The details are not the details
Exhibition Dates: May 6 - June 10, 2007
Opening: Sunday May 6, 6-8 pm
On May 25, 2007 at 6:30 PM a discussion between Martin Beck and Felicity D. Scott will further investigate issues of exhibition systems, administrative logics and notions of spectatorship.
Martin Beck's exhibition "The details are not the details"
investigates a shift in exhibition formats in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Until the late 1950s the art sector was the primary field within which experimentation with display strategies and new forms of looking and relating to visual culture were developed. But increasingly, commercial exhibiting — trade fairs, corporate, and government exhibits — became the sites where new presentational formats and techniques appeared.
Some of the most significant museum exhibits of the 1950s demonstrate a powerful commitment to experimentation within exhibition making and display. These shows used the communicative power of exhibiting for a humanist and profoundly modern purpose: the belief that the dissemination of and access to information is a key aspect in the development of a modern and democratic society. Although deeply ideological, these exhibitions cast the information presented as an untainted universal that — properly organized, indexed, and made physically accessible — had the capability to produce an informed spectator, and, consequently, change society for the better. The exhibitory apparatus and display were the tools that were thought capable of realizing a utopian belief in the emancipatory potential of the exhibition as a communication format.
Key to this moment is the concept of "information" as part of a modernizing drive in which emancipatory practices, propaganda and corporate advertising started to freely flow into each other. This coincides with research into computing technology, pattern science in architecture, the bureaucratization of the state apparatus as well as the emergence of the modern corporation as a distinct communicative form.
A significant part of experimentation within the commercial field was driven by the idea of indexing and structuring information with a special emphasis on making visible as well as portable this newly developed structure. On a practical level this took the form of modularized exhibition systems based on connector joints which allow for quick, unskilled assembly and endless rectangular expansion: infinite growth as a utopia of dissemination. Many exhibition systems developed in this period bear striking resemblance to formal methodologies that surface only a few years later within Minimalism and, more metaphorically, in the indexical drive of Conceptual Art.
Orthogonal exhibit systems and the connector joints they are based upon submit information and its dissemination under a geometric matrix the social logic of which should soon after be described as one of the ultimate tools of modernity's exercise of power. At the moment when the exhibition seems to become a free floating agent of liberation it succumbs to the symbolic logic of control.
The history of modern exhibitions has repeatedly been a site of investigation and reference point for Beck's artistic practice. "The details are not the details" will include a new video work, a series of diagrammatic drawings, and a spatial treatment by Beck. The show intersects these elements with historical material on the subject, a work by Sol Lewitt, and a photograph by Eadweard Muybridge.