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Mamco Genève opens a major exhibition of works by Walead Beshty

GENEVA.- This summer, a major exhibition of works by Walead Beshty makes explicit the status of the image as the outcome of a process—more “software” than “hardware.” As “scripted” productions, Walead Beshty’s works examine both the apparatus of their making and their connection to the real world. His productions also give us the measure of the lasting transformation wrought by Conceptual practices on art, and bring us face-to-face with one of its most distinctive legacies: the notion that art may inhere less in the object itself and more in its surroundings, in the things that bring an object to life when we “utilize” it, look at it, display it, and interpret it.

Other presentations, related to MAMCO collection’s politics of development, such as the exhibitions dedicated to the Givaudan donation, the work of Piotr Kowalski, and a major installation by Nam June Paik recently gifted to the museum, together with rooms featuring recent acquisitions and activations of works, as well as the prolongation of the project around Martin Kippenberger’s MOMAS, reflect the same focus on works defined by both their “programmatic” and their “open-ended” nature.

Walead Beshty (b.1976 in London, living in Los Angeles) first became known for his large-scale photograms, seemingly abstract images that in fact tell the story of their own making. Produced by folding and processing light-sensitive paper, the works develop patterns of angles, creases, and folds, while their colours are generated by the chemicals of the developing process.

In 2006, for his “Travel Pictures” series, shot in the then-recently defunct Iraqi Diplomatic Mission in Berlin, Beshty explored the damage that airport security X-ray scanners can do to images, making them not only “relics” of a particular place but of his own travel experience as a whole. In 2007, pursuing his reflection on displacement and global transit, he produced his first “FedEx Sculptures,” in which shatterproof glass boxes are shipped to various destinations in standard FedEx containers—the works’ final appearance being determined by the damage accumulated while travelling. Displayed alongside the material evidence of these journeys—the opened FedEx boxes complete with waybills, time stamps, and dated forms—these glass sculptures reveal the violence of globalization that most commodities conceal and thus demonstrate the artwork’s vulnerability as a body moving across international borders.

His “copper” works from the 2010s register the manipulation and labour involved in their production, installation, and displacements. Much like film capturing a moment in time, they map the actions that have brought them into existence and interrogate the space within which contemporary art and its discourse are produced and distributed, positing the art object as perennially open and dynamic, rather than finite and static.

Curated by Lionel Bovier, MAMCO’s exhibition brings together these different bodies of work. It begins on the ground floor, with a “mirrored floor” installation that breaks and cracks under the weight of viewers and museum staff during the course of the exhibition. On the first floor, a series of rooms arranged as semi-autonomous clusters provides an overview of Beshty’s work. The exhibition pays particular attention to the artist’s use of “scripts” to generate forms, spotlight the “institutional critique” that runs through his work, and underscore the relationship between his essentially conceptual practice and a poetic form of debris art, as seen in the series of works made from shredded reject images, ironically titled “Selected Works.”

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