Artist: Barbara Bloom
Venue: Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Exhibition Title: Present
Date: October 30 – December 23, 2010
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Barbara Bloom’s interests turn toward the ways in which we individually and collectively bestow meaning and value on objects. In her latest works for “PRESENT” she continues this exploration, focusing on the realm of gifts. Bloom asks us to note the similarities and differences in the acts of giving and receiving gifts, and the practices of showing and apprehending art.
Most anthropological and theoretical writing on gift exchange discuss the giving, receiving and returning of gifts. These acts, steeped in bonds between the people, can be understood as moral, economic, political, kinship-oriented, legal, mythological, religious, magical, practical, personal and social. The gift is seen as more than a simple commodity or memento changing hands, it metonymically (as part for whole) stands for every aspect of the society it is a part of.
Bloom’s practice as an artist has brushed shoulders with these issues, but these are not the aspects of gifts that most occupy her. The problem at hand might be described like this:
In giving a gift to a friend, there can be many subtle and implied references to things one knows about that person, such as his/her favorite colors, tastes, writers, etc… The gift can allude to a conversation had, some shared secret, some moment from a common past. The references to these matters can be subtle and elegant, filled with innuendo. The friend can be relied upon to fill in the blanks.
When making and showing an artwork, the object is not intended for a single viewer but for a larger audience. The artist cannot rely on shared knowledge or memory with the audience. All referents must be contained in the work itself or in the information told or written (leaked) about the work. One would hope to avoid the lowest common denominator. There is a desire for subtlety, accompanied by a knowledge that there is point at which the work becomes opaque. Or as Julian Barnes writes in Flaubert’s Parrot, “How submerged does a reference have to be before it drowns?”
Bloom asks us:
Can we conceive of positioning of an object as an intermediary, a messenger, an ambassador between humans?
Could we shift our focus from the object to the “apprehension” of the object by its presenter and recipient?
Can we note the nature of its “passage” from the presenter to its recipient?
Could we call wrapping the clothing of a gift, its’ protection and image to the world?
Can the wrapping be the gift; can the box be the artwork?
Should we keep in mind that “Gift” in German means “Poison?
In the exhibition “PRESENT” the objects take these various forms:
Something for You
The wrappings left after the opening of a private gift to an unknown and dear recipient
A token of gratitude, homage for the insight of a renowned individual
A fictitious gift from an infamous woman to her famous man
An equal exchange between two famous lovers
An offering to the spirit of someone dead
The return of thanks from each and everyone of us to him
A receptacle of rumor, speculation, and gossip about what the box could contain, for whom it is intended
A notorious secret ring of gratitude
Wrapping paper from (for) favored givers
The possibility for an act of charity
A little something
“In Burma, we visited Bagan and its vast plateaus with thousands of pagodas and temples. The barren beauty of the place and the summer heat took your breath away. As we went to one after another temple, their grounds were filled with children greeting us by shouting out “Present, Present.”
The word resounded with both a request for a small token from them (baksheesh) and the overwhelming announcement that here we are together, sharing this particular moment – the Present.”