Mix 9 Artists and What Do You Get?

One of the goals of a well-tuned barbershop quartet is the distinct “fifth voice,” which is an acoustic phenomenon found when four rich voices sing certain chords. The harmonics align just right to create a fifth tone.

Such was my hope with the Walker Art Center’s current exhibit, 9 Artists, which brings together the works of eight contemporary and very different artists from around the world (Yael Bartana, Liam Gillick, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Renszo Martens, Bjarne Melgaard, Nástio Mosquito, Hito Steyerl and Danh Vo) to see if that unseen artist will appear via the interactions of the works on display.


Liam Gillick, Walker Art Center

Liam Gillick, The State Itself Becomes A Super Whatnot, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis


This interaction between pieces often takes the form of noise. When looking at one piece or another, visitors are often distracted by the sound from a nearby video installation and/or a vacuum set to turn on and off randomly.

It’s always difficult to get into a show that is heavily reliant on video installations, several of which were more than one hour. Joining a video in progress always feels extremely disorienting, but waiting who knows how long to try to catch a video at the beginning seems like a poor choice in time management.

That being said, my favorite piece at this exhibit was a video installation by Hito Steyerl titled, “How Not To Be Seen. A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File.” At 14 minutes, it was one of the shorter video installations in the exhibit, which enabled easier engagement. It’s a work that speaks to the increasing lack of privacy in the world – a timely topic with such organizations as the NSA tapping seemingly everything everyone does. The video speaks specifically to an increasing use of drone technology and provides tongue-in-cheek “tips” on how to become invisible. Simultaneously it questions how people are able to disappear (or are unwillingly erased by various governments) from a world that has become a digital data minefield.


Hito Steyerl, Walker Art Center

Hito Steyerl, How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Hito Steyerl, Walker Art Center

Hito Steyerl, How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis


Organized loosely as an educational film, it includes surprising facts about how photography has improved since 1996, when the smallest pixel in a photograph from satellites represented 12 meters. Today, cameras can capture as little as 0.25 meters per pixel. A recurring image in the piece is the U.S. Air Force test pattern to measure photograph resolution from the sky since 1951.  It’s a short leap to see this as an instructional movie to warn people how easily they can be spotted from the sky and what little can realistically be done.

What makes this more fascinating is the liberal amount of humor in the computerized voiceover, the three lovely Motown ladies at the end singing “When will I see you again?” the people in green suits shadowboxing, and the dancers in burkas. The title and theme even mirrors a Monty Python sketch (wherein being seen means you will be shot or blown up). How seriously we are supposed to take this piece is unclear. In any case, it’s utterly impressive and mesmerizing.

Other notable works were “I Can’t Work Like This,” by Natascha Sadr Haghighian. The arrangement of failed, bent nails embedded in the wall spells out the message in the negative space. Such a work shows the tools of displaying art without ever putting a traditional art object on display. Turn around, however, and the wall is absolutely filled with kitchy artifacts arranged in a display by Danh Vo.


Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Walker Art Center

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, I Can’t Work Like This, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Walker Art Center

Natascha Sadr Haghighian, De Paso, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis


Be sure to check out “And Europe Will Be Stunned,” a video trilogy by Yael Bartana that depicts a fictional political movement to bring Jewish people back to Poland while also incorporating provocative imagery reminiscent of both Nazi and communist Russian symbology. It was difficult to hear the one I watched, as the proximity to the other two made for lots of overlapping sound.

The exhibit is ultimately hit and miss, but there are enough hits to make it worth a visit. As for the possible ninth artist, I’m not so sure he or she emerges from the various works set together, but there was plenty enough to experience regardless.



Hito Steyerl, Walker Art Center

Hito Steyerl, Red Alert, 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Leave a Reply

by Joel Hagen
in Focus on the American West

Wed Development by THX88.net Digital Art Factory