Bruce Benderson Plattform   Upstairs  Talk

Bruce Benderson, an American journalist, novelist, and essayist, talks about his essay “Against Marriage” in connection with the exhibition ‘futurbella’ by Jean-Michel Wicker.

Against Marriage
A satirical essay, ‘Against Marriage’ was created for the Whitney Biennale.
Lurking under the bland banner of marriage-for-all is the specter of nuclear family values, with all their connotations of intolerance, xenophobia and child protection schemes. Marriage today is as full of reli- gious strategies, political goals and power imbalances as it ever was during its long history and remains the mainstay of conservative thinkers and the Church. Its story is that of one of the most unstable institutions ever touted as the cement of civilization. Why haven’t same-sex supporters of marriage fought to multiply and strengthen the powers of domestic partnership instead, especially since our creative urban environments as a whole have always been products of the culture of the unmarried—including gays and lesbians? Or are we merely witnessing another stage in the co-optation of a minority group, as it drives its more marginal, less “presentable” (and unmarried) members toward pariah status?

Bruce Benderson
Bruce Benderson is most known for his seventh book, a memoir called ‘The Romanian: Story of an Obsession’, which won France’s literary award, the Prix de Flore, in translation.Benderson’s most recent English-language novel is ‘Pacific Agony’. In 2008, a collection of his essays from the last ten years, ‘Sex and Isolation’, was published by University of Wisconsin Press. He is also the author of the novel ‘User’ and the story collection Pretending to Say No. In 2007, Benderson published a personal encyclopedia of the American counterculture for a French audience, entitled ‘Concentré de Counterculture’. Benderson’s first book written directly in French, ‘Transhumain’, about the future interfacing of technology and biology, was published by Payot in 2012.
Benderson's scholarly works have been published in a host of academic and literary journals, including The Review of Contemporary Fiction, American Letters and Commentary, The Portable Lower East Side, The Literary Review, Between C&D, Maatstaf, The Fiction Review and La Nouvelle Revue Française.
As a journalist, Benderson has written in English or French for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, nest, French Vogue, Vogue Hommes, Beaux Arts Magazine, L’Humanité, Madame Figaro, Blackbook, Libération, and numerous other American and French publications. For five years, he was the author of a monthly column for the French magazine Têtu. He has also worked closely with three Hollywood personalities, Leslie Caron, for her 2010 memoir Thank Heaven; Hill Harper, for his 2013 book Letters to an Incarcerated Brother; and Raquel Welch, for her book Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. This year he wrote the subtitles for the French film Race d’ep, to be released on DVD by Artists Space.He has taught creative writing, urban culture and French literature at Deep Springs College in Dyer, Nevada.

futurbella by Jean-Michel Wicker
The book as both object and idea is central to the French artist Jean-Michel Wicker’s varied oeuvre. Along with other printed and perishable media such as fanzines, flyers, posters and low-tech mechanical sculptures, the book functions as a parallel space (both literally and metaphorically) where a wealth of information, images, texts and fragments of meaning are constantly re-edited and collapsed together. For Wicker, it has become a site and an opportunity to express and transgress ideas of sexuality, independence, resistance, queer politics and identity. In this way he might be seen to continue a long tradition of the use of fanzines, pamphlets and other self-published media in the areas of activism, underground music and culture, and grass-roots politics.

In recent years Wicker has gradually moved away from traditional fanzine distribution in order to increasingly exploit the space of the art world (the gallery), as a platform. Some of the same formal vocabulary still prevails, with the book and the alphabet as central cues, but now expanded sculpturally into space. Wicker’s collage-based objects and “scroll-books” take up a deliberately ambiguous position, sitting somewhere between object, text and image. His “anti-books” and book objects explode the notion and definition of the ‘book’, consisting of various interventions, adaptations and appendages, including lamps, buttons, bubbles and often lowly, homemade and found materials.

In Wicker’s works the ‘letter’ becomes sign, image and method. As an overall artistic project he has “edited down” the whole alphabet to consist exclusively of the letters “B”, “b” and “e”. These e’s and b’s are like a virus that permeates all of Wicker’s production: operating as objects or ‘things’, as well as meaning-bearing letters, ambiguous visual signs and pure image. His work might be read as a conscious attempt to destroy or disrupt language, as well as objects and situations; to promote and elaborate a kind of ‘non-sense’. But the alphabet is also an organizing principle for Wicker’s exhibitions as a whole, with various elements and characters remixed and recomposed in endless combinations, realised through his intimate engagement with, and performance of, a space.

The exhibition futurbella takes as its point of departure Bergen Kunsthall’s horizontal architecture, and exploits the dynamics between the gallery spaces to create constant shifts of perspective; from the show’s overall spatial scenography to the information-rich, intimate space of the individual book page. With an underlying reference to the Italian Futurism of the beginning of the twentieth century, the exhibition, in addition to books, fanzines, book objects and drawings, will also include a number of new kinetic works, smoke machines and papier-maché sculptures.

Jean-Michel Wicker (b. 1970) lives and works in Berlin.

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