Spiral Bound Scott Myles
21.11.15 – 19.12.15 Solo Exhibition Meyer Riegger, Berlin
Meyer Riegger is delighted to present Spiral Bound, the third solo exhibition in the gallery of the Scottish artist Scott Myles. Best before All these products are on the point of entering the market as commodities. But they linger on the threshold. From this epoch derives the arcades and intérieurs, the exhibition halls and panoramas. They are residues of a dream world […] With the destabilizing of the market economy, we begin to recognize the monuments of the bourgeoisie as ruins even before …
Meyer Riegger is delighted to present Spiral Bound, the third solo exhibition in the gallery of the Scottish artist Scott Myles.
All these products are on the point of entering the market as commodities. But they linger on the threshold. From this epoch derives the arcades and intérieurs, the exhibition halls and panoramas. They are residues of a dream world […] With the destabilizing of the market economy, we begin to recognize the monuments of the bourgeoisie as ruins even before they have crumbled.’ (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project)
In July 2015 Scott Myles undertook a pilgrimage of sorts to the West End Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. The motivation for the journey was artistic and speculative rather than religious: Myles’s interest in this particular site was piqued when he learned that the West End congregation worship in a repurposed catalogue showroom, one of eight extraordinary structures designed by James Wines of SITE architects for Best Products in the 1970s and early 1980s. Wines’s buildings often played with the appearance of instability, porosity or ruin, with their façades fabricated as crumbling or peeling, for instance. In the years since they were constructed, however, they have themselves been subject to ruination through the financial collapse of the Best chain, and the subsequent dismantling of their decorative facades or – in most cases – their complete demolition. Only the 1980 ‘Forest Showroom,’ in which a line of trees intrudes between the façade and the building itself, as if overrun by the depredations of time and nature, still stands in anything like its original form. In the ownership of the Presbyterian Church since 1999, it serves not only as a place of worship but also as a place of refuge for asylum seekers, and for the last ten years as a food bank. As Myles discovered, where once Best’s consumer goods were displayed for sale, the ‘showroom’ is now arrayed with tinned foodstuffs and other basic items awaiting free collection, organised according to simple categories on immaculate steel shelving units. What Myles found when he reached his goal, then, was a commercial retail showroom built as a ‘ruin-in-reverse,’ itself made obsolete by commercial collapse, which resurfaces as a site of belief, support, display and exchange. In all these regards, it resonates uncannily with key premises in Myles’s own practice, and his encounter with this now unassuming and unmarked place has produced a number of new works (including this artist’s book), that set out to capture something of that resonance.
Myles’s interest in SITE’s practice had already produced two key works, both of which appropriate Wine’s staggered façade for the Cutler Ridge Showroom. With Displaced Façade (Hotel for Sonia Rosso) (2011) Myles turned that façade into the interior of a hotel bedroom in Turin, rendering it as a dreamscape. With Displaced Façade (for DCA) (2012) he used the same form, albeit on a much larger scale, to allegorize the history of a building which he had known as a derelict garage workshop in his childhood, but had undergone regeneration into a white-walled gallery in the 1990s. These works can be seen as part of Myles’s wider exploration of the psychical and political dimensions of the built environment, and of how both interior and exterior spaces might come to bear meaning and shape experience. In this exploration, forms of commercial display have often mingled with more abstract forms of image making, painting or casting techniques, as in his ‘un-shelf’ works, which employ marbled sections of shelving that support only inverted versions of themselves, and which might resonate with the more prosaic shelf units in the West End Church. Apposite in this context too would be Myles’s recasting of elements of store furniture and exterior signage from the UK furniture retail chain Habitat. These works exemplify his approach to the spaces and forms of contemporary commerce, appropriating material that had become available due to the closing down of Habitat stores, but transforming these remainders, through operations of displacement and abstraction, into ciphers not only of economic collapse but also of more subjective and personal states of habitation or interiority.
Such reworking of urban detritus does not revel in melancholic ruin-lust or dwell on the poetics of obsolescence. A crucial aspect of Myles’s reuse of existing artworks, buildings, or materials emerges from his interest in reciprocality and gift exchange as paradigms for such activity, and is predicated on keeping this material and his own work mobile and free from introspection and retrospection alike. The complex relationship of gifting to commerce and to debt underpins his series of unique, framed works made on the reverse of freely distributed Felix Gonzalez-Torres posters, for instance. Likewise, Potlatch (2014), a recent project for Fondation Lafayette in which Myles replaced the usual wrapping paper throughout the Lafayette Maison department store in Paris with his own prints of the former home of Guy Debord, so that an artwork was freely given, but in the same moment ruined as a pristine image as it was wrapped around a commodity. These works, amongst others, demonstrate Myles’s keen sense of the dialectic between art and commerce, a dialectic that the appropriated fragment or offered gift cannot arrest or resolve, but does manage to make manifest and subject to processes of revaluation and revision.
These processes are not just at work in Myles’s art, but can be identified in the material he works with too. As part of the same journey that took him to the former Forest Showroom, Myles visited James Wines in New York, interviewing him about the Best showrooms and his migration from art to architecture. He visited a wedding chapel that Wines inserted within a Las Vegas Denny’s diner that SITE designed in 2012. The chapel forms a strange pendant to the Forest Showroom, which now also, of course, houses a church inside a commercial space. The Denny’s is adjacent to John Jerde’s famous Fremont Street Experience, a juxtaposition that points out how much Wines’s postmodernism – filtered as it is through Robert Smithson’s entropic preoccupations – differs from other, more celebratory, versions that also ‘learned from Las Vegas.’ This difference is important, I think, to Myles’s particular interest in Wines and in the fate of his buildings. Here, as elsewhere, he seems to effect a form of profanation as Giorgio Agamben describes it, an ‘entirely inappropriate use (or, rather, reuse) of the sacred,’ aimed at reclaiming things from the realm of spectacle.
During his journey from New York to Las Vegas via Richmond, Myles also conducted research in the Virginia Historical Society, where the archives of Sydney and Frances Lewis, the owners of Best, are held. The Lewises were prolific art collectors, and their donations form a major part of the holdings of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Looking through the correspondence between the Lewises and artists including Andy Warhol, Robert Morris and Claes Oldenburg, Myles came across a remarkable letter to Wines, dated October 15th 1965. In it, Sydney Lewis remarks on an art auction he had recently attended, noting the vagaries of a market in which Gottlieb’s stock was down, while works by Barnett Newman and Henry Moore fetched astonishing prices. This comment on the unstable financial value of artworks is followed immediately by an offer – in line with Lewis’s preferred modus operandi – that he arranges to pay Wines for a piece of his artwork by allowing him to choose items from the BEST catalogue in exchange. ‘You could order as you desired,’ Lewis assures Wines, in a formulation that echoes the dream all product catalogues surely intend to inculcate in those browsing through them. No doubt Myles must have been forcefully struck here by the correspondence with his own interest in gift exchange, and by the unexpected connection between gifting and the relationship that later led to Wines’s commission to build Best’s flagship showrooms.
In previous works, as noted above, Myles has sometimes played out the obligations of reciprocity that are fundamental to gift exchange. In dealing with the complexities of the repurposed Forest Showroom he has taken a somewhat different tack, giving back to the site a sense of its former use in works that affect a series of double exposures. In a new series of canvases which depict basic goods on the West End Church’s food bank shelves, Myles overlays each canvas with screen-printed ‘True-grain’ film. The True-Grain bears partial images of photographs from Myles’s trip to the former Forest Showroom, to Wines, and to Las Vegas. We see, for instance: a door in what remains of the Peeling Project showroom (now stripped bare of its façade and an undecorated shed housing a pawn shop) – the door patterned so as to make a coincidental rhyme with the broken brickwork in various of SITE’s showroom facades; we see Myles’s hand holding the keys to Wines’s New York office; we look through a gap in the Forest Showroom’s porous façade; a Best store sign now decorating the café of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the exterior of the Denny’s in which SITE’s wedding chapel is to be found. The double visions that result from the overlaying of printed film on printed canvas (or in this book, the overlaying of acetate on paper) juxtapose disparate yet connected times and places, but also differing yet coexistent systems of value and modes of existence for objects.
Placed in envelopes behind Myles’s canvases, tucked into their frames, are copies of the letter from Sydney Lewis to James Wines offering to trade Best goods for artworks. Here Myles implies that a correspondence about an exchange of commodities for artworks might be a key to grasping what is at stake in the double images on the works’ surfaces. But that key is withheld too, from the viewer who does not acquire the work, or at least pick up this book. The works offer another possible key to opening them up, however. Each of the canvases is exactly the size of Myles’s studio door. They are attuned, that is to say, to the very threshold that the artwork must traverse in order to engage with the world or to realise a value within it. Equally, the studio door is that threshold which the artist crosses to go into the world in pursuit of her or his work and also, perhaps, to immure themselves away from that work and its values. ‘The business world knows how to make use of the threshold,’ as Walter Benjamin noted in The Arcades Project. But so too do artists, and in his engagement with James Wines’s extraordinary facades, which themselves set up highly charged entrances into the dream worlds of domestic commodities, Myles effects above all a meditation on the thresholds between gift and sale, ruin and reuse, sacred and profane illuminations, interiority and exteriority, that are continually explored and traversed in his work.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition, a new essay by art historian Dominic Paterson has been commissioned and is featured in an artist’s book, Spiral Bound made in collaboration between Scott Myles and the London-based graphic design agency, Kellenberger-White.
Die Galerie Meyer-Riegger freut sich, mit Spiral Bound die dritte Einzelausstellung des schottischen Künstlers Scott Myles in ihren Räumen präsentieren zu dürfen. Im Juli 2015 unternahm der Künstler eine Forschungsreise, um eines der acht außerordentlichen Bauten zu besichtigen, die James Wines, Gründer der Architekturfirma SITE, in den 1970er und frühen 1980er Jahren für das Unternehmen Best Products entworfen hat. Von diesen Bauten steht nur noch der 1980 am Stadtrand von Richmond im …
Die Galerie Meyer-Riegger freut sich, mit Spiral Bound die dritte Einzelausstellung des schottischen Künstlers Scott Myles in ihren Räumen präsentieren zu dürfen.
Im Juli 2015 unternahm der Künstler eine Forschungsreise, um eines der acht außerordentlichen Bauten zu besichtigen, die James Wines, Gründer der Architekturfirma SITE, in den 1970er und frühen 1980er Jahren für das Unternehmen Best Products entworfen hat. Von diesen Bauten steht nur noch der 1980 am Stadtrand von Richmond im US-Bundesstaat Virginia errichtete „Forest Showroom“ in annähernd ursprünglicher Gestalt da. Wie bei mehreren anderen Best-Showrooms ließ Wines auch hier ein Gebäude entstehen, das von Anfang an wie eine Ruine wirkte – zwischen Fassade und Gebäude an sich schiebt sich eine Baumreihe, als sei der Bau bereits dem Zahn der Zeit sowie dem Eindringen der Natur zum Opfer gefallen. Das seit 1999 im Besitz der Presbyterianischen Kirche stehende Gebäude dient heute nicht nur als Gotteshaus und Andachtsstätte, sondern auch als Zufluchtsort für Asylsuchende sowie auch seit zehn Jahren als karitative Tafel. Wo einst die Konsumgüter des Best-Unternehmens zum Verkauf ausgestellt wurden, stehen im heutigen „Showroom“ – wie Myles feststellen konnte – auf makellosen Stahlregalen aufgereihte, nach einfachen Kategorien sortierte Nahrungsmittel in Dosen sowie andere Dinge des täglichen Bedarfs, die man umsonst mitnehmen kann. Was Myles beim Erreichen seines Reiseziels vorfand, war also ein ursprünglich als „umgekehrte Ruine“ oder „Ruine-im-Rückwärtsgang“ gebauter kommerzieller Verkaufsraum, der inzwischen selbst infolge der Firmenpleite obsolet geworden war und anschließend als Ort des Glaubens, des sozialen Beistands, des Ausstellens und des Austausches wieder ins Leben gerufen wurde.
Die Inhaber von Best Products, Sydney und Frances Lewis, waren auch passionierte Kunstsammler, die Kunstwerke oft direkt von den Künstlern im Austausch gegen Konsumgüter aus dem Best-Katalog erwarben. Der Band Spiral Bound nimmt dieses umfunktionierte Gebäude, die Umtausch-Praxis Waren gegen Kunst sowie das karitative Anbieten von Dingen des täglichen Bedarfs als Ausgangspunkt und Anlass, die langjährige Auseinandersetzung des Künstlers mit den Erscheinungsformen der bebauten Umwelt und den Wirtschaftsformen des Gabentausches um eine weitere Facette zu bereichern.
In einer neuen Werkserie, welche die grundlegenden Güter auf den Regalen des Lebensmittellagers der Richmonder West End Church zum Gegenstand hat, überlagert Myles jede Leinwand per Siebdruck mit „True-Grain“ Film, wobei alle Leinwände genau die gleichen Ausmaße wie die Tür zu seinem Glasgower Atelier haben. Der überlagerte Film zeigt mit echter Körnung partielle Bilder von Fotoaufnahmen, die Myles während der Besichtigung des ehemaligen „Forest Showrooms“ sowie in Wines’ New Yorker Haus, im Best-Archiv und in einer Hochzeitskapelle innerhalb eines unlängst von Wines entworfenen Speiselokals in Las Vegas gemacht hat. Die zweifache Optik, die aus dem Überlagern von gedrucktem Film auf gedruckte Leinwand – bzw. im Künstlerbuch von dem Überlagern von Azetat auf Papier – resultiert, setzt disparate, aber innerlich zusammenhängende Zeiten und Orte nebeneinander und stellt gleichermaßen unterschiedliche, aber gleichzeitige Wertsysteme bzw. Existenzweisen von Gegenständen einander gegenüber. Myles gelingt es damit insbesondere, eine Reflexion über die in seinem Oeuvre fortwährend erkundeten und überschrittenen Schwellen zwischen Schenken und Verkaufen, Verwahrlosung und Wiederverwendung, sakraler und weltlicher Illumination, Innerlichkeit und Äußerlichkeit in Gang zu setzen.
Text: Dominic Paterson
Übersetzung: Prof. Dr. Richard Humphrey
Anlässlich der Ausstellung wurde der Kunsthistoriker Dominic Paterson gebeten, einen neuen Essay beizusteuern, der als Einführungstext dem Künstlerbuch Spiral Bound, das in Zusammenarbeit zwischen dem Künstler und der Londoner Graphic-Design-Agentur Kellenberger-White entstanden ist, vorangestellt wurde.