Visited Alex Straschnoy’s “Le rappel à l’ordre” (2016) at the Forum Box gallery. The video is presented as a clinical autopsy of art exhibition packaging technologies, logistics and infrastructure. Straschnoy has visited various art museums to document how museum staff transports and packages art objects. The video is very clean and shows only equipment, containers and the feet and hands of the busy workers. “Le rappel à l’ordre” would be a fitting addition for a museum collection. It celebrates the unseen labor of the museum staff and traces networks art objects touch.
The video is accompanied with texts which claim that “each institution has a different tradition in terms of packing and therefore a packed work will reveal more about the institution doing the packing than about the packed work itself”. Having worked closely with museum and gallery logistics, I have to argue that packaging is a very standardised practice and there is very little room for improvisation. The dimensions of boxes are fixed on the sizes of trucks or sea containers and packaging materials are standardised. EUR-pallets rule logistics. But this detail a non-issue concerning Straschnoy’s artwork.
Straschnoy draws attention to the insane amount of vain labor and excessive resources which are bind to the presentation of art objects. It’s important to focus on the infrastructure art objects require. Current ecological concerns call out for a new kind of artistic realism. Artistic representations must be made in relation of the art object’s material impact and technical resources it’s presentation requires. Art objects must succumb to the same critique other forms of consumer culture are subjected to.
One of the accompanying texts celebrates single-channel video works that “have become an important part of the art world offerings among other reasons due to their extreme portability”. To be fair Straschnoy should have presented how the monitor that enables his single channel video was packaged and transported to the exhibition site. I think it would have been fitting skip the exhibition contexts all to together and publish the work online. The videos trailer on vimeo offers adequate cues to enjoy the piece.
The idea of evaluating art through its relation to infrastructure networks (which make its presentation and form possible) is related to Mierle Laderman Ukeles concept of “Maintenance Art” which was a critique of the minimalist mindset (Minimalist were dependent on the existence of white cubes but failed to see the wo/manpower required in the upkeep of such venues). Ukeles argues that artworks should not illustrate what is wrong in the world, they should act to make it better. This is very interesting subject concerning our Trans-Horse project. We have claimed that artists should consider the infrastructure artworks require as a statement (More in Finnish).