Aleksandra Mir

Publicness

The Guardian, London, Feb 2003
By Jonathan Jones

Publicness
29 Jan - 16 March 2003
Institute of Contemporary Art, ICA Galleries, The Mall, London - UK

Aleksandra Mir stands out a mile in this otherwise fairly predictable exhibition of political art. She is an unruly, undigested and unreadable artist and her proposals for public artworks unsettle, annoy, even offend. Alongside her proposal for a colossal monument to the seven dwarves in St James's Park, to be made in collaboration with people of restricted growth, she displays a very angry letter accusing her of insensitivity. She also upset the New York fire department with an idea for a public artwork in Manhattan making use of discarded Christmas trees. Who knew fire regulations about Christmas trees in New York were so severe?

This is what is engaging about her art; it touches on things you didn't know mattered. Her proposal for a public garden in Glasgow found favour until it was noticed that among its listed benefits to the community was as a place where teenagers could have sex.

Mir and her co-exhibitors, Jens Haaning and Matthieu Laurette, practise a mock-serious, parody agitation involving groups, undermining institutions, corrupting languages. Haaning has made Arabic posters and put them up in European cities; the posters might be seen through western eyes as aggressive, but in fact tell jokes. Laurette, the least of the artists here, holds international lookalike contests and gets Parisians in the street to read from Guy Debord for a phony TV station.

Mir transcends such recycling of cultural theory. She wants to build a full-scale replica of Stonehenge, a bit nearer London, where people can crawl over the stones, get stoned, do the things that are banned at the real Stonehenge. But there really is a meaning to her art: a utopian faith. The video of her one-day event on a Dutch beach, First Woman on the Moon, is unexpectedly lyrical; the seashore is a collision of lovely sands and vile industry, with a spewing refinery behind the dunes. As the spacewoman and her friends explore sandy craters in the evening sun, the landscape and its inhabitants look sublime. Rather than deflationary, space travel becomes real as we land on this strange and mysterious place, earth.