Magicgruppe Kulturobjekt review by Marianne Van Boxelaere
Entering the hall of Magicgruppe Kulturobjekt’s exhibition at Extra City in Antwerp ‘the group’s first solo show at a Belgian institution- the visitor encounters a large installation constructed of building materials such as industrial foam, wood, plaster and found objects acquired from second hand markets and Extra City’s own back-room store. The work is constructed on site by a group of twelve artists who, as they claim, act as a singular collective actor. By way of a peculiar process of action and reaction, rather than through a preconceived plan or narrative, the space evolves from an empty exhibition venue into a site-specific construction. The location itself is an important part of the scenario and thus the primary outline of the composition. Of both locations we must say - for the exhibition is divided into two parallel sections - the artists switched between the Ludwig Forum in Aachen and the Extra City Kunsthal in Antwerp while the exhibition sections were being set up. Perhaps due to the particularity of the two different locations, the two installations differ by noticeable degrees. The instalment at Extra City for example, suffers slightly from being dominated by the rough, industrial architecture, whereas the Ludwig Forum’s 2000 square meter white cube complete with large windows give a bright and open space that honours the broadness of the installation as a whole, and allows the work to be perceived as art more readily.
At a distance, Magicgruppe Kulturobjekt appears to pay homage to the strong post-war tradition of ‘installation art’, represented, amongst others, by the occidental Gutai group that started in Japan, 1954, and which influenced American installation pioneers such as Allan Kaprow and Claes Oldenburg. Other visible cross references are detected whilst visiting both exhibitions: for example Minimalism’s sense of space and scale and its rendering of materials that appear as materials (i.e. the non-referential use of colours and objects that allude to anything beyond its literal presence). As one moves closer however it becomes apparent that the installation is an assemblage of plants, broadcast media, bric-a-brac, designed objects and second-hand materials; an improvised set up rather than highly finished industrial processes and products. Visual impulses win from academic elucidation, with multiple colour fields of predominantly grey and brownish hues outshone by metal and wooden constructions, sometimes finished with fine textiles or swollen plaster. Abstraction in the work, it seams is also not a high priority since popular culture and everyday life provide most of the motifs.
The multiple adjacencies of several artist’s singular practices form a new universe were the personal signature of the individual is subordinated to the artistic production of a community. Perhaps this is why Magicgruppe Kulturobject manifests itself as a temporary collaborative collective, comprising of changing contributors each exibition. The communication during the work-in-progress takes place primarily through a visual discourse, ‘it is a little bit like playing tennis: you put something at one side of the room and the other one puts something at the other side of the room’, one of the artists says. The materials and their systems of origin are elaborated purely visually and situationally, which results in an artwork with a strong visual point of view and with an interesting accent on the act of creation.
The quasi-sculptural formation of the space and the beautiful intuitive decisions made with regards to composition compensate for the show’s purported lack of complexity. Is it arrogance then to offer the visitor an artwork that does not tolerate classification into a coherent, art historical movement’ Or superficiality, to refuse the spectator’s wish for a more in-depth explanation’ Let’s call it ‘clever’, how Magicgruppe Kulturobject succeeds to exclude itself from a broader artistic and sociological context by only praising the material in all its glory.