For a semi-retired artist, Paul Chan has been busy in past years. Following his step back from creating video and installation work in 2010, the artist dove headfirst into the world of publishing with Badlands Unlimited, an imprint responsible for a broad variety of works that have included Saddam Hussein’s On Democracy, and even a recent series of erotic works inspired by Olympia Press, the Paris-based smut peddlers that also published some of the Twentieth century’s most significant works of literature (Lolita and Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifiction Trilogy).
This diversity of practice was what earned him the 2014 Hugo Boss Prize, one of the U.S.’s top honors, and an exhibition at The Guggenheim. Given his output over the past decade, the artist is presenting a new series of sculptures that combine his recent publishing ventures with his particular approach to ready-made, object-focused sculpture.
The exhibition itself is bare bones, to say the least: a series of projectors, connected by VGA cables and power adapters form looping pathways of wire that cluster and twist, at one point looping over the slatted panels of the museum’s ceiling on the fifth floor. The connected machines, powered through a set of cement-filled shoes doubling as power sources, flicker with white screen, showing nothing on the walls but a dim white light. In another corner, a cluster of immense, torn nylon tubes billow from the wind of an unseen fan, reminiscent of the flailing promotional balloons often seen outside car dealerships and fire sales.
Chan’s work here makes great strides given its stark minimalism, delving into the nature of the erotic and its interrelation with the properties of digital interfaces. Upon closer inspection, one notices the projectors are invariably connected from output to input, implying a shared visual exchange that also takes on new life in the context of his recently published erotic novels (working drafts are set in an adjacent vitrine). His work takes the hard edges of his projector sets, and nudges them back towards the human, utilizing slight inflections of language and physical form both as a stand-in, and something of a parody of the romantic exchange. Given these subtle hints, his clustering of shoes, cables and projects feel like something of a map, tracing the rushed movements of a lover’s tryst.
Chan’s exhibition is also accompanied by the release of his erotica series, the aptly titled New Lovers, featuring works by emerging writers working in the genre. The exhibition is on view through May 13th.
— D. Creahan
Paul Chan: Nonprojections for New Lovers [Exhibition Site]
Badlands Unlimited [Website]
New Lovers of Paul Chan [W Magazine]
Paul Chan Is Back with a New Exhibition at the Guggenheim [Vogue]