Taking its title from Nairy Baghramian’s phallic resin covered concrete piece, ‘Slip of the Tongue’ is a scenario for chance, an opportunity in a conversation for diversion. Fifty-two artists are included in this behemoth of interlocking concepts, housed in the Pinault Collection’s Punta Della Dogana Museum.
As an artist who revels in “going off track and getting lost a bit” in regards to exhibitions, Vo leaves very little information available, an intent that allows visitors to do just that. A small exhibitor’s booklet is the only information provided, and wonderfully, Elisabeth Lebovici and Amy Zion write insightfully about the work, but say nothing about the curatorial thematic, didactic, positioning or anti-positioning - arguably because there is none. Accordingly, interpretations can only be based on a combination of reception and reflection; a perfect amalgamation of Vo’s creative drive.
Through Vo’s presentation of this exhibition and the Danish Pavilion (‘mothertongue’), we’re thinking about the mouth. Small visual relationships build this up in literal ways: A sofa in the shape of a pair of red lips on top of a large freezer by Bertrand Lavier titled ‘La Bocca/Bosch’ is one of the first works seen in the exhibition, and begins this orally directed thinking.
Aesthetic nods to the mouth are enforced by Nairy Baghramian’s ‘Retainer’, a large sculpture of milky translucent planes supported on the reverse by an aluminium structure. Visitors that have had braces or equivalent will remember the filing of dental adhesive off their teeth when their braces were eventually removed. The use of resin & rubber within the work draws attention to the tactility of the body.
Halfway through the exhibition, Nancy Spero’s almost floor level mounted ‘Cri du Coeur’ is encountered. This passionate cry against death, war and destruction was her last large-scale paper work. Respectfully dimly lit, to signify her passing in 2009, the hanging of the works is crucial to their content; it is not the bending down to view them, but the rising up from having seen them that quantifies their political unrest. Mid-exhibition, a walk around the gift shop brings visitors to Danh Vo’s limited edition tequila with ‘Slip of the Tongue’ individually engraved on each of the 666 bottles in the rather handsome handwriting of Phung Vo, Danh’s father. Vo junior has been living in Mexico for the past year, which makes the entire arc of history, from the early influences of Old Masters to artisan tequila producers Casa Dragones, equally porous.
One of the most beautiful factions of ‘Slip of the Tongue’ is the richness, or more the hermetic importance of the human relationships. Take for example the back-and-forth of gold works between Roni Horn and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (‘Untitled [Portrait of Julie Ault]’ positioned on the wooden beams above Horn’s ‘Gold Field’). Although it has been created in many exhibition sites, it is in the presentation of a wholly dedicated space with these same concerns of connection, of generosity and reciprocation, that we can consider, with empathy the importance of the relationship.
It is attractive to speculate on the personal relationships of the individuals within the exhibition, but it’s possible to say that Vo, and the fifty-two artists involved, hold it close to their chest, and all else would be considered word of mouth.