If the come hither of May’s New York Gallery Week annoyed the crap out of you, then maybe KRATOS — ABOUT (IL)LEGITIMATE(D) POWER at Team Gallery has just the gravitas you’ve been seeking. Monochrome in execution and serious in tone, this Debbie Downer of a show stands in stark contrast to the group hugs that typically fill galleries’ summer schedules.
The show is dominated by the stultifying audio in Maja Bajević’s video which repeats the phrase, “How do you want to be governed” in deadpan monotone while a woman is mildly accosted by an unseen interrogator. The audio drove me crazy, but this show is about power and control so I suppose at some level annoyance is the point. That being said, the works in KRATOS treat this subject matter rather flatly. For instance, I’d be much more interested in an extrapolation of what it is to identify with one’s captor rather than the less complex ideas of resistance and endurance that are on display in Bajević’s piece. Likewise, Gianni Motti’s I’m not on Facebook would be more interesting if perhaps he were. He might in fact want to socialize a bit.
Artur Żmijewski’s companion videos, Yolanda and Patricia, attempt to break down class structures by presenting the lives of two women on opposite ends of the social scale in a pared-down documentary style — a.k.a. it’s a snoozefest. Teresa Margolles’ work takes an even more blunt look at the intersection of class and fate. While working at a Mexico City morgue, she pulled shards of glass from the bodies of anonymous murder victims and inlayed them into pseudo-fancy jewelry. Her CSI approach to art making extended to last year’s Venice Biennale, where she hung blood stained tarps on the facade of the U.S Pavilion. There, it might have been a poignant statement on the effect of U.S imperialist policies on developing nations, but here at Team, represented merely in photograph, the work lacks resonance. Furthermore, it hangs for sale in the same capitalist system it portends to critique.
A more effective conceptual hook is employed in Maria Eichhorn’s Prohibited Imports, in which she re-photographed pages from a Robert Mapplethorpe catalogue seized from her luggage by Japanese customs officials. Rather than confiscating the entire book, the officials inexplicably scratched out all the depictions of male genitalia, of which there were many. They were careful to stay within the outlines of the form and the effect is bewilderingly perverse. Maybe they should have just used fig leaves, because the ghost dicks they created are just as penile, if not more so, than the original images. The visual experience of Eichhorn’s work is at least as engaging as the idea behind it, which can’t be said for the rest of the work in this show. No matter how shocking or subversive an artist’s idea may be, it’s tough to move beyond a boring video or annoying sound byte.
If summer fun is what you’re looking for, stay away from KRATOS. But, If you’ve spent the past month bitching online about the superficiality of Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist”, this show might be your soul mate.