neljapäev, mai 31, 2012

AB cubed presents: Indrek Grigor x Madis Katz

An art historical file titled Madis Katz in Indrek Grigor’s archive
Translated by Kristiina Raud

Without burdening the readers with the answer to why I chose to nominate Madis Katz for the biennale in order to save space and time as well as taking into consideration the content – that would be a bit too interpretive, which I am currently trying to avoid -, I would rather like to emphasise the way the material is presented. Namely, the following is a contingent file, located in the computer and on the shelf and also partly in the memory of the author as an art historian. The file is labelled Madis Katz and it includes the material which has accumulated in different contexts during the last five years in which I have acknowledged Katz as an artist.

As the function of this submission is above all nominating the artist and in this sense also contributing to his wider acknowledgment, as I have reason to believe that many of my colleagues have perhaps followed Katz with a lesser attention than I, then I will not present an interpretive piece on the contents of my filing box; instead, I will try to give an overview as neutral as possible of what it actually contains, more so as the said content itself already includes a considerable amount of interpretations.

The first entry is Madis Katz’s master’s thesis Virtuality of Day-To-Day Existence. A detail from this photo installation was displayed at the Tartu Art Museum at The Crocodile Ate the Honey of the Bear (2007), a graduate exhibition of Tartu Art College and the department of painting at Tartu University curated by Liisa Kaljula. The exhibition was accompanied by an audio guide.

Virtuality of Day-To-Day Existence
Installation in environment
Tartu Art College, Department of Photography

2nd entry: Madis Katz’s solo exhibition The Fold – Saaremaa Beach 26 July 2008 at Y Gallery. The whole exhibition is, however, stored in my biological memory, containing the conversations before the opening as well as the technical and financial issues and also the memories of the exhibition itself. I remember the contradiction between the contents and the execution of the different levels of the exhibition. Well-executed photographs in the classical modern sense versus the concept jar as the secondary layer, critical of the over-verbalisation of the art field, which was formally simply a 3-litre jar on the window-sill, which did not have a very elegant effect, while at the same time the labels with clichés about constrainedly complicated exhibition concepts, which were the contents of the jar, left a remarkably professional impression.

The third entry, which is also stuck in my head, dates back to the summer of 2010 when the first act of the sonic event Topofon, curated by Sven Vabar, took place in Gen club. A relatively young girl was walking around in the room, wearing a long red shirt which had along its left shoulder, the back, and the front written in an even column the words ‘TÜRA TÜRA TÜRA TÜRA…’ (

A few weeks later when I accidentally met Katz in front of a shopping centre I learned that what I had seen was one of Katz’s alter ego’s, Safe-Sex Guru’s hobbies – obscene clothes. Among the Guru’s hobbies are also trophies: plaster casts of women’s breasts, which have never been exhibited. However, under the same name the artist has displayed a pair of panties at the Tartu Art House exhibition The Golden Calf (2010). Perhaps a bit better known to the wider audience are the Guru’s pornographic analogue slide sessions, which he presented at the closing party of the old building of the Estonian Academy of Arts.

4th entry:

Artist talk with Katz, organized by Tartu Community College. I only managed to record an hour of the almost two-hour event because I had forgotten to empty the memory card of my dictaphone and there was simply no more room. Missing from the end is mainly the topic concerning Safe-Sex Guru and the audience’s questions.

My questions focused on the relationship between the abstract and the figural. Katz’s answers focus on the series Sacrals, Laymen, and The Fold, probably partly initiated by me, while at the same time emphasizing that he does not usually discuss his work. It is difficult to judge if and how much the last statement is true. I have always managed to have very interesting and substantial conversations with Katz, and when looking for performers for the community college, Katz was even recommended to me as an articulate speaker. Nevertheless, I must admit, as the next entries will illustrate, that Katz often prefers to discuss the general issues of the art field.
Conceptual documentalism and institutional conceptualism are critical terms which were mentioned at the community college recording and also in the following presentation at the semiotics seminar Semiosalong and which mark Katz’s fight against the excessive verbalisation of the visual.

5th entry: Katz’s appearance at Semiosalong, titled On Science and Art as A Prussakov, is in essence a very critical view on the wall texts of exhibitions as unnecessary ballast. The opposition of the discrete verbal language to the continual visual language is repeated.

6th entry: A Self-contained Monologue or the critic in psychoanalysis vol. 2.
After his presentation at Semiosalong I invited Katz to the Tartu Art House to discuss the function of the wall text in the context of the panels descriptively documenting the past parts of Jevgeni Zolotko’s six-part work Things. First and foremost, I was defending the position that art criticism should be independent from the work of art.

Katz reaches a conclusion which describes the work as a sphere that has a continual visual side as well as a discrete verbalised side and this way the work is movable in three-dimensional space when required, actualising more or less one side or the other according to need. In regards to independent criticism we jointly reach the term ‘self-contained monologue’ which should therefore constitute one of the methods of the so-called new art criticism.

Indrek Grigor is an institutional gallerist, freelance art critic and editor in chief of the podcast Tartu möliseb.

AB cubed is a preparatory essay series for the III Artishok Biennale where X young Baltic and Scandinavian writers have chosen for their gesture of courtesy X young Estonian artists who have caught their eye with a witty personal exhibition or an absorbing work of art in a group show in recent years. Artishok tests experimetal editorial practice and self-inititative readiness in the art field with the series, giving writers the opportunity to take the initiative - but also the responsibility - and do one chosen artist a favour. The writers do not receive honorary for their work whereas the suggested artists automatically get an invitation for participation in Artishok Biennale in the autumn. Read more...

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