/ by Laura Kochman

Two years ago, I bought a giant neon art book on Paul Thek. Almost four years ago, I walked into the Reina Sophia museum in Madrid on a whim, found myself lost in a giant retrospective on an artist I'd never heard of. A cavernous procession of installations and painted newspaper. Body parts everywhere under neon plexiglass and in every image an image of the artist himself. A year ago my parents wanted to see Edward Hopper at the Whitney, and I tagged along, and I found myself again in a cavernous space. A projection of the artist's face on the wall, forty feet high, his body suspended from the ceiling and covered with fish. That familiar tar baby. The notebooks laid open across a table, frustratingly under glass. The same bodies reconstructed, this is not a linear narrative I have to tell. The book weighs a lot, and it cost a lot to ship it. The artist died the year that I was born. I have seen the neon in the corner of my room for two years, keeping watch in the corner, the relic in the reliquary I confuse myself if I am perhaps the relic if the artist's body is the relic what can we say about replica. Chris Dercon asks: How, today, can we install and exhibit fragile or temporary works originally produced in the 1960s and 1970s? How can we deal in a responsible and creative way with past oeuvres? Can we reconstruct lost or damaged works at our own will? Can we remake temporary installations? Can we re-install site-specific installations in new contexts? Can we construct projects that the artist only conceived on paper?

Referencing Guy Brett, he adds: It would seem that all exhibitions are mediated versions of something which can never be completely identified or fixed, and issues of death and renewal can never be escaped.

Again I find myself chasing the image of the artist. This is all a really dramatic way of saying, I think I've figured out what I want to write for a particular semester project. It's been following me for years. A lot of what I've written and how I think about writing and art has been influenced by Thek, on a chance encounter in a museum in another country where I was briefly made a work in progress and set loose.