P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Deep Storage, an exhibition of works by more than forty artists which explore imagery and processes thematic to storage. The exhibition represents three generations of German and American artists: Joseph Beuys, Louise Lawler, Paul McCarthy, Hanne Darboven, Nam June Paik, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Jeanne Silverthorne, and Andy Warhol, among others. Work includes installations, sculptures, paintings, photography, artists’ books, multiples, videos, and computer-based work.
Deep Storage explores storage as it occurs in four sites: the storeroom/museum, the archive/library, the artist’s studio, and the data-space (a conceptual realm). The storeroom/museum is visited through Richard Artschwager’s sculpture of ersatz art crates, which, though empty and eccentrically shaped (one looks like a bed, another like a beast), are otherwise typical of the way art appears in transit or in storage. The archive/library is referenced in work like Meg Cranston’s Who’s Who by Size, which compares historic figures based on the number of inches of shelf space they occupy in a university library (Emily Dickinson at 40 feet top Muhammad Ali at a mere 1 1/2). Wilhelm Mundt’s work, Trash Stones, literally represents his studio: giant fiberglass biomorphs containing studio detritus leftover from other works.
Vera Frenkel’s Body Missing, a web site about stolen artworks, explores the data-space. The designated sites in Deep Storage are fluid, however, for many archives are data-spaces, and studios sometimes become museums. Stefan Hoderlein’s Matching Jacket and Pants, for example, is both a costume collection and an archive of Rave fashions.
The subject of storage encompasses many themes, from problems of preservation to issues of memory and loss. Conflating these, Karen Kilimnik’s The Czars starts with the event of the assassination of the Romanovs and transforms it into a theatrical blend of found and fabricated objects, facts and fictions. Indeed, as each of the works in Deep Storage seems to prepare itself to be remembered or forgotten, one of the larger themes that emerges is the construction of history itself. Why do we keep what we do? Does the act of keeping alone impart significance? As much as storage is an investment, is it not also a process of divestiture? Think about what gets lost. Surveying Deep Storage with history in mind, one observes some startlingly mundane and imaginative evidence—from the scribbled notes inside Jason Rhoades’ monumental closet, to the household effluvia collected in Karsten Bott’s installation—of what history might actually consist.
The particular circumstances of this international exhibition, organized as a German-American exchange, prompt a reflection on national points of origin. Germany is considered by many as the cradle of art historical practice, the place where scholars formalized into a discipline that which had previously been a matter of connoisseurship. America is the place where Performance and Conceptual Art first turned documentation into a new art form, when objects and actions were created to disappear, to be survived only by photographs, texts and other forms of records.
Appearing in Deep Storage as a hybrid of these two impulses is manuscript material from Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. Warburg (1866-1929) was a German art historian; the Atlas of Memory was his attempt to definitively catalogue archetypal images and gestures throughout the history of representation. It included pictures of classical Greek sculpture, paintings by Manet, zeppelins, golfers, and a hari kari ceremony. Left unfinished at the time of his death, what remains of Warburg’s Atlas are the documents—photographs and writings—that describe its ever-evolving state. In terms prescribed by Deep Storage, these appear to anticipate the endlessness of information that we now encounter everyday through the Internet.
Deep Storage itself is an endless topic and, arguably, every artwork has a place in it. Attempting to include rather than define, this exhibition is conceived as a drawer or box to be filled, rather than a category to be fitted. The exhibition is an assemblage in its own right, constructed around the subject of storage.
Deep Storage is an initiative of Siemens Kulturprogramm in association with P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and Haus der Kunst, Munich, and with generous support from the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, New York.
The exhibition co-curators are Matthias Winzen, Curator of Visual Arts, Siemens Kulturprogramm; Ingrid Schaffner, Independent Curator, New York; Hubertus Gaßner & Bernhart Schwenk, Haus der Kunst; and Stefan Iglhaut, Curator EXPO 2000, Hanover. Deep Storage is based on a concept by Ingrid Schaffner.