Image: Installation view (with Michael Mahalchick, Brook Hsu, Sarah Kurten, Sofi Brazzeal, Michel Auder, Nicolas Guagnini, and Dawn Kasper) of The Split, GRIN, Providence, RI, 2017

Exhibition:

Defacement


Location:

The Club, Tokyo


Dates:

2018, July 14 - August 18


Artists:

Lucas Ajemian
Richard Aldrich
Maria Eichhorn
Brook Hsu
Susan Howe
Nicolas Guagnini
Jacqueline de Jong
Leigh Ledare
RH Quaytman
Gerhard Richter
Betty Tompkins

Andy Warhol


Text: 
Founded in 1961 by Asger Jorn (with support from collaborators including Jacqueline de Jong) the anticipated multi-volume publication of photographic picture books called the “Institute for Comparative Vandalism” aimed to chronicle 10,000 years of Scandinavian culture in the age of ancient migration and the vikings in order to understand how an incisive attack — which could take the form of a new glyph or ornament— could alter and supersede the meaning of the artifacts that were vandalized per se. In Jorn's purview, this is aligned with the classic situationist strategy of détournement: the “integration of present or past artistic production into a superior construction of a milieu.” (1) In Jorn’s own words, “Détournement is a game made possible by the capacity of devaluation,” and thus the capacity to devalorize is linked to the ability to reinvest in one’s own culture (and thus, revalorization).(2) In short, one must sacrifice the past to make way for the future.

Détournement is closely related to defacement –as illustrated in this exhibition-- in which both the source and the meaning of the original subject-object are subverted to create a new work. The artworks in Defacement thus fulfill Jorn’s premise of vandalism and the collective situationist notion of détournement, while also investigating the concept as explored by anthropologist Michael Taussig in his eponymous book, asking what surfaces when an artist defaces the surface? 

One of the most notorious examples of defacement is illustrated in Guy Debord’s graffito, “Ne Travaillez Jamais,” scrawled on a public embankment in Paris in 1963. In order to understand Defacement, we must understand the complex term, vandalism, an action involving deliberate destruction or damage to public or private property (such as a graffiti). Vandalism connotes a dirty word, as does appropriation: the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the rightful author or owner’s permission.  To vandalize is to steal or destroy; the works in Defacement, however, détourn the connotation of this action and investigate both the meaning of an image or object’s destruction and its revalorization. Defacement, as diametric to vandalism, iconoclasm or desecration, revalues, rather than devalues. Presented in Defacement is work by twelve contemporary artists in which the surface or original image has been altered, or defaced, to revalorize a new form, reading or meaning.


(1) McDonough, Tom. "Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents". October Books, MIT Press, 2002.

(2) Jorn, Asger. Détourned Painting, 1959.