All images are courtesy of the Friedrich Petzel Gallery
Cosima von Bonin’s most recent installation, “The Juxtaposition of Nothings,” at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in Soho New York was a maze of objects. Not so different from Warhol and Duchamp’s work, von Bonin’s installation asks the question of where meaning comes from.
What meaning is inscribed upon von Bonin’s objects due to the fact that they are in an art gallery? In the same way that Andy Warhol’s Various Box Sculptures become art when situated inside a museum, von Bonin’s installation, in the context of a gallery, becomes art.
Taken at face value, von Bonin’s art installation may appear an esoteric cluttered arrangement of things. Nancy Princenthal describes her venture into the exhibit online at Art in America Magazine:
Squeezing past these works to the gallery’s main room, one found a busy array of oversize stuffed animals disposed on lacquered white platforms, including another rabbit, slouched atop a pert red dog; several clams on skateboards; and a piratical hound with an eye patch, one leg thrown over a hapless canine, the other squashing a crab. Fake lights and microphones stood here and there. In the corner, a louche, gaslight-style streetlamp sported a big cigarette, its smoke outlined in neon. More music by von Oswald could be heard under two audio domes. An 84-minute documentary about film director and producer George Romero, featuring a scene from his Night of the Living Dead, played on a video monitor. On another, there was the 13th annual Dorian Corey Awards Ball, a voguing competition; headphones delivered its soundtrack, including commentary by a hyperactive host. A pair of big four-fingered white gloves on a platform nearby evoked both Michael Jackson and Micky Mouse.
Imagine these objects in shopping list format. What pains you would go through to obtain all of these objects– characters from different narratives– and pile them high in your metal shopping cart, bag them, like mutant groceries to get them home. It is the case that von Bonin’s installation is devoid of any narrative outside of the modernist’s anti-narrative. What then, calls these objects together?
As Princenthal illustrates in her articulation of her experience viewing the exhibit, it is the unmitigated urge to associate with these objects that ties the room together. Princenthal writes, “A pair of big four-fingered white gloves on a platform nearby evoked both Michael Jackson and Micky Mouse.” From white gloves emerges associations with two dissimilar music icons.
Through von Bonin’s installation it is revealed that the viewer’s associations are those nothings that the artist so cleverly juxtaposes. The objects themselves are merely stimulus or inspiration for the viewer’s bottomless resevoir of associations.
Cosima von Bonin’s installation is thoroughly thought provoking. It makes me think specifically about all of the objects in my own house. The pots and pans are logical and relevant characters in the kitchen narrative. However, what about the tin can from the 1950′s that sits in my living room as a bookend or the singular Beanie Baby unicorn that inhabits the space next to a harmonica I don’t know how to play? In terms of a living room narrative it is not clear what role these objects play. In terms of my associations, these objects are vital. But as von Bonin points out through her installation, these associations are nothings– that is, no-things: not things– yet they can be situated side by side, juxtaposed.