Headlines & Last Lines in the Movies transforms the façade of the Contemporary Art Gallery, wooden cladding covering its frontage and south east corner. Resembling a construction site, the structure becomes the ground for the work; the title a precise description of itself.
In this new mural, Brüggemann wrote headlines from current newspapers, from local to global, in combination with excerpts of last lines from popular films. “Forget it Jake, its Chinatown” could be spray-painted next to “Enbridge Pipeline Rejected”, the juxtaposition of appropriated texts creating both a familiarity and an oddly appropriate pairing suggestive of narratives that may exist to connect current news items with scripted dialogue. With one text residing in the real, the other in the fictive, in combination they create a barrage of information that Brüggemann unifies into a totality of black text. The overlay forms a graphic field that is only partly legible, language creating an immersive installation that draws colloquial phrases into dense cacophonic arenas. The work seems declaratory, but what it is trying to communicate is drowned out by volume, intensity and opacity.
It is important that Brüggemann makes installations by hand, the time taken to transcribe them becoming a form of personalization, the act of writing as a means to externalize thought. The frenetic appearance might suggest the scrambled notes of someone trying to work through a complex problem or evoke the direct action of a graffiti political protest, the fragmented scribbling formally read as statements that urgently need to be expressed.
Despite the stylistic uniformity, phrases still register as individual fragments with multiple subjects. There is no cohesive meaning beyond the possible realization that a sentence came from either a film or the reporting of current affairs, but the sources, headlines and last lines, both function as summaries. A good headline gives a concise description of what’s in the subsequent article; it captures the reader’s attention, encouraging them to continue reading or more opportunistically to purchase the newspaper. And the last line of a movie can encapsulate what came before it, distilling the narrative into a single line.
“I get to live the rest of my life as a schnook” is a funny and ironic recap of the film Goodfellas, but does it still function when dislocated from its original context? Both headlines and last lines notionally represent a greater whole, yet Brüggemann disorientates us, his production rendering text that is almost unreadable, questioning the way we encounter information through language. Individual phrases leap out to command our attention as we attempt to read and decipher words, yet the mural is at once like a protest, the many voices of the body politic, conflicting and cancelling each other, just so many things vying for our attention.
Stefan Brüggemann works primarily with text; his often humorous work takes a variety of forms from large graphic fields to imitations of bookworks. Solo exhibitions include: Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City (2013); Galeria de Arte Mexicano, Mexico City (2011); Villa du Parc, Centre d´Art Contemporain, France (2010); Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2008); Frac Bourgogne, France (2008); I-20 Gallery, New York (2006) and Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City (1999). He has contributed to various group exhibitions, including Confusion in the Vault, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2013); An Exhibition (STEFAN BRÜGGEMANN, LAWRENCE WEINER, CAREY YOUNG), The Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK (2013); Tectonic, The Moving Museum, DXB Dubai (2013); the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Social Sculpture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA (2007); Museé d´Art Moderne Contemporain, Genéve (2006); This Peaceful War, Tramway, Glasgow (2005); and Myself and My Surroundings, Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal (1999). Key texts written on his work include “Capitalism and Schizophrenia” by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Nicolas de Oliveira and “Twelve Words, Nine Days” by Chris Kraus. He is represented by Yvon Lambert, Paris; Parra Romero Gallery, Madrid and Jonathan Viner, London.
Words and phrases in the English language can function in many different ways. Certain words have multiple meanings depending on their context, while the context of a certain phrase can completely change how we understand it. Many contemporary artists have turned to the use of language and text in their practice for this reason; they allow the evocation of multivalent messages.
Currently, Stefan Brüggemann’s Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies covers the façade of the CAG. This piece, which has become a popular conversation topic around the city, takes found phrases and places them in a very different context than their origins. Looking at these Hollywood movie quotes and recent news headlines next to each other causes one to think about them in a completely new way. Their large size and bold colours impose them onto the viewer and into the built environment of the city, rather than their traditional positions as mere utterances or words on paper.
A short look back through the CAG archives brought me to another fascinating textual installation. There have been many over the years, including those by Meriç Algün Ringborg, Tim Etchells and Raymond Boisjoly among others. A particular piece by Nathan Coley, however, struck me.
As part of his wide-ranging practice, the Glasgow artist takes found phrases, enlarges, illuminates and erects them on scaffolding in specific locations. When I encountered his piece There Will Be No Miracles Here (2006) earlier this year in Edinburgh, Scotland, I was taken aback. Placed outside the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which holds many things that I personally consider “miraculous,” I was both offended and intrigued by this statement. At the time I was not familiar with his work, as I assume is the case with many people who stumble upon his pieces that are placed in public space.
Part of his CAG exhibition in 2012, Coley’s installation in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver featured the phrase We Must Cultivate Our Garden (2006), perched atop the roof of the Pennsylvania Hotel. This line, taken from Voltaire’s Candide, took on a new role in this context. The built environment used by Coley was altered by the introduction of this sculpture into the architecture of the neighbourhood. Similarly, the meaning of the phrase itself changed; many are aware of the ongoing and various issues in the Downtown East Side community, and this sculpture addressed the need to fix these in an almost forceful manner.
Nathan Coley’s outstanding monograph spanning the last 10 years, A Place Beyond Belief, can be purchased in the CAG book shop. Make sure you visit Bruggemann’s installation before it comes down on September 7th, and check out his publication in our book shop as well. Our summer book sale is happening now in the CAG book shop and online; use the coupon code CAGSUMMER on check out for a special discount of 40%!
– Kelli SturkenboomMORE
A few months ago, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced, and several of the eight winners had previously exhibited at the CAG. Jayce Salloum, one of the recipients, is a successful Canadian-born media artist who has lived and worked in a variety of locations in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. Continuing to move around and experience new spaces and environments, his “nomadic practice” significantly informs his work, which raises questions of identity and historical, social, and cultural contexts of place.
I came across untitled in our library archives. This book was co-published by the CAG and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on the occasion of the exhibitions NEUTRAL/BRAKE/STEERING at the latter institution from November 12 to December 24, 1998 and 22 OZ. THUNDERBOLT which was presented here from March 27 to May 8, 1999. These photo-installations by Salloum consisted of an archive of street photography featuring images of storefront displays in what the curators called the “overlooked corners” of the urban environment. The installations drew their names from phrases on various items and signs in these displays.
Salloum’s photographs took otherwise banal scenes and transformed them into an intriguing subjective record of his travels; augmenting their meaning by arranging them in certain ways. He challenged the conventional ordering of photographs in a documentary format; presenting an appropriation of these images which forces the viewer to create their own narrative. Looking through some of his images as they were arranged in the book, I was left wondering whether they were taken in the same locale, whether these stores were even open for business, and if there was any human activity occurring around these scenes.
This idea of ordering and configuring is important in contemporary art; the way in which an artist organizes components or pieces in an installation has implications for how the audience derives meaning from and experiences them. Our current façade installation by Stefan Brüggemann, Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies, exemplifies this as well. The phrases painted here can be interpreted in very distinct ways when contemplated next to each other rather than alone, or next to a different phrase. For me, it is essential to think about the way exhibitions and installations are presented by their artists and curators when we encounter them.
Jayce Salloum was also part of a group exhibition at the CAG in 2010, The Triumphant Carrot: The Persistence of Still Life, which explored the practice of the traditional still life genre in the context of contemporary art. More of his work can be found here.
Check out untitled in the CAG Bookshop to find out more, and keep these ideas in mind when you come to see the current shows at the CAG and elsewhere! Tweet us @CAGVancouver with your thoughts on the exhibitions to join the conversation.
– Kelli SturkenboomMORE
This post written by Kelli Sturkenboom is the first in a series titled ‘From the Archives’ which will highlight and explore moments in CAG history related to current programming and events. Look for new posts every Thursday.
I was looking through publications from past CAG exhibitions and stumbled upon a catalogue for Tendencies: New Art From Mexico City, an exhibition displayed here in 1996. Guest curated by Rubén Gallo and Terence Gower, this exhibition featured eight artists from Mexico and touched on notions of the difficulty of explicitly defining “Mexican culture” and “Mexican identity.” The artists were; Rodrigo Aldana, Marco Arce, Aurora Boreal, Eduardo Cervantes, Silvia Gruner, Yishai Jusidman, Daniela Rossell and Saúl Villa. Gallo discussed how, rather than being an exhibition of “Mexican art,” this collection challenges us to think about the limitations of categorizing these works as such.
Currently, the CAG is presenting an installation by Mexican artist Stefan Brüggemann; Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies and the CAG Shop has copies of his limited edition bookwork of the same name. Although Brüggemann’s first language is Spanish, the installation features a collection of news story headlines and quotes from movies spray-painted in English on the gallery’s boarded-up façade. The headlines are collected from both local and global sources; some even referencing Vancouver.
What I like most about this work is the fact that it creates conversation. I’ve seen many people posting on social media questioning whether it is “for real” or vandalism, identifying their favourite phrases, and guessing what sources some of the lines come from. Like Tendencies, it also addresses the idea of the artist’s identity and whether Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies, with references to Canadian news stories and Hollywood films, can be described as “Mexican art.”
Join the conversation–come visit us at 555 Nelson Street before September 7 to see Brüggemann’s installation and check out Tendencies: New Art From Mexico City and Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies in the CAG bookshop!
Visit the CAG then tweet or post your pics of the mural to @CAGVancouver #headlinesandlastlines
– Kelli SturkenboomMORE