Jürgen Tabor

‘ An International Style of Contemporary Art?’
Contribution to the catalogue of the exhibition Worlds in Contradiction - Areas of Globalisation. Ed. Taxispalais Kunsthalle Tirol (2015).

Installation view of the exhibition Worlds in Contradiction – Areas of Globalisation. Taxispalais Kunsthalle Tirol (Innsbruck, 2015). 

The works of Spanish artist Cristina Garrido – often based on far-reaching research and analyses – are devoted to criticism of contemporary art from within; they practise this approach by showing how trends, conventions and the rules of the international art world shape not only the nature of exhibitions but also artistic work in itself., sometimes to an advanced degree. Today, what does an exhibition have to be like to satisfy the international art public´s taste, what criteria must a work of art fulfill in order to experience success on the international art scene? I her works ranging from multimedia installations to books, Garrido illuminates the way in which, increasingly, the concepts of originality and creativity are coming to reflect strategic and speculative art under the conditions of accelerated information, monetary value standards, and the transformation of the art worlds into a “visual industry”1. The struggle for a measure of autonomy for freedom and space to work artistically and curatorially, furthered by Institutional Critique from the 1960´s onwards, today confronts greatly altered global, technosocial, economic and cultural contexts – contexts that appear to be having more and more impact on the artworks as such.

For #JWIITMTESDSA? (Just what is it that makes today´s exhibitions so different, so appealing?) (2015) Garrido combed through well-known art magazine blogs as well as innumerable gallery and social media websites and gathered more than 2,500 photos of art exhibitions from all over the world dating from the past four years. She evaluated the picture archive that emerged in this way, looking for formal trends, and identified 21 categories, which constitute a kind of canon of the contemporary international exhibition business. This includes motifs, objects, materials and forms of presentation that appear with surprising frequency in some cases: birds, bottles, canvases hanging directly on the wall, cardboard boxes, circles and spheres, classical antiquity, creased things on the floor, fans, folded things on the floor, grids, monoliths, plants, quadrangular shapes on the floor, rocks, carpets, squared tv monitors, stands with hanging elements, things leaning on the wall and the floor, vertical flags, objects on wheels, and wooden structures. In a further step Garrido confronted 36 creatives from diverse countries with this canon and asked them questions about its possible causes and consequences.

The installation that Garrido has developed from her research consists of a spatial collage of objects and materials loosely representing the various categories. They are set in relation to a video showing the image collection organized into categories, and to an audio piece with representative relations from the creatives that she questioned. The overall arrangement is concentrated, or rather flattened to create an almost two-dimensional image, and in this way it not only reflects the perspective of digital image and information media but also the clichéd character of contemporary media and the trends they convey. In the title of her work Garrido refers, not by chance, to Richard Hamilton´s icon of Pop Art, Just What Is It Tha Makes Today´s Homes So Different, So Appealing? (1956), a collage   that is also composed entirely of images taken from the media. While Hamilton made mockery of the post-war consumer world and its rigid, cut-and-dried charm, Garrido takes an equally semi-ironic look at the apparently so attractive formal language of the contemporary art world. The constant recurrence of specific subjects, which Garrido traces in her collection of images, gives them significance on the one hand, but makes them also appear absurd, specially as there seems to be no reason for their trendiness other than the media loop. Consciously or unconsciously, however, the motifs, objects and gestures that Garrido identifies speak a clear language: they represent mobility, flexibility, universality, the transfer and migration of forms and culture – and thus aspects of globally as well.

1. Isabelle Grad, “Jenseits der Institutionskritik”, in: Texte zur Kunst, No. 59, September 2005, URL: https://www.textezurkunst.de/59/jenseits-der-institutionskritik, as of April 2015.