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'Barbara Visser: Manual/2: The Patient Artist' opens at Kunstraum in London
Barbara Visser, Ars Futura/Ars Futura (Übung), 1994, documentation photograph.

LONDON .- Through a diversity of approaches over the past 25 years, Dutch artist Barbara Visser has consistently interrogated what it is to have artistic agency, reconfiguring the structures which surround us in contemporary art – the gallery, the retrospective, the artists' lecture, to name a few.

For her solo project at Kunstraum, Visser has produced the new film installation Manual/2: The Patient Artist.

Working since the early nineties, Visser has exhibited in the foremost instutions in the Netherlands and in many major international exhibitions, yet has rarely exhibited in the UK. Projects in the Netherlands include: De Appel, Amsterdam; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Witte de With, Rotterdam; De Hallen, Haarlem; and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. International exposure has prominently included the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011; Manifesta 7, Trento; MACBA, Barcelona; Bienal de Sao Paulo; Secession, Vienna; MAMCO, Geneve; and Frankfurter Kunstverein.

For Manual/2: The Patient Artist Visser revisited four works from the nineties that address the identity of the artist, works that together might add up to a kind of self-portrait. Some of these works including Portrait of the Artist (1992) and Lecture with Actress (1997) have been given new iterations and layerings over the intervening years. Other works including Gimines (1995) and Ars Futura (1994) were highly specific to the contexts in which the artist's work was positioned at the time.

Treating these iconic works as building blocks, Visser’s project for Kunstraum uses her past practice as pure material to be reworked and sampled. The immaterial nature of Visser's work in this period was such that these pieces were written and talked about much more often than they were seen and so their continued existence was often as stories or descriptions. In reapproaching the works Visser has collaborated with a writer - Emily LaBarge - to recreate the accounts with more emphasis on their power as stories than their historical accuracy.

The four selected works are connected by an element of escapism; Visser chooses to be represented by someone else, be physically absent or to play a role. In response to an invitation to show at CAC in Vilnius, Visser instead made a guest appearance on the popular Lithuanian TV soap 'Gimines', playing a Dutch artist with the name Barbora Visser. In Lecture with Actress Visser employed an actress to give a public lecture on her behalf and answer questions from the audience, guided by the artist through a hidden earpiece. For Ars Futura Visser performed an action painting in a heavily masculine Pollock-like style on the gallery walls, but then re-covered everything with white before the show opened. At Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Visser presented her self-portrait through drawings by street portrait artists, shown alongside index cards listing the amount paid, duration and location.

Central to this new work for Kunstraum is the question of how an artist deals with their own history; Visser rarely considers the form which a work takes to be conclusive, at one point they have a certain form and five or ten years later they appear differently. Manual/2: The Patient Artist forms part of Visser’s research into the field of psychological aid since the 1950s. As one of the narrative voices in the film, Visser incorporates her own file from the Psychoanalytical Institute, reading the descriptions different therapists have written about her as a form of fiction.

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