Earlier this week, the wonderful Triple Canopy announced the recipients of its first round of commissions. As would be expected from such a curious and consistently invigorating enterprise as Triple Canopy, the projects all sound invariably fascinating; the full list of recipients may be found here.
From this early point – a point so early in the projects' developments that it is entirely unfair to begin making any such judgments –, several stand out as particularly intriguing, whether because of the projects themselves or the track histories of their respective creators. Anna Lundh's is emblematic of both. 2009 marked something of what must have been a banner year for the artist; at the very least, it was then that I found out about her, when her work proved consistently among the most memorable of the staggering five New York exhibitions that she participated in. The one sentence description on Triple Canopy's Commissions page sums up her proposal: "An investigation into a 'vision of a vision': Karl-Birger Blomdahl's unfinished computer opera, inspired by Hannes Alfvén's 1966 novel The Tale of the Big Computer." Much of Lundh's work is about uncovering or retracing nearly forgotten or effaced moments of the past: in last year's terrific exhibition, Avant-Guide to NYC – Rediscovering Absence, Lundh's contribution, Front-time Recordings, recreated the movements that Barbro Östlihn – like Blomdahl, a now deceased Swedish artist – made around New York, the city to which she immigrated in 1961. It was a uniquely compelling and touching portrait of the movements of an artist who lived just beneath the avant-garde radar of her time: it was not so much an effort, as one would expect, to recover the work of a forgotten artist as it was an effort to bring back to some palpable approximation of life the artist herself; the aching humanity and canny tribute to the cult of the artist that gave this project its power made it quite distinct from other work of similar pursuits. Her Triple Canopy commissioned project bears a superficially similar premise, but one can surely expect something utterly different from Lundh, whose curiosity, as it was on display in New York last year, never seems to allow her to retread previously explored territory.
Graham T. Beck has written many acutely funny and perceptive articles for such esteemed places as The New York Times, McSweeney's, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, frieze, and Art In America, among others. His summary of Christie's' recent record-breaking sale of Picasso's Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust) was one of the most pungent to come out in its frenzied wake: the price is explicable, he explains, "for the same reason that my whiskey chocolate chili never wins the annual firehouse cook off: popularity, whether measured in US dollars or cayenne-smudged secret ballots, has everything to do with the lowest common denominator." His project for Triple Canopy, "a survey of FS-595, the official color palette of the United States," is such a forehead-slappingly obvious great idea that he now bears the burden of making his project live up to its extraordinary potential; fortunately, one has every reason to believe that he is capable of doing this.
Claire Barliant, whose art writing I am unfamiliar with but am now quite eager to read more of, has proposed another fascinating project. The Commissions page describes it thus: "Revisiting Mankato, which in 1862 was the site of the largest mass execution to occur in US history, and questioning the value of manufactured memory." Pivotal and largely forgotten moments of US history are always welcome for artistic and scholarly rediscovery, as are explorations of memory; and, judging at least from Barliant's observational skills as made apparent in her short, perceptive essay on Louise Bourgeois – she is an artist about whom one may often tire of reading, as rarely does anyone find anything strikingly novel and perceptive to discuss in her work; but Barliant's approach to her singular and largely un-dissected mystique feels entirely new; it is available here –, she seems well-suited to the task.
The two other projects that caught my eye fall on either end of premise vs. artist's track history spectrum. In the former camp is James Thomas and Megan O'Hara's proposal: "On its fortieth anniversary, revisiting NASA's Tektite project, the sci-fi-inspired underwater habitat that provided America with a fleeting vision of technologically oriented utopia." This sentence is grammatically incorrect in at least two ways, but no matter: the project sounds thrillingly fun. A quick Wikipedia search for the Tektite project provides a much abridged, notably less sexy account of the program, so I can't wait to see what their proposal unearths and how it incorporates the "technologically oriented utopia" angle. On the other end of the spectrum is Eve Sussman's proposal for whiteonwhite, described as "a dual-stream thriller randomized in real time; an experimental film noir." Sussman's work is reliable for the searching breadth of its thought and the enchantment of its aesthetic, and I very much look forward to following her into this new project.
The image is a permutation of Wrong Place, Right Time, a poster by José León Cerrillo, created for the Triple Canopy commissions.