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ICA will Present Acclaimed International Group Exhibition
Dave Hullfish Bailey, "Ditch/School," 2008. Mixed media. Dimensions vary, Installation view Mesler & Hug, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist and Mesler & Hug, Los Angeles. Photo by Joshua White.

LONDON.- The ICA will present the acclaimed international group exhibition "For The Blind Man in The Dark Room Looking for The Black Cat That isn’t There", which starts from the premise that confusion lies at the heart of wisdom, and aims to celebrate the speculative nature of knowledge.

Given this context, it would be self-defeating to claim that this exhibition delivers any linear or definitive discourse, and the works presented insist that art is not here to explain the world but instead can help us keep speculating and playfully appreciate the experience of not-knowing.

In the ICA’s lower gallery, Benoît Maire and Falke Pisano present "Organon" (2008), a large-scale installation involving six tables and an assortment of objects that are continually re-arranged over the course of the exhibition. Part sculpture and part performance, the piece is the record and realization of the artists’ process of experimentation. In a similar spirit, a slideshow of photographs by Bruno Munari from the 1950s shows the artist re-arranging himself in a variety of absurd positions, tirelessly looking for comfort in an uncomfortable chair. This commitment to revisiting even the most familiar situations is even more apparent in the work of Giorgio Morandi, who is represented here by two still-lifes. Morandi dedicated his long career to painting endless tabletop arrangements of bottles and bowls, a process he implies can only ever be a speculative one.

For many of the artists in "For The Blind Man"…, the inexhaustible search for meaning is accompanied by a prolific inner-dialogue. Stretching 15 meters along one of the walls in the ICA’s lower gallery, Matt Mullican’s installation demonstrates the artist’s highly subjective theory of everything, and to this end employs drawings, flags, diagrams, rubbings, photographs and prints. In a similar attempt to understand the world around us, and with a mix of humor and anguish, in their video 'The Right Way' (1986), Peter Fischli & David Weiss, embrace metaphysical issues while romping through the Swiss countryside dressed in rat and bear costumes. Rachel Harrison, on the other hand, presents a totemic sculpture that defies easy categorization, and which maintains hybrid, disparate and multiple identities. Similarly enigmatic, Rosemarie Trockel’s ceramic mirror refuses to respond, quietly offering a blank stare.

Providing a historical backdrop to the exhibition, in the ICA’s concourse, Sarah Crowner presents two reissues of the 1917 journal "The Blind Man". Marcel Duchamp’s response to the Armory’s rejection of his submission of a urinal, the journal is a satirical comment on the critical establishment and art-viewing public. Also questioning the role of the artist, Jimmy Raskin exhibits collages that continue his longstanding analysis of the prologue to Nietzsche’s philosophical novel, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-85), in which the poet stands on trial against the philosopher. Frances Stark, meanwhile, presents a work that – in her customary manner - explores language, hesitation and her own artistic doubts. In an interactive vein, David William (the composite name of David Reinfurt and Will Holder) provides visitors with materials which will allow them to engage with the complex idea of the fourth-dimension.

In the pursuit of answers to life’s questions we often end up in the realm of comedy. Reflecting this, Marcel Broodthaers interviews his cat about a painting, in an audio recording from 1970. And, bringing the exhibition back to mathematicians, blindness and playful speculation, Mariana Castillo Deball hangs a large piñata in the shape of a Klein Bottle – a topological form whose outside is indistinguishable from its inside, and a construct where opposites don’t oppose. This will be hung in the ICA Café, and visitors will be invited to take a swing at it at the end of the exhibition. There may or may not be surprises inside!

In the ICA’s upper galleries, and providing a lineage of curiosity, an anonymous 16th-century illustration of a Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) reminds us that people have long reveled in the discovery of extraordinary things that they do not understand. In their new 16mm film, 'Our Magnolia' (2009), Nashashibi/Skaer (Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer) play with the space between knowing and not knowing, taking in images from a Paul Nash painting to a photograph of Margaret Thatcher. In the vein of the pseudo-science, Ayse Erkmen and Eric Duyckaerts are represented by videos about a coffee fortune-teller and a series of mock-professorial lectures, respectively. Hans-Peter Feldmann, in a modest attempt at understanding the world around us through the collection of data, shows one pound of strawberries in thirty-four small photographs, while Dave Hullfish Bailey constructs an extraordinary sculptural installation that exposes processes of research and experimentation, culminating in a set of useless data. And finally, Patrick van Caeckenbergh explores collecting and archiving, and his works at the ICA include "Chapeau!" (1989), a photo-collage inspired by the fable of a man unable to forget, who keeps thousands of stories within a large hat equipped with tiny drawers.

While all of the artists featured in "For the Blind Man"… do share a common urge to understand the world, they also appear eager to keep art separate from explanation. The works presented all allude to a quest for knowledge, acknowledging it as a basic human need, but insist that art is an experience of playful nonknowledge, unlearning, and productive confusion. "For the Blind Man"... sees art as a code that does not need cracking and is dedicated to the inquisitive mind and to the pleasure of finding out way blindly — but blissfully — in the dark.

ICA | For The Blind Man in The Dark Room Looking for The Black Cat That isn't there | International Group Exhibition |

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