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Devon Dikeou: Tricia Collins, Grand Salon: New York
Rainer Ganahl

Devon Dikeou, "From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", 1997, Installation View

Like in so many works by Devon Dikeou, a citation, a title, or an anecdote,is at the origin of her universe. This time, the title refers to "mixed-upfiles" that are meant as "an appropriation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's classic coming-of-age" (and a reference to a novel by E. L.Konigsburg). But this time, the charmof her show didn't rely so much on the fact that it was not immediately accessible to me.This show surprised me with its smart, compact style, and the seducinginterplay of a variety of heterogeneous elements: pastel floor and walldrawings, video and closed-circuit monitoring, a computerized sketch, atravel video, an important cultural icon, and a quasi-meaningless book title.

On the floor of the gallery Dikeou drew, with pastel colors, a section of the famous painting of the Sistine Ceiling in Rome, much in the way we know fromthe chalk artists who sketch for tourist donations in the streets. Unlike thesestreet artists who usually paint scaled-down versions of knownpaintings, Dikeou depicts a randomly selected scaled-up version in an equally random 7:1 dimensional enlargement, which makes it almost unrecognizable for the viewer. The viewer's perspective is clarified with the aid of a videocamera installed in the ceiling, that depicts the chalk painting and records viewers walking on the floor; this is relayed to a video monitor placed in front of him or her. Next to this video--whichshows the painting in a recognizable form--is a video sequence filmed by a moving camera, which reveals visitors/tourists lining up in Rome to see the real thing (which is shown for only seconds at the end of the loop). Lookingaround, we see seven chalk panels on the wall (seven panels for 7:1 enlargement). On the opposite wall, a black-and-white computerized sketchshows the Sistine Ceiling with another architectural drawing of the gallery superimposed, mapping the exact position that the artist drew on the floor.This referential piece doesn't just show the particular aspect of the segment of the original painting,but lays the ground for future exhibitions as well. As such, it doesn't just have a "topological" functionality, but has an economical one--potential layouts forshows to come. The financial aspect brings us to the point of this show, which isto have a system at hand that justifies and produces shows, almostexcessively, around the same parameters (remember themass reproductions of this icon). However, I am less convinced by the intriguingdisplacements and oppositions--floor/ceiling, video/chalk, scale/perception, travel and tourism/fresco, etc., than by this system, which is a "carte blanche" for numerous shows, according to a refined and justifiable system. But I am highly suspicious of this as well.

Devon Dikeou, "From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", 1997 ongoing, video still gallery floor, video still Sistine Ceiling

Why? Because this kind of smart self-referentiality and auto-poesisis significant (and symptomatic) of the majority of today's art productionsthat function perfectly well within their own systems, without owing anythingto an outside realm, or a conflicting, historical world. I feel left withart for art for art for art world's sake--and one has to imagine this lastsentence videotaped, in 3-D animation, performed, theoretically overcoded, refined, and sold in galleries (or boutiques). I am more in favor of theseoften vagabond traveling street painters that live directly off of tourism andits mediated, spectacular, "kitsch" idea of what art is supposed to be, without any illusions of what they do: bagging, and not art.Unfortunately, these historically rich "street issues" are not addressed.But then, maybe, my "files" are mixed up.

Rainer Ganahl

New York, New York

1997

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