In 2000, Art Basel launched Art Unlimited, an exhibition platform for projects that defy the traditional art fair modes of display, in media such as video projections, large-scale installations, and performance pieces. This year, sixty-one projects will be on view from June 14-17.
In anticipation of the exhibition, we picked out four projects we’re looking forward to along with their descriptions from the Art Unlimited catalog.
Runa Islam’s Emergence
Emergence is a 35 mm silent film that was originally shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, for the exhibition Projects 95: Runa Islam in 2011. Runa Islam’s work is often presented as a cinematic experience that exposes the process of filmmaking itself within a unique architectural configuration. Emergence evolved out of the discovery of an old glass plate negative of a black-and-white photograph of early 20th-century Tehran, found by the artist in the Smithsonian archive. As the film unfolds from its purely abstract opening shot – a crack in the center of the screen – we glimpse a sheet of paper being dipped into a chemical bath, and an image on its surface slowly appears before our eyes. Bathed in the glow from the photographic darkroom, the surrounding space of the installation makes the viewer feel as if they have entered the intimacy of the darkroom itself.
Nina Beier’s Tragedy
Tragedy is a performance in which a dog is given the instruction to ‘play dead’ on a Persian rug. The dog lies in an immobile pose. The result is an absurd, theatrical gesture in which, for a moment, the pet becomes a still life. A sense of melancholy pervades as the dog unknowingly performs its own end, and we are reminded of the staged artificial nature of an exhibition. This curious piece is a striking example of Beier’s exploration of display: In this case, the animal is both itself and its own indexical image.
Damian Ortega’s Architecture Without Architects
Damián Ortega is known for his highly distinctive vocabulary and use of objects found in everyday life. Focusing on the convergence of architecture, sculpture, and spatial analysis, Ortega infuses his dynamic works with a keen wit, commenting on the political, social, and cultural connotations of the diverse materials that comprise his works. Architecture Without Architects, which was the focal point of Ortega’s 2010 exhibition at the Barbican Center in London, exemplifies his ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. It is a fantastical, deconstructed living room, suspended from the ceiling like a surrealist painting come to life. Removed from their typical domestic environs, the architectural elements and furniture hang in the air, defying gravity and asserting a new vision of private, quotidian space.
Raqs Media Collective’s Revoltage
Revoltage is a large light bulb sculpture coining a new word, ergo, a new thought. It fills the space with warmth and light, embracing both celebration and rage. Like elements of a festive marquee, each of the nine letters light up to suggest an incandescent hybrid between electricity and uprising – alternately illuminating the words ‘revolt’ and ‘voltage.’ At a time when demonstrations are unmaking the polis on a daily basis in city squares and streets across the world, Revoltage registers first as an after-image (the kind we see when we shut our eyes after looking at a strong source of light) and then as a subliminal suggestion that brightens our days with the brilliance of a form of truant, rebel power that refuses to either name itself or be named.