All Access World
Agathe Snow's Commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim
Dance marathons, conceptual dinner parties, ephemeral sculptures made from the flotsam of the street-Agathe Snow's unique and for the most part interactive projects have made her into one of the young stars on the American art scene. Now, with her project "All Access World," she has transformed the Deutsche Guggenheim into a utopian field of experimentation.
||On a clear day you can see forever. With his back to the Brandenburg Gate, a young man sings the mournful song from the Vincente Minnelli film of the same name. He’s part of an absurd-looking procession winding its way through the bitter cold Berlin night. Children are carrying glowing sticks; an older man with long gray hair is leading a black mule and two dogs on leashes. A camera team and photographers surround the group as it strolls down the boulevard Unter den Linden with Agathe Snow, scattering pink pebbles on the sidewalk. The procession’s destination is the Deutsche Guggenheim, where Snow’s installation All Access World is on show.
It’s the Long Night of the Museums. Visitors flock to the exhibition hall at Unter den Linden, which feels like a cross between a theater prop repository, sculpture park, and walk-in collage. Snow’s exhibition combines biographical references, snapshots, scenes of friendship, departure, and personal happiness with the great and monumental. In preparation for the show, the New York-based Corsican artist traveled around the world for several months to national monuments and global trademarks that hold meaning for millions of people—such as the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., Moscow’s Red Square, and the pyramids in Giza. The impressions and research of this trip, which gave rise to countless interviews, texts, and sketches, resulted in All Access World, which poses as the shop or showroom of a fictional company advertising a single product: a free society of world citizens without borders, hierarchies, or nationalism.
Snow, of course, is founder and CEO of the company; in her introductory greeting she writes: "You might have heard […] that we make, that we sell, that we dream in monuments famous and recognizable, possible and desirable; that we find a use in the useless and practice the unpractical; […] that we see the world as a place for collecting shapes and wonders to be reproduced and mass marketed, as a place accessible to all, a place where anyone can own and choose..." In her exhibition, Snow is a provider of imaginary services whose firm All Access World basically redesigns, dreams up, and builds monuments on order from all over the world—"it also comes in pink, it moves about easily on its set of wheels, and it folds for easy storage."
At the same time, the artist sets a good example and makes her own world available to all. Anyone who so desires can take part in this gigantic rebuilt world on show at the Deutsche Guggenheim and push around her fantastic monuments on a huge map. The Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, and the Colosseum merge with the New York skyline or the International Space Station ISS. During her extensive research trips to landmark sites around the world, Snow realized that her motifs can also be viewed as exaggerated sculptural objects often made up of basic geometric forms such as pyramids, domes, and columns. These archetypal elements recur in her brightly colored assemblages, which are assembled together from household objects, simple materials, and things found in the street. In contrast with their models, these mobile and playful monuments carry no ascribed historical significance; instead, they stand for movement and change, for the dissolution of cultural and national boundaries.
Snow herself repeatedly appears on the huge wall collages like a wanderer through political and cultural history: front page headlines of The New York Post announce Michael Jackson’s death; the World Trade Center reaches up into the sky; Lincoln gazes sternly down from his pedestal; countless supermodels are grouped together in clusters. Snow juxtaposes collective history with her own story, in which personal events possess a historical dimension and the power to turn the world upside-down. Snow erects monuments to these moments and encounters. In one of her sculptures, the arcs of the yellow McDonald’s logo adorn the Arc de Triomphe—the result of her first romantic experience, as she remarks in the catalogue: "Triumphant in Paris, my first real kiss happened on top of the Arc de Triomphe. It meant a lot more than a peck on a boy’s lips. I was standing on top of the world, on top of the unknown soldier, silent sacrifice and me giggling, ten and shy, solemnly having the time of my life. First time I had McDonald’s as well, that was a real big day..." For Snow, the moment coalesces into emotional architecture.
All Access World is the 16th artist's commission for the Deutsche Guggenheim. The series, initiated in 1997 by Deutsche Bank and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, enables contemporary artists to realize ambitious projects. Along with established artists such as Anish Kapoor and Gerhard Richter, there is a special focus on artists from the young contemporary American scene. In 2007, for instance, the Deutsche Guggenheim presented Phoebe Washburn's "grass factory" installation, titled Regulated Fool's Milk Meadow.
An exploration of the themes of borders, community, and exchange runs throughout all of the work of the 1976-born Corsican artist, who moved with her mother to New York at the age of 11. Her earlier interactive works included dance marathons that took place in 2005 in a squat close to Ground Zero; in their combination of excess, happiness, aggression, and hysteria, they reflected the psychological turbulence the city experienced following 9/11. Snow also organized a series of conceptual dinners in stairwells and on balconies-fleeting interventions that left no traces. These works can be understood as a foreigner's attempt to create temporary forms of home and family.
In the early 2000s, Snow belonged to a young rebellious art clique that included Dan Colen, Ryan McGinley-both of whom have also become internationally successful-and her ex-husband Dash Snow, who died at a young age. The members of this scene, who stylized themselves as outsiders, produced provocative works characterized by a self-destructive lifestyle and the mood of a city traumatized by 9/11. Snow's work, however, was always markedly different than that of her male friends. In contrast to their masculine nihilism, she was more concerned with feelings of redemption and community. In his portrait of the artist for the Deutsche Guggenheim Magazine, Christopher Bollen talks of her "post-apocalyptic optimism"-and despite all adversities, this feeling, this optimism also characterize Snow's work for the Deutsche Guggenheim.
Agathe Snow: All Access World
Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin
January 28 through March 30, 2011
For All Access World, Agathe Snow and her team have interviewed people all around the world about the monuments most important to them. On the occasion of the current exhibition, the Deutsche Guggenheim has started the online campaign My Monument. You can now upload photographs of the monuments that mean the most to you and comment on them on the museum's Facebook and Flickr pages, whether they are sculptures, plazas, or buildings. Prizes will be raffled among the entries, including books, films, and as main prize a Berlin trip planned especially for you. The submitted photographs will also be presented on the Deutsche Guggenheim website.