Without a doubt repetition and appropriation are crucial concepts in contemporary art practice. Employing a wide selection of media that ranges from video installation and sculpture to photography and drawing, the group exhibition ‘No, No, No, No’ at Cell Project Space examines models of repetition, exhaustion and appropriation through the work of five international artists: Wojciech Bąkowski, Beth Collar, Nancy Halt, Atiéna Lansade and Dana Munro. The title, ‘No, No, No, No’, recalls Bruce Nauman’s video work ‘No, No, New Museum’ (1987), part of ‘Clown Torture’, in which the actor Vandi Snyder, dressed as a clown, repeats the word ‘no’ multiple times. The video plays on a loop, restarting automatically at the end, as if it was an eternal act. This monotonous protest becomes almost torturous for the audience. In a similar manner, through the use of verbal and visual puns, the works displayed in ‘No, No, No, No’ convey irony and humour, and challenge the audience by playing with ideas of authorship, making and presenting art, and even appropriating existing artworks.
Upon entering the gallery space, visitors encounter the work of Beth Collar: a series of sculptural fist pumps scattered all over the floor. For this exhibition, the artist has created three identical sculptures, ‘Fist Pump (Rafa, Muzza, the Joker)’ (2018), which are reproductions of tennis players’ fist pumps. Having appropriated images from the internet and brought them together in the gallery space as sculptural works, Collar has placed them in such a way to create almost a silent dialogue between the visitors and the works. Transformed into a conversational piece that almost functions as a performance, ‘Fist Pump (Rafa, Muzza, the Joker)’ holds space for mixed feelings, antagonism and silence. ‘Fist Pump (Rafa, Muzza, the Joker)’ offers an interaction between the verbal and the physical sphere, exploring power structures through repetition of images.
Dana Munro’s work, ‘I wish my wife was as dirty as this’ (2018), is a reproduction and appropriation of an existing artwork by artist John Knight. Knight’s work ‘Portikus is our Name, Basketball is our Game’ (2013), exhibited at Portikus in Frankfurt in 2013, displayed a basketball t-shirt and a photograph of female basketball players in a courtyard in the financial district of Frankfurt. Among the women in the photograph, who are all Portikus’ employees, Munro also features. Each wears a basketball uniform that displays the Deutsche Bank logo, Portikus’ main sponsor. After the exhibition, Knight donated an edition to Munro, who, for her show at Cell Project Space, has reutilised and personalised this. By adding dust and the phrase ‘I wish my wife was as dirty as this’, Munro has intervened into the existing social and political fabric of Knight’s work. Both Knight and Munro can be associated with ‘institutional critique’, as they investigate the mechanisms of art institutions, their systems, and their power structures. Knight’s work reacts to Frankfurt’s financial district. In a similar way Munro’s work reacts to the nature of the place she has been invited to exhibit at. By appropriating Knight’s original work, Munro has challenged traditional notions of authorship, image-production and labour.
Interested in exploring more and understanding fully elements of repetition and appropriation, the exhibiting artists have created a certain stillness and confusion, as a revolt against traditional ideas. They have redefined the notion of the original and the copies, and shed some light on the nature of artworks. ‘No, No, No, No’ is an intense exploration of the qualities of exhaustion, monotony and possibly failure in contemporary artistic practices. Such conceptual works pose important questions about the nature of the creativity.