Nov 18 to Dec 23
Martin Beck

Social Abstraction


This series of works from 2010 is held together by an interest in the emergence of utopian socialities. An important ­reference and point of departure for developing this new body of work was research into the history of communal ­living, in particular rural and ‹dropout› communes throughout the USA in the 1960s. ­«Directions», «Headlines», and «Irritating Behaviors» do not investigate this history in a mimetic way, but rather try to identify fragments of the communication that went to determine the image of these new communities. Focusing on how these ­communes interacted and organized themselves via the pages of self-published newsletters, the work examines, how a (non-photographic) image of a new social body was displayed in ephemeral manifestations and instructions. A central interest forms an inquiry into the organization of social, geographic, and architectural spatialities and how a new understanding of spatial organization structured utopian communities. In this context, design and architecture are understood in a broader sense: as a constant that is able to shape a community and mediate it.
Building ideas from Drop City—an ­early example of rural communes in the USA—are revisited; these ideas are inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s dome structures, using sheet metal cut from car tops. The specifically shaped and recycled pieces of scrap metal that compose the sculpture Painted Side Up point, in an indexical way, to the paradoxically productive relationship between the modularization tendencies of late modernist architecture and utopian socialities.
The sculpture’s scattered arrangement of pieces refers, with its non-mimetic and decidedly fragmented appearance, to questions of translation and historicity.
An additional work in the form of a wall and vitrine display is composed from a selection of books and magazines from the late 1960s and early 1970s about the emerging commune movement. The arrangement throws light onto a then emerging publishing boom that framed an idealistic and fragile sociality as a new lifestyle. Exchanges and reports that were at first evanescent and written solely to give mutual advice via the pages of self-published newsletters quickly developed into a new journalistic genre and how-to industry. The works highlight ephemeral traces in the form of image and text combinations, language, and graphic design solutions.

Martin Beck is a New York based-artist whose conceptually driven exhibitions and projects engage with questions of authorship and historicity, often drawing on the fields of architecture, design and ­popular culture. Recent exhibitions include «Panel 2 – Nothing better than a touch of ecology and catastrophe to unite the social classes …», Arthur Ross Gallery, Columbia University, New York (2009) and Gasworks, London (2008); «The details are not the details», Orchard Gallery, New York (2007); and, in ­collaboration with Julie Ault, «No-Stop City High-Rise» at the São Paulo Bienal (2010), «Information at Storefront for Art and Archictecture», New York (2006) and Installation at Secession, Vienna (2006). Ault and Beck also create ­exhibition designs, most recently for «Changing Channels: Art and Televison» at Mumok Vienna (2010). Beck’s publications include «About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe» (2007), an «Exhibit viewed played populated» (2005), and with Julie Ault, «Critical ­Condition: Ausgewählte Texte im Dialog» (2003).

­Christian Höller has a conversation with Martin Beck on November 17, 6 pm.

Christian Höller is editor of springerin – Hefte für Gegenwartskunst (www.sprin­ge­ and has written extensively on art and cultural theory. in 2009, sub-curator of the exhibition See This Sound (Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz; section «Site Sound Industry»); in 2010, curator of the program No Wave 1976–84 (56th International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen and Austrian Filmmuseum, Vienna). His volume of interviews Time Action Vision: Conversations in Cultural Studies, Theory, and Activism is published by JRP | Ringier, Zürich / Les presses du réel, Dijon in 2010.