Review : Jimmie Durham-Various Items and Complaints


‘Sweet, Light, Crude’, 2008

The great artwork showed at Serpentine Gallery. That is Jimmie Durham’s exhibition, which called Various Items and complaints (1 October- 8 November). Exhibition was consisting of installation arts and drawings. All of his works were really interesting and impressive. Jimmie Durham (born 1940,USA) was born in the USA in 1940, and has been creating artworks across media for the past five decades. He is also a poet, essayist and political activist, and took a central role in the American Indian Movement in the 1970s. Various Items and Complaints is Durham’s first show in a UK institution since 1992 and through the works on display, it is clear that whilst Durham has retired from political campaigning, he continues to practice political activism through his artworks. Durham’s approach is similarly oblique. Sweet, Light, Crude, 2008  consists of oil barrels painted saccharine colours and stenciled with words such as “Honest”, “Brave”, “Fine and “True” which encapsulate the virtues that fine upstanding citizens aspire to. The paradox, of course, is that a society dependent on exploiting oil and other natural resources must rely on less desirable qualities, such as cunning, deception and ruthlessness, to flourish by outwitting the competition.

At the heart of Durham’s practice is a continuous exploration and production of hybrid and seemingly fragmented installations that invite the viewer to reconstitute or reconstruct the underlying signs embedded in his works. His work addresses the political and cultural forces, e.g. the forces of colonialism that constructs our contemporary discourses and challenges our understanding of authenticity in art. Durham has always had an anarchical and political undertone to his work. With stellar shows around the world at the Venice Biennial, Whitney Biennial and Document, Durham has made a name with his playful agility and wry irony with words and materials. Crucially Durham is interested in the deeper meaning behind materials and how man made objects interact with culture.

Durham said ‘ My work might be considered ‘interventionist’ because it works against the two foundations of the European tradition: Belief and Architecture. My work is against the connection of art to architecture, to the ‘statue’, to monumentality. I want it to be investigative, and therefore not ‘impressive’, not believable.’ Through this exhibition the most impressive thing was the artist. Even he is an artist he doesn’t work only an art field. I think, that point is also important to me. Because of the way of think if I have knowledge of other field, it will work into great way for make my art piece. The reason why I thought like that was an idea that will not static, but only an art field. It can lead to my work various way. To sum up, Jimmie Durham’s exhibition was great time to extend way of idea developing.


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