Aleksandra Mir

Subject to Revision

Artforum, New York, Oct 2004
By Johanna Burton

... The notion that appropriation might be seen as a mode of revealing language, representation, and even social space to be so shape-shifting as to subsist simultaneously as both weapon and target (and thus as both subject and object) still resonates today. Yet rather than deploy appropriated elements of culture as so many sharpened weapons and demarcated targets, a number of artists working now—including Amy Adler, Glenn Ligon, Aleksandra Mir, Francesco Vezzoli, and Kelley Walker—recycle them to reveal critically the ways that subjectivity is crafted, consumed, and controlled. Most of these artists are interested in redirecting or confusing circuits of exchange rather than jamming them entirely, perhaps having learned the latter's near impossibility. ...

... It is, then, somewhat ironic that the concept of compromise best defines the ways in which artists are most compellingly utilizing appropriation today, often with overtly Pop overtones. Lest the word be read as passive (rather than passive-aggressive), let's turn to Mir, one of the most political artists of the day, whose projects nearly always involve collaboration—whether with artists, non-artists, or even entire communities. Mir's work coyly modifies both memories and mores, and race. She has temporarily run a cinema for the unemployed (specializing in Hollywood disaster movies) and spectacularly staged the landing of the first woman of the moon (with the help of an enthusiastic crowd, including altruistic construction workers who bulldozed a beach on the Baltic Sea into a lunar setting). In every case, Mir traces meaning back to a complex network of social and psychic concessions, which are at once the site of institutional oppressions and of potential resistance against them. To this end, Mir's 2003 book Corporate Mentality examines the pervasive incorporation of art into the sphere of commerce by archiving projects by various artists who take up the corporate structures of late capitalism only to confound them, however subtly. Her ongoing manipulations of and linkages between the mass media and private photography (such as her Hello project and her recent Barthesian manifesto, titled Finding Photographs) recall a statement made by Sherrie Levine in reference to some of her own work some twenty years ago: "I like to think of my paintings as membranes permeable from both sides so there is an easy flow between the past and the future, between my history and yours." If Mirs's and Levine's appropriative methods have anything in common, then, perhaps it is an understanding of the work as a connective tissue, mediating the flow of collective and individual histories—and providing the opportunity to insert oneself, however promiscuously, within them. ...