Review by Nick Kramer
In Gedi Sibony’s world, you only get to know what he tells you.
The cover of his self-titled book produced after his 2007 exhibition at Midway Contemporary Art features a superimposition of two installation shots; given equal opacity they bleed into one another. What either image was intended to document is hidden on the far side of photo editing software.
Just as Sibony’s work blurs the boundaries between architecture, trash and art, the images in this book conflate discrete moments in the artist’s career hinting at a project larger than the sum of its individual gestures. Like the cover, every image in the book is a superimposition of various installations and sculptures; some fill the page, others float as if justified to make room for blocks of text. There are no words to be found excepting the colophon and title—no pagination, no image descriptions, no interview, no essay.
On one page a child looks into the camera’s lens with cardboard scraps blended into his head (the artist’s son?). On another, we see a Matisse stamped with a Botticelli. By book’s end it becomes clear that the documented works are not all part of the exhibition for which the book was produced. “Reading” this book requires no knowledge of written language—one would rather consult Berger than Webster if they desire a reference manual. Instead of a catalog, Sibony has given us a candy trail along which the experience of his work unfolds.
All the objects pictured here are nameable but what exactly has occurred to them physically and photographically is harder to know. The fundamental juxtaposition in Gedi Sibony, the book, is between memory and its impossibility. In the light of so much obscure and obscured information we are left to wander our own minds exploring ideas of sentimentality, aloofness, nostalgia, materiality and biography.
As it turns out obfuscation and the obscure are inspiration as well as tactic to Sibony.
Taken from Alfred Jarry’s counter-science, the title of the exhibition associated with this somewhat counter-book is The Science of Imaginary Solutions. These five words seem to be the clearest description of what goes on in these pages; a surreal solution to a matter-of-fact conundrum. How does one deal with the banality of objects as well as the fallibility of documentation, memory, and language? One way is sidestep them, turn them on themselves and don’t even try!
Just as this book relies on the failures of images the artist’s work relies on the inability of his viewers to know the true provenance of his materials. I recall a work of Sibony’s, oddly-illuminated by light fixtures set for a previous exhibition (I think it was of Robert Smithson). We are allowed to know of previous states but not to understand them on their own. We only get direct contact, a sort of world-shrinking prison mindset. Although the book frustrates my hopes of having a nice thick catalog of Sibony’s output with articulate contextualization, it did, in the end, cast his oeuvre in a new and more dynamic light.
Gedi Sibony, Gedi Sibony, (Midway Contemporary, 2008)
Images: Cover and interior of Gedi Sibony