Everything Fell Together

Christian Jankowski
FACT, Wood Street
20th January - 19th March 2006 (closed on Mondays)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

I don’t want to lavish too much praise on this exhibition, since most of it deals with emperor’s new clothes situations where people wax lyrical about something just to avoid looking foolish. Or does it? I might just be saying that to avoid looking foolish. No, I’m pretty sure Christian Jankowski really does poke fun at so-called experts in all areas of life - from mystics to critics and artists to con-artists. As such, it is a refreshing change for FACT exhibitions, and especially ‘Funny How Thin The Line is’ - the shockingly odious display it replaced.

There are fourteen pieces in all, and they would take several hours to see in full, which is far too long for all but the most passionate post-post modernists amongst you. So I’ll just mention a few of my highlights which you can dip into at your leisure over the next two months.

The picture above is from ‘Talk Athens’ - an edition of a Greek chat show which Jankowski silently appeared on. called Hostess Bilio Toukala introduces her guests, whose middle class mouths almost salivate whilst they offer opinions about the ‘exciting’ statement that the artist is making. Meanwhile, Jankowski amuses himself by tumbling over cushions and making eyes at Toukala. Personally, I think he was asking why artists are often given so much credibility for doing stuff that is patent nonsense, but I could be wrong. It’s comical stuff.

In a very similar vein, ‘Holy Artwork’ shows Jankowski making his own entertainment at an American church. Having arranged to perform whilst former art student Pastor Peter Spencer sermonises on art in religion, our hero makes his own divine intervention by simply lying prostrate on the stage. The pastor doesn’t bat an eyelid though, incorporating Jankowski’s bizarre posture into a twenty minute speech about how God created man ‘out of nothing’ because he needed an audience for his own ‘art’: creation itself. The congregation nod appreciatively, even singing a hymn about God being lovely or some such. I suppose that counts as a good review.

Next we come to ‘My Life as a Dove’, ‘Director Poodle’ and ‘Flock’, each of which continue to hammer home that point about leaders and followers - this time by showing ‘magicians’ turning people into animals before a credulous crowd of audience members. By then I was a beginning to find Jankowski a bit to all-knowing for his own good, and was wondering whether he was a one trick pony...or should that be dove? Anyway, the next exhibit saw him try something a bit different.

In ‘Shamebox’, participants were asked to sit in a shop window, holding up a sign which described their secret shame. Unfortunately, most people seemed to have bottled-out of this open confessional, since they seemed to only be ashamed of things that were clearly beyond their control - such as ‘not being ashamed’ and even ‘being a German citizen’. If you were going to confess a secret to hundreds of people, I would have thought you’d make it a juicy one. Oh well, nice idea.

Pride of place and the prize for most scathing, mocking, and biting sarcasm in an exhibition since the serpent in God’s ambitious ‘Garden of Eden’ installation goes to ‘The Matrix Effect’. When Jankowski was commissioned to make a new work by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut, he drew-up a list of questions for some of his predecessors, plus the curator and director of the museum. But here’s the hilarious bit: he had the questions and answers acted out by children in a spoof documentary style. From their innocent mispronounciations, the sheer unwieldiness and waffling pointlessness of much artspeak is shown up for what it is. One scene in particular - where the actors are holding court and quaffing wine at an exhibition’s private view - was reminiscent of quite a few Thursday night conversations. And then it suddenly struck me that I never wanted to be an art critic when I grew up. Ouch.

If Funny How Thin The Line is was art about art, then this must be art about art about art. But that’s not a problem, because Everything Fell Together combines what seems like genuine intellectual inquiry with the sense of humour needed to carry it off. Just don’t take it too seriously.

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