If anyone someone working at an advertising agency should know how to sell themselves. So what do you do when you work at an advertising agency and you are obviously bored? That’s right you document your work and advertise it. This is the impression that Peter Piller’s exhibit Archive Peter Piller at Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York from January 11 to February 10 left on me. But even this impression was so vague that I wasn’t even sure what there was to be admire, except perhaps the diligent nature by which Peter Piller committed himself to boringly accumulate a collection of tens of thousands of average regional newspaper images.
The press release (there’s another boring collection for you!) refers to Piller’s “quietly tragic vision of everyday life”, but art is supposed to rise above it, and Piller’s archive is much more a display of it. Of course, this is the moment where we could engage in a never ending discussion about what art is or should be and never was, but Piller’s should have remained an archive above anything.
The exhibition contains selections from categories such as “policemen searching,” “aerial photos of suburban homes,” “women shooting,” and “projectiles in home interiors.” The only series that was esthetically pleasing were the images of explosive projectiles photographed in people’s homes, in front of the television, on the couch, in the kitchen counter or on the living room carpet. The combination of explosive projectiles in a living room setting, selected to contain many primary colors create in combination with each other a certain bizar reality that is hard to escape, one becomes easily trapped by the impression, but it also too surrealistic to feel endangered by its reality. Another series that elevates the commonality of ordinary impressions is that of the “illegal dumps”, which was not on display unfortunately. It contains portraits of dumped sofas in the mid of a rural hill slope, and carton boxes and scattered trash in a hazy forest.
Random landscapes whose esthetic quality is that of the unrevealed detail, like a police car parked in front of a house, suggesting a house call by detectives, or perhaps a police man home early for dinner? Or that of a colorful anagram of second hand cars ordered in square angles from the rectangled garage, or the road signalling chalked on the asphalt, giving the road a form and direction that it lacks of its own, suggesting a movement to a landscape. These are all evokative images, but it is the spectator whose perception discovers the artistic quality as an observer and not the artist who reveals the hidden perpectives of reality. It is I who am the actve component viewing the artistic creations who are dull and ordinary.
That Peter Piller was a loyal and devoted archiver in his years at the advertising agency can hardly be considered the merit of original creation. And the collection of random snapshots can easily be replaced by any person with any other collection of random impressions of objects and moments in order to recreate the artistic moment of a spectator. But there is no discussion about art possible and I am sure some people will think Piller’s minimal and passive approach to art is new and fresh, opening a world of appreciation that they had not seen before.
See also article at boilingpoint.nl.