TBA Festival 2011 : Michael Reinsch – Gallery Walk Art Review

As of Day 9 of TBA, I’m tentatively awarding Michael Reinsch’s Gallery Walk “Best in Show.” Reinsch’s performance involves him lumbering about the city in a big white box, embodying the construct of the modern white cube gallery. His monstrance, supported by an elaborate harness system and including pockets for crackers, grapes, cheddar and Perrier, features a series of compact, well-curated shows by emerging artists. As he goes, he recites an approximately 40-minute poem he has composed from artists’ statements that were submitted to him, and some which he found online. This diatribe veers wildly from cliché to cliché, occasionally producing gorgeous turns of phrase and moments of insightful nonsense. His reedy, disconnected tone sounds like the inner monologue of a fatigued and hallucinating museum-goer, or a palavering Jenny Holzer feed with a slight hangover. In his own words, as scribbled down haphazardly in my notebook:

“I’m for an art of the… Oh my god, what just happened?!”

“Let’s chastise the feelers! Let’s clarify the mud.”

“Immoral compass, pointing due south.”

“I’m for an art of the 25 ideas that you don’t do because you’re afraid, and you have a long list of excuses why not.”

“It’s a passive aggressive revolution, where we beat around the bush.”

“Let’s overthrow the government, it’s now technically feasible.”

“I eagerly await my insides being on the outside.”

“You would dissolve optically, making beans on the windshield.”

“Lecherous animalism — it’s nicer.”

Reinsch is accompanied at all times by one of a bevy of hip, stylish and attractive gallery attendants (all, like most gallery attendants, artists in their own right), who offer Perrier and interpretive assistance to passersby: “Photography is allowed, but please, no flash.” The micro-shows chosen were excellent, too. I was sorry to miss Nicole Eriko Amagai-Smith’s gorgeous, strange, kinky drawings, but on the day I was there, Katie Dunbar’s It Is, But It is Not the End, with its inadequate and mysterious electrical apparatuses, echoed the larger work’s exploration of sources of power, and the invisibility of “the way things work.” Her oversized electrical plug emerging from Reinsch’s left side made him look like a gigantically mutated Apple product, transforming the larger work, and the artist’s body, into a source or conduit, a disconnected component of an enormous, enigmatical machine.

Gallery Walk creates a sharp, playful parody of the conventions of artistic culture, while proposing a warped, but uncommonly modest and approachable alternative. It provides a statement that rejoices in, rather than conceals, its own irrelevance, and an opening that doesn’t close. Coming from a week of slogging through galleries and performances, a couple of which were great, I identified strongly with Reinsch’s exhaustion when he said, “I can really feel the weight of a room sometimes, oh! It’s really heavy.” It was a relief to see someone constructing a well-rounded and mature disillusionment, carried off with panache, which also incorporates genuine creativity and love for his subject.

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