Aleksandra Mir


Institute of Contemporary Art, Press Release, London, Jan 2003

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

The Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Publicness, an exhibition featuring three artists, Jens Haaning, Matthieu Laurette, and Aleksandra Mir at the ICA, from 29 January to 16 March 2003. At a moment when migration, globalisation, and questions of 'home' dominate the agenda, Publicness is a very timely exhibition.

Jens Haaning, Matthieu Laurette and Aleksandra Mir have received much critical acclaim for their works, which both question and explore different legal, economic, social and cultural systems. Collectively, they operate between Europe, Asia, Australia, the United States, North and South America. This ICA exhibition offers UK audiences a major opportunity to explore the work of these artists. All three of them work with and interrogate the notion of the public realm. The majority of their works are not conceived primarily for gallery display but are developed within larger economies.

At the ICA, Publicness will be dealt with on many different levels: the artist as a public persona, the institution as a public space, the production and circulation of public information and other relevant themes. The artists will also explore the question of how diverse public projects are presented within the gallery context, whilst maintaining the significance and meaning of the work. The title Publicness may sound slightly odd, out of place, or possibly foreign. However, the word also promises a sense of generosity, a desire to give something to the public and to share certain ideals.

The exhibition at the ICA will offer a variety of works, ranging from projects either under development or constantly evolving, completed and documented projects or proposals for projects that have not yet or may never be realised. Most of these projects position the spectator in direct contact with processes that exist beyond the museum or gallery. Rather than seeking to simply make a critical commentary, in most cases they propose projects that function within different social or economical structures and codes. Following the shared logic of the artists' practice, this exhibition will feature works that engage with a range of issues such as migration, travel, consumerism, marketing strategies, art production systems and mass-media culture.

Publicness will serve to illuminate the way each of these artists work and will reveal their experimental methods and practices. The show will take the form of a three-way conversation among the artists. Although they have each developed projects in various locations, they have always been aware of one another's practice, and have on occasion invited each other to participate in collaborative exhibitions and publications. This exhibition at the ICA offers a unique opportunity for all three artists to combine forces and to present some newly commissioned pieces alongside already existing works. These projects will follow each artist's own particular trajectory, while becoming a point of departure for a dialogue from which they hope to develop other collaborative gestures and events.

The exhibition is curated by Cristina Ricupero, Associate Director, ICA, London and Curator at NIFCA (Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art), Helsinki.


Jens Haaning

One of the works presented by Jens Haaning, Redistribution, will follow the logic of the developing series "swapping works" which create a one-to-one exchange between an art institution and the external environment. Redistribution will consist of removing all the chairs from the ICA cafe and placing them in a street in Pakistan where anyone who needs a chair can just simply pick one up. At the ICA cafe there will be a framed photograph of the chairs in situ in Pakistan. This somewhat "Robin Hood" act, in terms of taking from the rich to give to the poor, aims to question the Western World's perception of, and relation to, the rest of the world and to raise issues around topics such as the global economy, culture and cultural exchange.

Jens Haaning will also show Foreigners Free. This work offers free entrance for foreign visitors to art institutions. As in many of his works, Foreigners Free deals with issues of immigration and racism, acknowledging the complexities of cultural integration on both sides. Foreigners Free has been previously shown in institutions such as the Nordic Biennial-Momentum in Norway, Le Magasin, Grenoble in France, and the Tokyo Opera City Gallery in Japan.

Jens Haaning will also present a series of photographs featuring a number of first generation refugees living in Copenhagen in 2000: Faysal, Antonio, Dennis, Deniz, Shabeer, Radovan, Hakan, Ömer. Borrowing from the aesthetics of style magazines, each photograph contains a written text with the name of the person and a description of what she or he is wearing, for example: Deniz -"tracksuit trousers by Adidas 200 DKK. Sweatshirt by Benetton bought in Turkey for the equivalent of 80 DKK. White T-Shirt 20 DKK. Shoes by Fila 600 DKK. Nylon belt purse, present. Socks by Adidas 30 DKK. Underwear 30 DKK at Fotex."

Finally, Jens will show Ma,lesh, a 3 x 7 metre illuminated sign depicting the Algerian Arabic expression Ma,lesh (Who cares?). The sign was designed for a housing estate in a suburb of the French city of Besancon, but was censored by the local authorities. Approximately ten other projects developed by the artist will also be presented in the exhibition.

Matthieu Laurette

Matthieu Laurette will show Apparitions: 1993—1995, a fifteen minute video shown on a wall mounted television set, presenting a series of 'apparitions' or 'appearances' which took place on talk and game shows on French television. In March 1993, Matthieu Laurette took part in the TV game show Tournez Manege / The Dating Game. While on set, he declared himself to be an artist and since then has been using the television medium both as a workplace and a working tool. A few days before each programme was broadcast, he would send invitations to people in the art world inviting them to watch the show. Whether as applauding audience member or talk show guest, he was rarely introduced as an artist. His 'apparitions' or 'appearances' owe as much to Guy Debord's idea of transformation of life into an endless accumulation of moments of spectacle as they do to Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame.

Matthieu Laurette will also present Citizenship Project, an on-going project since 1998. It began by his enquiring and documenting how to legally obtain citizenship in as many different countries as possible. Essentially the project exists as a website database (, providing information on citizenship and immigration resources. As an extension of this on-going project, he has also developed his research in a variety of media, different contexts and countries, according to different opportunities. For instance, when invited to participate in the Venice Biennale in 2001, Matthieu Laurette, presented Other Countries Pavilions/Citizenship Project (2001). On this occasion he asked Harald Szeemann, curator of the Venice Biennale, to write letters to Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives at the United Nations, in New York, for the 112 countries that were not represented in the Venice Biennale that year. In these letters Szeemann asked each country if they could provide Laurette with a citizenship if, in return, he would represent them in the Biennale. These letters will be presented at the ICA and for the duration of the exhibition, visitors will also be invited to assist Matthieu Laurette in obtaining further citizenships either in the form of legal advice, financial donations, sponsorship, accommodation or other services.

In addition Matthieu Laurette and the ICA will organise Deja vu —The Fifth International Lookalike Convention which will be held at the ICA on the day of the Private View. Alongside this live event Matthieu Laurette will present four prototypes of posters which were produced after each Deja vu—International Lookalike Convention was organised. Previously held at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2000; Castelo de Rivoli, Torino, 2001; Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Australia, 2002, and the Artsonje Center, Seoul, Korea, each Convention was an event that took place during the opening of an exhibition. On each occasion, numerous lookalikes from the worlds of music, sport, politics and film responded to a nation-wide call and were invited to attend the opening and interact with the public. For each venue, Matthieu Laurette asked a photographer to follow the events and then commissioned a local graphic designer to create a poster of the convention. Video footage of previous lookalike conventions will also be on display at the ICA.

As an "exhibition within an exhibition" Matthieu Laurette will show DRINKS BY: The Beer, Wine and Other Alcohol Archive. Since 1999, Matthieu Laurette has been collecting marketed bottles of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages that have labels conceived, designed or illustrated by modern and contemporary artists, ranging from Pablo Picasso to Damien Hirst. The DRINKS BY archive has been built up primarily from donations, but also from editions purchased by the artist during his worldwide travels, and continues to evolve. For the ICA, Matthieu Laurette will display the DRINKS BY archive as a group show in a series of glass cabinets accompanied by a list on the wall of the more than two hundred artists names and the DRINKS BY logo, which the artist commissioned a graphic design agency to produce. A website ( will also be launched on the occasion of the DRINKS BY show at the ICA. Other projects developed by the artist will also be on display.

Aleksandra Mir

Aleksandra Mir will present Timezone in the ICA lobby. This piece was originally conceived when the artist spent two months in residence at the Sydney Biennale in the Spring of 2002. During this time, she noticed that almost every office in Sydney has a set of world clocks on their walls, representing the number of different international timezones, such as London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. When the artist felt homesick she decided to make her own set of clocks for her studio, to ease her sense of dislocation. On her return to New York, she made a further three new sets including additional cities, specifically for the three art galleries she had started to work with: Gavin Brown's enterprise, NYC; Greengrassi Gallery, London; Jousse Enterprise, Paris. The hand-drawn clocks are presented in one frame and hang in their respective offices and help them to keep track of both the artist, each other and their international trade. The extended version proposed for the ICA lobby will complement the global character of the contemporary world and will provide a public service to people on their way to participate in the wide range of activities that the ICA has to offer.

Aleksandra Mir will also show First Woman on the Moon, a video documentation of a one-day event unfolding on the shores of a beach in Holland in 1999. Planned to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the original moon landing, the project challenges JFK's words ("putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade and bringing him safely back to earth"), by giving a woman the chance to land on the moon before the end of the millennium. With the help of some earth-moving machines, part of the beach was transformed into a lunar landscape where Mir planted the American flag at sunset. Produced by the non-profit organisation Casco Projects, Utrecht, the project came to employ a wide range of economies, ranging from the formation of numerous local personal relations in the small beach village Wiijk aan Wee to an engagement with national media and international corporate sponsors.

Aleksandra Mir will also present a scale model of Stonehenge II, a proposal for a work in a public space. Originally presented to the Artangel/ Times open commission in 2000 (and subsequently rejected), the proposal was to build a Stonehenge replica close to the original, reduce the volume of pedestrian traffic and save this piece of cultural heritage from further destruction. To compensate for the necessary limited access to Stonehenge I, Stonehenge II would allow full access and promote a wide range of activities on its grounds. The project was proposed a second time to students on the RCA Curating course who were asked to join the artist in the production of the project over the summer of 2001. (Also rejected.) The scale model was constructed in 2002. Aleksandra Mir continues to further her ambition to realise this work and hopes to make contact with interested parties who wish to assist.

Other projects developed by the artist specifically for the ICA, will also be shown in the space.