This talk explores Isa Genzken’s exhibition “Oil” at the Venice Biennale (2007).
Genzken’s show included rows of anti-monuments: assemblages featuring suitcases, taxidermied owls, toys, posters, and paint splatters. With such makeshift sculptures, Genzken explored mixtures of parodic, satirical, and ironic modes of presentation as means of treating political and topical subject matter—such as imperialism and greed—without losing sight of the perceived impossibility of direct action, hence allowing for the Beckett-like ossibility of miscommunication and comic failure. Genzken’s approach to assemblage depends on practices of disjunction and repetition that allow for the extended play of irony. Her use of humor reflects a generational resistance to a “politics of realization”—referencing politics without making commitments, and avoiding direct action in favor of a more distanced and parodic skepticism.
Dan Adler is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts & Art History at York University in Toronto. Adler’s areas of research include the history of art writing, modern and contemporary sculpture, German modernism, and the development and reception of the conceptual art movement. His other books include the monograph Hanne Darboven: Cutural History 1880-1983 (Afterall Books/MIT Press, 2009). He co-edited (with Mitchell Frank) German Art History and Scientific Thought: Beyond Formalism (Ashgate Press, 2012) and co-edited (with Janine Marchessault and Sanja Obradovic) Parallax: Stereoscopic 3D in Moving Images and Visual Art (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press, 2013).
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