeral sculpture and a tool for criticising the contrived coolness of artistic self-presentations.

However, the dissolution of sculptural boundaries seems ultimately to reach a deadlock. The last piece of the exhibition bespeaks a certain failure, if not a defeat.

In the recent film ‘Soup. A Concept Consommé’ (2010) we see a waiter serving a couple (featuring McLean himself) in a high-end restaurant a selection of modernist sculptures from Constantin Brâncusi to Henry Moore. The unequivocally humorous character of this mise-en-scène, the repetitive gestures of ordering and serving art, seem to expose the absurdist mechanisms of the art market. The waiter/curator appears in this scenario as a docile servant of ludicrous art consumption, eager to please his bourgeois customers.

‘Waiter Waiter Curator Curator’ frustrates our desire for a new critical horizon in artistic practices. Still it makes us laugh. It is a bitter laughter though, at the loss of alternatives in the labyrinth of the present, in which artist’s critique is threatened to regress to a pose.

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