Last year, the Parcours sector at Art Basel was so good I did not think it could be topped, and I was right. Perhaps overconfidence, or the fact that the really good projects were done last year emerged, but this year’s Parcours just did not measure up to the quality of the projects from the last two years. The highlights of the sector were video and sculpture, with the best Julian Charriere’s film, An Invitation to Disappear (2018), with techno beats, backgrounding strobe sequences, and a visual grid of a plantation that recalls the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia 200 years ago. The similarities between environmental disaster and party lights and sounds creates an edginess in the piece.
With Cate Blanchett featured in thirteen roles, Manifesto, a film by Jullian Rosefeldt (2017) presents the philosophies of artist manifestos including Fluxus, Dada, and surrealism acted in the roles of workers from factory to teacher to choreographer, including a homeless person. This ode to written manifestos and filmed statements by Jim Jarmusch and Lars Von Trier is beautifully done.
George Herold’s Beverly (2011/2017), a cast aluminum reclining figure finished with coral red car paint, stretched out on a horizontal plinth of white. This figure, sexual in position and color, challenged the cloister where Basel’s honored citizens were laid to rest.
Mark Manders’ Room With Unfired Clay Figure (2014), windows covered with old newspaper, sculpture of dry but cracking unfired clay and paintings with craquelures apparent, looks like the abandoned artist’s studio he wants to portray. It leaves us wondering what circumstances led to this abandonment and where the artist has gone, compounding the investigation into environmental disaster that this year’s Parcours seems to embrace.
The answer might lie in Thomas Struth’s Goliathreiher (Aredea goliath) Leibniz, Berlin, 2017, a portrait of an animal specimen that is dead, but appears live. In this example from his series on wildlife diversity, one cannot avoid questioning the future of the bird depicted, as well as its species’ possible demise. The haunting profile portrait of the bird provides a record, should it be needed, of its existence.
Perhaps the best use this year of the city of Basel’s space was Down There (2018).
Basel native Hannah Weinberger’s sound installation used her knowledge of Basel City’s environs to place speakers projecting music in the tunnel underneath the sewers. Children and adults bent down to hear the music emanating from that tunnel, heard through the caps on the sewers. This surprising use of underground space made us aware of what was available for artists, while surprising us with music.
I have one more day at Art Basel. It’s been quite an adventure. Thank you for accompanying Artscope on this journey. I hope you are enjoying it.