CONCEPTUAL ART IN THE UK, 1998–1999
MAY 12 – JUN 19, 2021
Via Adige 17, 20135 Milan
Wed – Sat, 2 – 7 PM
+39 02 47757753, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ordet is pleased to present an exhibition of more than 140 original works—the largest presentation to date—from the Fax-Bak Service by the London art group BANK.
In 1998 and 1999, the members of BANK—Simon Bedwell, John Russell, and Milly Thompson—returned by fax hundreds of press releases to their respective senders. For the most part, the originators were art galleries in London and New York, and the returned missives were crudely covered with handwritten notes—thorough, relentless edits, queries, and comments, all absolutely unsolicited. More than two decades later, this serial effort in demystification rings just as fun, rude, and truthful.
“The endless nonsense the press releases contained meant that we could be brutally honest about their conceits, assumptions, and errors to the point of outright rudeness, under the none-too-convincing cover of offering free advice as to improvements,” the artists recall. These self-appointed, bemused ambassadors of common sense and good syntax stamped “Helping You Help Yourselves!” on their responses. While BANK adopted some of the 1970s mail art tactics, it did so without any idealistic ambition; “on closer inspection, BANK’s Fax-Baks appear as a cynical twist on avant-garde techniques, one more resigned than revolutionary.”1
Fax-Bak Service mixed outsider bravado with insider knowledge of all the shortcomings—rhetorical as well as structural—of the art world. That the public was always intended by the artists as a secondary audience only increases the voyeuristic enjoyment, a prospect that must have upset more than one original customer of a service they never requested. For viewers today, BANK’s project is an edited but unredacted throwback to a pre-internet art world that still communicated on paper at the time it was turning into a global market.
The exhibition is organized with Gallien Déjean, Tenzing Barshee and Dan Solbach, coeditors of The BANK Fax-Bak Service book, a complete collection of the project, just published by Lenz with Treize in collaboration with Galerie Neu and Kunsthalle Zürich. The volume is available for purchase at Ordet.
1 Gallien Déjean, The BANK Fax-Bak Service, 332.
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