Something in a Box by Robert Barry
and some other things in boxes
by Philippe Cazal, Braco Dimitrijevic, Paul-Armand Gette and UNTEL

 

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

 

From Friday January 10 to Saturday March 1, 2014
Press release


Something in a Box


Robert Barry is one of the four artists who are considered by art history as the founders of conceptual art: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner. Critic Gabriel Guerci even uses the acronym BHKW* to name the four artists together, the same as with the Paris-based art group BMPT.** More than the singularity of their works, it's perhaps the way they display them that distinguishes them from other artists of their time, for example through the catalog-exhibitions held by Seth Siegelaub such as the January Show in 1969: the dematerialisation of the exhibition, and thus of art, is one of these artists' main concerns.

Robert Barry's ambition to discard the object of art in order to concentrate on the idea is particularly strong. His interest for questions of perception bring him to the renouncement of visuality. He adopts a radical position, developing invisible works, in series such as Inert Gas in 1969, or conceiving mental works, which are based on thoughts, such as the series of Psychic: All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking: 1:36 pm; June 15, 1969. 

Hence, Robert Barry exclusively uses language to render his psychic works public. — All the things I know but of which I am not at the moment thinking — This is one of the most famous Statements made by Robert Barry on June 15, 1969 at 1:36 pm. This work only exists thanks to its formulation, its time frame is even recorded in the formulation itself to testify to its existence; later, the statement would be displayed on the gallery walls and materialized with vinyl letters.  The exhibition Live in your Head: When Attitudes Become Forms***, quickly turned out to be decisive, revealing the main questioning of contemporary art. (cf. Jack Burnham, Alice's Head. Reflexions on Conceptual Art.****»

Something in a Box gives the opportunity to replay on another scale — 10,2 x 15,2 cm — the measurements of the card — here 62 — that were distributed about fourty years ago. We are confronted with a box made of walnut wood, containing 62 index cards. Each card of Something in a Box proposes a different statement by Robert Barry — 62 Statements. The first one introduces the 61 following: SOMETHING THAT … and then 61 statements that are supposed to define SOMETHING which essence remains irrevocably unknown. Reading this new text by Robert Barry won't change that. 

For the presentation of Something in a Box at mfc-michèle didier gallery, the 62 index cards are presented out of their box, forming a wall frieze. This display calls to mind Barry's first studio in New York, which had been previously used by a religious group, that had left behind biblical quotes painted on the wall. Displayed this way, the artist's statements are illegible. Present, but nonetheless invisible. Something in a box will remain something on the walls... Nothing more nothing less. 

 

* Gabriel Guerci, «Formés dans la résistance: Barry, Huebler, Kosuth et Weiner contre la presse américaine», L’art conceptuel, une perspective, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989, p. 65-73.
** BMPT is the acronym of the name of the association Buren Mosset Parmentier Toroni created in December 1966 by the four artists: Daniel Buren, Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier and Niele Toroni.
*** Famous exhibition conceived by Harald Szeemann presented in 1969 in Bern and reconstituted at the Venice Prada Foundation in 2013 for the occasion of the International Biennale of Contempory Art.
**** Jack Burnham, «Alice’s head, Réflexions on Conceptual Art» in Artforum, Vol. 8, n°6 (February 1970), p. 40-43.

 

and some other things in boxes


Before Robbert Barry's publication, mfc-michèle didier has already published a series of artist's boxes. The display of SOMETHING IN A BOX is the perfect occasion for the publisher to present four of these boxes and their "respective "things":

Philippe Cazal, Factice, 1995

Factice is a box designed for containing an assortment of "virgin" media: one virgin videotape; one virgin CD; one virgin audiotape; one virgin ektachrome; one virgin floppy disk. The excerpt of this media objects — today almost all obsolete — appears as a programmed archeology of the press agency of the nineties.

Braco DimitrijevicParc Event / P.P. Rubens - Gerda Bollen, 1992

The work Parc Event / P.P. Rubens - Gerda Bollen is placed in a slipcase, which is paperbound, embossed and lined with red silk. It contains two copperplates with the names of the well-known P.P. Rubens and the casual passer-by, Gerda Bollen. Inside the upper part of the box, a photograph is inlaid underneath the silk lining, showing an old man sitting on a bench somewhere in Parc Royal, Brussels. On the back of the bench, the two same copperplates are to be seen, as a reminder of the presence of P.P. Rubens and Gerda Bollen, who got together on the occasion of a fictitious event whose circumstances remain mysterious. 

Paul-Armand Gette, Nympha Nocturna ssp.Rosea P.-A. G. 1995

A pair of sexy pink and black panties have been trapped into an insect box and get the name of Nympha Nocturna as if they were a specimen of natural species. This work expresses both the artist's interest in nature and his fascination for erotic patterns. During the exhibition there will also be on display three boxes of his insect collections conceived in 1960, including two unique boxes containing a bronze beetle. 

LA BOÎTE UNTEL compiles a series of testimonies of the group's actions led in the second half of the seventies, providing a coherent collection of objects and documents. Carefully collected in the box, there are: index cards, historical articles and critic's reviews, flyers, the famous inkpad "PLUS RIEN A VENDRE TOUT A ECHANGER" or the ironic "Touriste" badge, one of their favorite accessories.

 

Exhibition views

 

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry, Something in a Box

Robert Barry - Something in a Box

Robert Barry - Something in a Box

Robert Barry - Something in a Box

Robert Barry - Something in a Box