Don’t Look Now
11 Jun 2010 - 20 Mar 2011
The looking glass,1978
H 330 cm, B 220
cm, T 1,3 cm
Sammlung Toni Gerber, Bern
© Estate of James
11 June 2010 - 20 March 2011
Opening: Thursday, June 10 2010, 6:30 pm
Don’t Look Now:The Collection of Contemporary Art, Part 1, is the first of a series of thematic presentations of the collection from the Contemporary Art Department in the Kunstmuseum Bern. Such exhibitions are to take place annually.Coquettishly demanding of the public not to look now, this presentation stems from the opulent and internationally focused contemporary art collection of the Kunsthalle Bern, Kunst Heute, GegenwART, the Bernische Stiftung für Fotografie, Film und Video, as well as the Kunstmuseum Bern itself. The exhibits comprise artworks belonging to the foundations and museums as well as permanent loans.
The motto is borrowed from Nicolas Roeg’s (1973) film classic with the same title. It refers to the central role visual perception plays in the fine arts or to the invisible moment in which corporeal and sensory perception are transformed into knowledge. With a touch of irony it also brings up the topic of the long-enduring “invisibility” of the contemporary art collection, as the time has come in which we – for very plausible reasons – should view it again, even if the extension building for contemporary art cannot be realized at present.
From the very beginning art has the characteristic of also reflecting on the process of visual perception and the contextual conditions for the reception of art. What are the special means and methods used for this in contemporary art? Or, to put the question another way: How does contemporary fine art deal with what is in fact invisible? And how does it then lead to knowledge by aesthetic means?
The starting point for the profound exhibition of works is James Lee Bryars’ The Looking Glass (1978), a pane of glass larger than man-size with a viewing hole cut into it at about 1.8 meters from the base. Bryars’ artwork, on the surface, offers nothing to see – and at the same time – everything. Above all, it marks out the place at which and through which we are to view.
Viewing, putting on view, making it impossible to view, invisibility, visibility – the inquisitive visitor is tantalized into exploring this medley of notions in various dialogues between artworks.
James Lee Byars
Nam June Paik