Patrick Fabian Panetta`s parasitic strategies, recall William Burroughs dictum of ‘Language is a Virus’ and ‘Words beget image and image is virus’. The question is, what happens if the host becomes immune to its illness?
And thus, what if creativity is just a synonym for “well-employed-strategic-decisions”? It should have become clear, that this term and its fellow friends such as innovation, ingenuity or originality, have altogether been successfully assimilated to commercial and managerial practices, making them virtually unable to consider serious. In the wake of digitalization, reshuffling and copying from the fluid circulation of images and open access, the employment of ‘creativity’ is likely a euphemism for what is trending and upcoming. It is in this way understood as an adaptive mechanism, constantly filtering its surroundings for every bit of context, information and morphing into anything that could be of interest at this given moment. Patrick Fabian Panetta’s works concern the very activity of artistic practice itself, its expectations or assumptions, sharing a considerable amount of skepticism towards a status quo of renewed traditional ideas of authorship and authenticity. Over the years of working, he slide into a relentlessly booming optimism of ‘artistic progress’, envisioning ever newer and better products of art.
(Text: Jonas Schenk and Patrick C. Haas, 2018)
THE ABSURDITY OF MARKING ART, CURATED BY HANS ULRICH OBRIST
28th Nov 2006, Serpentine Gallery, London:
“Mr. Obrist, would you like to curate my degree show in fine arts?
In the following months during numerous interviews via e-mail and telephone Hans Ulrich Obrist and Patrick Panetta developed the concept for this degree show, which was then eventually curated by Obrist. The members of the examination board, however, could not actually see the presentation on site but had to rely on the information given to them by the curator, who was available during examination time by means of an ad hoc telephone connection. The result was a process-related artwork as exhibition that only gradually took shape in each examiner’s imagination. The information given on the phone by the curator to the examiners consisted of descriptions of four artworks by PP. HUO: – “On the wall on the right-hand side there is a black canvas…” – “If you turn left, you will see…” etc. Although these works were not present in the room, they actually do exist and had been described to Obrist during the preceding interviews. Some of these works had already been shown in different contexts during the examinee’s academic career and might have been encountered by some of the examiners before. In the room itself the only things that could be seen were excerpts from the interviews that had been fed into an LED billboard display on the wall: WHY FEAR? - FAILURE IS IMPOSSIBLE. - WE ARE FREE TO CHOOSE?, plus a table and the telephone. Apart from this and, of course, the participating people the room was empty. The basic idea of this piece was to answer the special situation that in order to receive a degree an art student has to present their work to an examination committee within a supposedly neutral test environment. To tackle this almost contradictory fiction of the artwork as a standardised and qualifiable product this work develops a discourse on power relations and the mechanics involved in relation to the artwork and its reception, coupled with an attempt to inverse these relations with regard to expanding the spatial dimension into the realm of the imaginary.
SCALE OF RATING
The material is the medium – is the message – equals questionable content – or is there any content left?
The shown material is an appropriation of screen recorder visits of various gallery websites with randomized sound in the background. We follow the user clicking through anything he can find, presenting us the “latest trends” in the art world. The choices of websites to visit is based on the scale of rating, which is determined through algorithmic rankings based on probability of importance. The websites’ designs become almost cinematic, while the actual content – information on artists’ works, gallery, and more – becomes a blown up spectacle. These programmed “pieces” create a spectacle, that should be a basic tool for information, tend to reduce its content to superficiality, while excitement is strictly limited to coded effects. The actual idea of works of art is not the subject of consumption anymore, it is in fact the “Informationsapparat” (information device) itself. Design, shine, glamour, and standardized forms press everything into a representative surface for a power play inside the art market. The content of these websites are focusing the viewer’s perception processes not on the works of art, but on a hyper-visuality where they experience a flattened dimension suited and limited by the screen. The hyper-visuality does not communicate qualities of individual works, artist intentions or problems, but sells an all over synchronized perception of a need of visual satisfaction. A gallery’s website in today’s art market is equal to the old fashioned idea of the “Präsentationsapparat” [Hans Zitko: Kunstwelt. Mediale und systemische Konstellationen, Fundus, Frankfurt 2012.] in the art world, an idea which has been extensively discussed in the 1990s through institutional critique. The virtual space has generated the same issues that the physical space – museum or gallery – has for the past decades. At the center of this conflict is the impossibility of justification or authentication of “good” art. These spaces – virtual and physical – construct an amplified visual experience, not necessarily the intention of the artworks existence as dispute with its producers problems.
By the act of reputation Panetta accumulated a dense collection of material. This material or way of working begs the question of authenticity, authorship and of production. The works are not really produced, and are a denial of the idea on an artistic production – even a resignation that there is nothing new that can be produced. Panetta’s use of “Informationsapparate”, which at the beginning feels like an appropriation of art, are nothing more than a homage to the impossibility of a constant reinvention of art itself spiced with an ambient sound. In sum, it suggests the viewer as part of a personal entanglement with the subject on the screen. But it never becomes a choreography – and is not as calculated as it could be. The modes of display only cite common formulas of presenting a video, thus showing their co-dependence on technical development.
Text: Patrick Haas / Jonas Schenk, 2016
NICE TO MEET YOU
In April 2005 a strange note reached the students of the Stuttgart Academy of Art and other art schools in Germany: the team of curators of the Berlin Biennial – the artist Maurizio Cattelan among them – were announced to visit the academy and a few students had been chosen to show their work to them. One can well imagine what inner turmoil this news must have caused: Hopes and fears, followed either by panic-stricken fits of work-mania or apathetic despair. How often, they might have thought, does it happen that the Discoverers, of their own accord and with prior announcement, come to those who, above all, want one thing: to be discovered. The artworld is on the lookout for tomorrow’s stars and it is ready to find them in Stuttgart. Patrick Fabian Panetta also belonged to the happy few who were chosen but he met this news with cautious enthusiasm. If one thought about it in a sober way the chances were very low that this visit would turn out to be the ticket for entering the Biennial. And in fact, none of the Stuttgart students have made it that far – apart from some of them being mentioned in the “Checkpoint Charley” project. On the other hand, this is exactly that kind of situation that is of interest for Panettas artistic work: the meeting of two distinct parts of the art machine. Therefore he decided not to present himself as favourably as possible during the curators’ visit but to make use of it as an opportunity for a new work. He considered it as one of those rare occasions when an art student has an exquisite cast for a video at hand, free of charge and willing to play their parts without even having to ask them. Based on these thoughts there evolved “Nice to meet you”, a long-term project that repeatedly occupied the artist for more than a year. From April 2005 until the end of May 2006 this project underwent four different stages and in the end it took him to Berlin, not directly to the biennial, one has to admit, but at least he was able to show parts of this project during the biennial on the premises of three well-renowned galleries.
1. The first stage is, of course, marked by the visit of Maurizio Cattelan and his fellow curators to Panetta’s studio at the academy. Instead of sexing up whatever works there were he cleared his studio of all traces of work, painted the floor and the walls and thus created a neutral stage for his visitors to act. He installed a classy notebook on a pedestal, on which the label of Yves Saint Laurent twisted and turned against a black background, set a table with glasses, bottles of Veuve and mineral water, and installed a CCTV in one of the corners of the room. On the wall there were three picture frames that held printouts of rather clichéd phrases such as one can hear at gallery openings or similar social events: “Nice to meet you”, “Fantastic” and “It’s been a pleasure talking to you”. In the background there played music by Charlie Parker and during the whole visit an assistant accompanied everything with her video camera.
For those entering Panetta’s studio this was a familiar context, an opening reception or private viewing, if only there was not very much to look at apart from each other and themselves. At least the animated fashion logo did not offer too much of a distraction or even visual sensation to be taken seriously as the content of what they had to see. After the artist, clad in a black suit, had greeted everyone with the inevitable “Nice to meet you”, they wandered about the room and soon made for the table with the drinks, chatting and joking, just as was their wont. Everything went off normally and nobody seemed to have taken any further notice of the artificiality of the situation, even though they might have noticed the artist using as often as possible those three phrases mentioned above. And so it is to be wondered whether any of the visitors has ever realized that neither the video animation, nor the table or the printouts were the actual objects of this “exhibition”, but they themselves. When they had left, thoroughly cheered up, Panetta closed his studio and checked the spoils of his operation. There was enough material of curators on his videos to enter the second stage.
2. From all the footage he had gathered during the visit the artist extracted a sequence when Cattelan noticed the CCTV and began to play with his projection on the monitor, pulling a face, taking photographs of him checking the frames of the video screen – a classical situation for visual studies scholars and a perfect opportunity for a video piece. Panetta looped this sequence, accompanied it with music, put it on DVD and showed it in the Stuttgart Kunstmuseum during a show of academy students without any other comment than a small sign referring the viewer to the galleries representing Cattelan for further information. Cattelan had thus become a ready-made artwork that Panetta had spotted in some obscure context and which he had now made accessible to the public.
3. The DVD with a Cattelan fooling about in it was then published in an edition of 5, complete with a customised cover and jewel case, on the inside of which all those that were present during the academy visit were mentioned. The contact name given on these DVDs was that of Maurizio Cattelan and the whole object – Cattelan or the DVD, one might ask – was claimed as being published by courtesy of Cattelan’s galleries Perrotin in Paris, Goodman in New York and de Carlo in Milan. These said galleries therefore also got the first three sample copies of the videos in a specially designed envelope with only “Re: Maurizio Cattelan” written on it and sent to them anonymously by registered mail. Whatever happened to these letters after they had reached the galleries, Panetta does not really know, but it is not really important anyway.
4. As a final step, Panetta made for Berlin and presented his project so far to several gallerists there. Buchmann, Nagel and Thumm agreed to show parts of it in those exhibitions that took place during the Berlin Biennial. Thumm, for example, showed the video and Buchmann the frames holding the printouts of the worn out phrases from stage one. In addition Panetta had invitation cards printed with “Nice to meet you” on their front, “re: Maurizio Cattelan” and all the previous and current locations of where the project had surfaced in one way or the other on their back, including the dates when the three letters had reached the respective galleries of Cattelan. Just like in the letters no mention was made of Panetta as being the author. But in a way he had made it. He was present in Berlin during the biennial and his project was spread throughout town.
Now that the project has come to a provisional end one might ask the meaning and purpose of such a lengthy work. This question, however, is not easily answered, the least of all by those who have participated, either willingly or without knowing, as they have never had the chance to see all the project’s stages as a whole. The initial visitors to the studio might have noticed the artificiality of the situation in which their wonted patterns of behaviour were staged and enacted and which demanded of them either to agree to participate or leave. But what must have been the most interesting and memorable event during their visit has never reoccurred again in the following stages. This was marked by the table on which the drinks had been served as it had been revealed to them as having once belonged to Salvador Dalì. If in the beginning Panetta’s “presentation” was nothing short of informational and visual blandness now there was finally something to pay one’s attention to. But, as was already said, this incidence was only intended for the visitors to the studio and not really part of the ensuing work. Already the visitors to the museum were only offered the video with Cattelan in it. This certainly raised more questions but gave even less answers and it reduced the viewer to a baffled observer of some pointless gesture. And one has to be frank: this ominous video is only mildly interesting. Undoubtedly, it does have some aesthetic merits and it can be understood as a comment on the self-generation of the artist as his own work of art, but it is hardly satisfactory enough to represent the main point of reference from which the whole project can be understood or even justified. And already for Cattelan’s gallerists this video might have functioned in a completely different way: the envelope without a sender’s name, the large lettering on its outside, a black DVD in a black jewel case, and on the DVD a short film with nothing in it but one of their artists in some unknown location. Was this the beginning of a blackmailing campaign? But with what? With Cattelan pulling faces? To be honest, this would not be completely unexpected. So, who sent this pointless material and to what purpose? And the last possible answer: that they were provided with a work of art will hardly have occurred under these circumstances. It is also open to speculation as to what had prompted those three prestigious galleries in Berlin to host a small presentation of Panetta’s project. If the initial thought had been to present the viewer with a documentary of the whole project, what Panetta decided to actually show was insufficient as far as information is concerned. And the artist himself? He was almost invisible, the invitation card being again anonymous. So, it may well be that somehow intuitively they realised when Panetta entered their galleries and presented them with his project, that here there was an artist whose project in a subtle way was closely connected to the biennial and its curatorial concept, and maybe even more so than many of the officially chosen works. Since the almost unasked for visit to his studio Panetta had in a way been forced to pay attention to the Berlin Biennial, to all its preliminary activities, the expanded staging of its curators and their position within the system of the artworld, the playful way in which these curators handled institutional frameworks – as it can be seen, for example, in founding the unofficial Berlin branch of Gagosian. And as it is precisely these aspects of the artworld that are of interest to Panetta for his own work it almost suggested itself to him that he should answer this situation by creating an alternative one by himself. “Nice to meet you” therefore evolved as an independent systemic field of relations as they are inherent to the art business and which he spread in analogy or rather in parallel to that of the Berlin Biennial and its curators.
Over the course of one year he made his field approach the other one step by step. His actual ending up in Berlin in close proximity to the biennial for him is less a success to flatter himself with but rather a proof for his work to have worked out, so to speak. So that in the end it is art as a system that has shaped itself to a work of art by means of its auto-poetic powers. The whole project seen as a work of art – immaterial as it may seem on first sight and in which video, invitation cards, artists, actors and viewer share the same preliminary status – gradually turns out to be a conceptual work on the driving forces of the operating system called art. The key terms to be employed for describing this are complicity and appropriation. We’ve known these terms for quite a while as they are used by art dealing with issues of so-called institutional critique in order to describe basic principles for the creation and reception of art. And one could now make a list of all their respective manifestations in the different stages of “Nice to meet you”. But, and this is what makes Panetta’s work special, they would have to be seen as purely formalistic terms. Because, contrary to most artistic strategies in the field of institutional critique – in which more than often critique is mixed up with criticism – Panettas attitude toward the art system is affirmative. He analyses less than he performs a synthesis, he does not question the system but he uses it as his material. Behaviour patterns become form in a way, individual attitudes become colour, and by their own accord and by virtue of their inherent potential for complicity and appropriation they develop into a structure or shape and it should be understood like an abstract painting.This painting, however, is not a painting of the artworld but rather a painting made of the art world.
Text: Andreas Pinczewski, 2006