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Hans Ulrich Obrist & The Poetry of Rubbish

29 October 2015

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories. Follow @Rakewelltweets.

It is with great pleasure that Rakewell hears the cleaners at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano have decided to follow in a grand tradition identified by Apollo’s Maggie Gray not so long ago. When the unfortunate contractors turned up to do their rounds on Monday morning, they found the place trashed; cigarette butts and empty bottles of champagne covered the floor, while confetti littered the gallery’s walls and furniture. No doubt cursing their employers’ hedonistic ways, they set about binning the sorry aftermath of the bacchanal.

Job done, they could have been forgiven for giving themselves a pat on the back. Unfortunately, congratulations were not the order of the day: the mess was in fact an installation by Milanese artists Goldschmied & Chiari, intended to satirise the political corruption of Italy in the 1980s.


The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones has described these domestic slip-ups as ‘proof of [contemporary art’s] enduring vitality’, which is certainly one way of putting it. One figure who might not be so keen is Austrian artist Gustav Metzger, the ‘father of auto-destruction’, whose self immolating work of the 1960s inspired the avant-garde of the time with its anti materialist message. In 2004, cleaners unaware of his work’s significance binned one of his installations the night before a show was due to open.

Metzger himself made a rare public pronouncement on Tuesday, announcing ‘a Worldwide call to Remember Nature’. The notice, which is illustrated by a scrunched up piece of notepaper adorned with the scrawled legend ‘REMEMBER NATURE’, has been issued via London’s Serpentine Gallery, the venue for his 2009 exhibition ‘Decades, 1959–2009’.

Interestingly, Metzger’s paper ball bears more than a passing resemblance to a set of doodles Serpentine co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist contributed to the White Review magazine’s recent fundraising auction. Obrist’s handiwork, described by the magazine as a ‘unique, handwritten poem picture’, appears to consist of the word ‘VeRy’ scrawled several times on a piece of blank paper.

Indeed, Rakewell suspects that ‘blank’ may be the operative word here. ‘VeRy blank’, even. In any case, the Serpentine is well advised to call in the Cleaners of Bolzano, pronto.

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