REVIEWS | Size Doesn’t Matter: S, M, L, XL is no match for Keren Cytter

Size Doesn’t Matter: S, M, L, XL is no match for Keren Cytter Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago I love sculpture – I love everything about it: the endless materials, the physicality, the declaration on space, and more than I can list here. So, I was intrigued to see S, M, L, XL: a curated exhibition highlighting four works that reflect a specific artistic attitude by sculptors who abandoned the use of pedestal and instead, chose to engage the actual, physical space of the viewer.

The most interesting of these, by far, is Untitled (Passageway) by Robert Morris, an ever-narrowing, spiraling, 50-foot long plywood passage that narrows as it curves eventually becoming impassable. By making the relationship between the viewer (and by viewer he means my physical body) and the actual object the subject of the work, Morris forces me to become a participant in his sculptural interventions. Here, he elicits feelings of claustrophobia, anxiety, perhaps even aggression as my body is physically constrained by the reduction of the space until I can no longer move forward, but neither can I turn around. I must retrace my steps until it widens enough to turn and again walk forward, hoping another participant has not already entered hindering my exit. It is basic, elementary even; but it reminds me in every capacity that my existence and my sensitivity to everything around me is completely contingent upon my perceptions of my body – Merleau-Ponty would be proud.

Also worth noting, is T.Y.F.F.S.H. by Kris Martin, an enormous decommissioned hot air balloon that fills whatever space in which it is placed by a powerful fan has the potential to be the overwhelming XL in this exhibition; however, given that it was out of commission during my visit – I didn’t get the opportunity to fully experience the work. I find it to be less about my experience interacting with the work, but more of a statement reflecting what many artist’s feel about contemporary art: an organic form is literally pushing against but yet ultimately conforming to the rectilinear boundaries of the established art community, in this case a museum.

S, M, L, XL also alludes to the commons system of labeling clothes which, of course, draws in the viewer by making the correlation of the size and dimensions of the work to our physical selves. However clever the title is; surprisingly, I left the museum not thinking of how much I adore the work of Robert Morris, but instead ruminating over and over about the work of Keren Cytter.

Just opposite Morris’s Portal and West’s Blue, the requisite M and L, on the other side of museum lies an exhibition simply titled after the artist: Keren Cytter. Not typically someone who appreciates video works, I often limit myself to the first video I come to as the determining factor of whether or not I will continue into the exhibit. Cytter’s pared-down style of filmmaking employing lo-fi and often dizzying effects with emotionally detached acting upended my narrow view of this medium. Cytter disregards the conventions of narrative cinema and in a chaotic but melancholy fashion both makes fun of and revels in the absurdities found in our personal and public lives.

“Love and revenge are subjects too petty to deal with.” In Siren, my favorite work, Keren Cytter explores the purely unromantic nature of relationship and desire online, unrequited love, and images of poor quality, replicated large-scale from the filters of mobile phones, webcams, and digital media all set to the soundtrack of Song of the Siren, sung by Tim Buckley. A female narrator, provocative and quiet, convinces her curly-haired male friend to murder another man due to gender equality, and gender wars. He stands at a closed door, makes eye contact with the camera to confirm his pending action and the narrator states “not every man that we need to diminish, it’s not about sex. But about one-sided oppression that needs to be stopped. Social inequality has now been reversed.” Images are repeated in different quality and context, overlap one another with indirect but knowing glances, furtive flashes of murder and desire, and scenes both intimate and demonstratively public – all of which show interpretation capabilities of the broad and ambiguous image. It is violent, sexual, disturbing, and captivating (like car-crash captivating). The very heartbreak it strangely invokes is poetically summarized in the narrator’s voice: “You look sad…Never mind…Aren’t we all at one point?” To view the entire video, visit: S, M, L, XL, is on view through October 4, 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. For more, visit: Keren Cytter, the first large-scale presentation of the artist’s work in the United States, is also on view through October 4, 2015. For more, visit: Images (from top to bottom): Kris Martin, T.Y.F.F.S.H. and still from Keren Cytter, Siren; Robert Morris, Untitled (Passageway), 1961, painted plywood, electrical equipment, and sound, courtesy of the artist and Castelli Gallery, New York; Kris Martin, T.Y.F.F.S.H., 2011, hot air balloon, basket, metal ring, and fans, dimensions variable, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, © 2011 Kris Martin, photo: Robert Wedemeyer, Courtesy of the artist; MARC FOXX, Los Angeles; and Sies + Hoeke, Düsseldorf; Keren Cytter, Siren, 2014, digital still from high-definition digital video, 14 minutes and 39 seconds

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