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The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse

Installation view of The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse, 2008. © Steven Brooke

The exhibition The Possibility of the Island opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami’s Wynwood Art District annex, MOCA at Goldman Warehouse on the 4th of December 2008 and will remain open until the 21st of March this year. The second exhibition in Miami organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami to be curated entirely by their Assistant Curator Ruba Katrib (the first being Dark Continents at MOCA, North Miami), it is easily among the more cohesive and venerated exhibitions to have been showcased in Miami.

The success of the exhibition relies heavily upon on its poignancy. This poignancy exists because viewers can relate to the exhibitions overall theme and moreover because each artist involved empathized with that theme to a personal effect. Although formed from collective interrelated structures of succinct approximations what we see presented is a unified statement on the subject of contemporary and projected human society, its ambitions, problems and fears. To quote the exhibition brochure: “The Possibility of an Island takes French author Michel Houellebecq’s recent novel of the same title as its starting point. The exhibition poses existential questions in the face of an elusive future and explores the poetic and philosophical sides of science fiction.

In light of the seminar at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse tomorrow for which participating artists Nicolas Lobo, Martin Oppel, Lisi Raskin and Cristina Lei Rodriguez will discuss Miami, their work and science fiction we at ARTLURKER have approached the intimidating task to of reviewing this seminal exhibition. After interviewing many artists from the show together with its curator we decided rather than a traditional critique that we would like to honor the strong science fiction aspect of this exhibition by interviewing the exhibition itself. In a manner becoming Stanley Kubrick’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey we may now assume the exhibition to have a sentient intelligence. Please note that all responses generated by ‘the exhibition’ are composites from selected interviews with curator Ruba Katrib and contributing artists Davide Balula, Chris Kraus, Nicolas Lobo, Heman Hong, Cristina Lei Rodriguez and Mungo Thompson.

Installation view of The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse, 2008. © Steven Brooke .

Your theme seemed to strike a chord with the audience; can you tell us why you think that is in the context of Houellebecq’s novel?

Mortality, social anxieties, fixations on youth and beauty, destruction, nature, etc., these issues are all pervasive in your world today.  The way that Houellebecq deals with them in the book The Possibility of an Island is somehow fresh and incredibly pertinent. By using very relatable and recent examples he throws a frightening mirror up to Western Society’s face.

How did you come to be based on this book?

My curator first read the book in the year 2006 whilst traveling in Europe. It was in this circumstance—spending a lot of time alone, traveling from Stockholm, to Paris, to Berlin—that the book first took hold and altered her perception. The act of moving between different cultures and meeting other humans along the way stressed how accurate Houellebecq was in assessing their shared situations.

What processes went into your development?

I am certain my development came through conversations with an international group of artists, curators, critics, theorists, etc. It was through these interactions that a sense of what an impact Houellebecq and this particular book had on a generation of similar-minded individuals was bestowed upon those involved. Presumably it seemed logical at that point to curate an exhibition which speaks to this phenomenon.

Are you aware of how the concept was presented to the artists?

It was very straight forward. Ruba Katrib contacted selected artists to inform them that she was working on a sci-fi show that was inspired by, or otherwise loosely connected to, Houellebecq’s novel.

In your opinion what was the specific relevance of the sci-fi trope?

Science fiction is a format that twentieth and twenty first century artists have been using to critique their presents; inventing the future allows for freedom to invent new realities.

Installation view of The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse, 2008. © Steven Brooke

Do you feel that you are more a composite of artists or specific works?

A little of both. In many cases neither the curator nor artist knew exactly what would be exhibited. In the case of some works however, such as “Gravity & Grace” and to a certain extent “Negative Space (STCI-PRC 2007 – 16a)” (pictured at top and back) these artists were approached with these works, or at the very least the respective ‘bodies’ to which these works are ascribed, in mind. Generally, artists were invited to participate because their work could be said to approach some of the themes represented in the book. A good example of this would be “Withering Formality” (pictured at top and right) one of three sculptural works by Cristina Lei Rodriguez. In the book the character Daniel is obsessed with beauty, and his desires for immortality lead him to preserve his DNA and clone himself. Rodriguez’ sculpture is in fact composed in part from a dying tree.  In an attempt to stunt its process of decay the artist petrified the tree in layers of gold paint, plastic and epoxy. The tree was then adorned and posed to have a classical formality.  The analogy with the book is defined most clearly by the futility inherent in the artist’s efforts to control this tree’s destiny; it has its own prevailing process of decay.  Similarly, despite Daniel’s continuous rebirths as a clone, the life of the clone and the world around him degenerated in time. It is my understanding that in most cases options were left open regarding what type of projects artists would eventually propose. In such cases works were borne of a personal response to the themes in the book. “Le metronome (hour glass)” by Davide Balula (pictured bottom and right), to cite another example, has a nice connection with the idea of time, future, space, openness and variations.

Installation view of The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse, 2008. © Steven Brooke

How do you feel about being so closely related to a book?

I am no more closely related to the book than a lot of other themed exhibitions are to their points of departure, although my name is the title. Perhaps what sets me apart from such exhibitions is simply that my theme is very specific and structured on a single existing work rather than on a more general area of culture for example “Rock’n'Roll” or even “The Panama Canal Zone”. In spite of the fact that much of the art which comprises me originated from one source, none of the works are locked in to one reading. To answer your question more emotively, I suppose you could say that I am very happy. In terms of an exhibition it seems logical to assume that a favorable result will be probable when the curator has a strong concept that he/she wants to explore. I certainly do not feel restricted in anyway by the fact. On the contrary, I am able to appreciate how the works bind in responding to a specific source. That said, working with a book as the title of a show is a delicate situation, thankfully one which everyone involved seemed to be aware of.

Was being illustrative of the book a fear for the artists?

My development was always very open, not prescriptive. The artists were all selected due to a certain proximity either in their work or in certain works to the themes within the book, not because they described them in some way. I think that if the intent would have been to illustrate the book or its themes then the result would have been very flat. To my curators credit I ‘work’ whether you view me through the lens of the book or not. The book was used primarily to generate ideas which the artists then labored to resolve; few of these ideas could be said to be illustrative. Regardless of the fact that they were responding to a book many artists evidently strove to avoid any kind of literal idea. Houellebecq made this task of avoiding literal representation easier by fictionalizing aspects of the book which themselves were illustrative of fact. Ultimately you should not be scared about a book, though you can fear its content.

Installation view of The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse, 2008. © Steven Brooke

Do you feel that the artists share a commonality beyond this participation?

Absolutely yes and no. They are all grappling with the same world, with some variations. But to be specific, I feel that there is a shared quality in much of the work that striving to open up a space for the viewer on the one hand, and not minding if the viewer is frustrated on the other.

Did you like or dislike the book?

Houellebecq is an impressive author, a kind of depraved Kurt Vonnegut; however this is probably not my favorite example of his writing.

On the whole are you pessimistic or optimistic about the future?

I represent the precise measure of half of the glass; my outlook simply depends upon whether I’m facing up or down. You could say that I am optimistic on a micro-level; pessimistic about the macro. This current time in history is heavy. Despite the fact that greed and selfishness are arguably responsible for the depressed economic state of the world, I do believe in humanity. It is helpful to be optimistic and to believe that the future can be what you want it to be.

If you had to pick another book to be based upon, what book would you chose?

The Dictionary [.]


There is a seminar at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse tomorrow at 2pm for which participating artists Nicolas Lobo, Martin Oppel, Lisi Raskin and Cristina Lei Rodriguez will discuss Miami, their work and science fiction.

Recently, (January 17th) writer, filmmaker and The Possibility of an Island contributor Chris Kraus gave a talk at MOCA at the Goldman Warehouse. For those who did not attend we would like to take the liberty of making our humble recording available for download. Among many things discussed including phone sex and the theory of radical empathy was how her film “Gravity & Grace” came to feature in the exhibition.

Download a recording of Chris Kraus’s Workshop at MoCA (Large file, 125mb)


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  • david Rohn

    Very clever and original.
    The exhibit is comples (and perhaps more inclusive than exclusive0 so i agree that to review it or to get a handle on it is difficult if not intimidating. Each of the 4 times I ve returned to it , I ve felt more engaged and that s not necessarily typical(for me).So I ve wound up feeling it s an impressive show
    And thanks for tying it so easily to our current moment: we are clearly in some kind of significant transitions and the outcomes isn t at all clear.
    You mention greed ( and I d add other forms of (institutional and individual) irresponsibility) as the cause of our current global economic predicament.
    last time things got this bad (the’30′s),the economic problems led to more bad behavior it all ended in tears (to say the least).
    But enough drama. I do think artists often respond to , and can even be lightning rods for what is taking place under the more conventional radar. So it s just a matter of figuring out what it all means I guess.

  • Richard Haden

    What does “Possibility of an Island” mean today? Or, what does possibility of Utopia mean today? Utopia might be to create the real time and space within which all our desires can be realized and all of our reality desired–to create the total work of art.

    Or, rather than say Utopia is the total work of art–it could be accurate to say that Utopia is the richest and most complex domain serving total creativity.

    Is the island of Manhattan Utopic today, or is it possibly the grandest Diorama that exhibits samples of “Worldbuilding” or “ConWorld” attempted creation. And finally is Miami utopic tropical paradise or is it a work in progress. I tend to think a work in progress is Utopic.

  • swampthing

    Sweat equity is the consolation for those who must build the “island”. There was nothing utopic about making that log for Coffin… ‘cempt the swell of euphoria when it was finished. The ‘please come back’ room is but a 3 minute ride… positively JG Ballardian.

  • ViaMurka

    пепси кола помогает похудетьантицеллюлитный массаж что лучшеинсулин как средство для похудениядиета при раке шейки маткирецепты диетических блюд при сахарном диабетеизбавление от лишнего веса сызраньпетрозаводск диетологсанитарные правила отдела общественного питания и торговлимочегонное средство помогает вывести лишнюю воду из организмабессолевая блокирующая диетапохудение с помощью пауэр плэйтаяпонская диета на каждый деньдиеты сбросить до 20кгкрасивые ноги упражнения для похудение ногзаговоры на сильное похудениемедицинские диеты столыфранцузские препараты для сжигания жира и похуденияреалекс преппарат для похудениясалон красоты японская диетадиеты овсяная рисовая гречневая

  • KayarlyNold

    im successful to this street thing called a friday fest with my friend tonight and idk what it is,there like stands and poppycock, but if u advised of, plz tell me so i can be enduring a appropriate metre!!! lol
    -THANKS!! :)

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The Possibility of an Island at MOCA at Goldman Warehouse