Or Until the World Improves
Solo exhibition at The Premises, Jhannesburg
10 – 24 July 2004

For the exhibition and launch of Modern Amusement, titled Or Until the World Improves, the intention was to provide a mobile, public study where a gallery visitor could sit and read the publication Modern Amusement. Installed on the wall in front of the desk was a modified angle-poise lamp – the light bulb and socket replaced with a 30w audio speaker attached via mic cable to an iPod – narrowcasting the audio component from The Healthy World of Primitive Building Methods, a video work featured in the book. Modern Amusement. The book sat on a desk illuminated by another modified angle poise lamp - the lamp shade replaced with a 40w circular neon tube. The desk and bench were placed on a 15cm raised wooden ‘stage’, made of vertical planks on which are attached evenly spaced horizontal planks – the stage was spray painted bright yellow like a life raft. Six black wooden planks - 4.5 metres in length - stood near the stage and table, the planks exactly fitted the distance from the floor to the ceiling.

“One very famous conceptualist artist held an exhibit at a museum called ‘The Miraculous Moment’. He built two ‘magical’ revolving circles in the semi-dark hall: one on the wall, in a frame, so that one might take it for a hanging painting; the other he placed on the floor, right in the middle of the exhibit hall. In the centre of this second circle stood a tall rectangle with a slanted, pointed top edge. The following was proposed to the viewer in special instructions hung on the wall: two viewers should stand on the circle in the specially indicated spot, one stands facing the centre of the circle, the other with his back to it. The one facing the centre should align his sight with the slanted edge of the rectangle and wait for a very important moment: when the axis coincides with the centre of the revolving circle on the wall. As soon as that moment occurs he should signal (with words or a sound) the other viewer standing on the circle, and he, at that moment, would be able to see a tiny but very important object inside the wall at the far end of the hall that cannot be revealed in any other way except at this one ‘miraculous’ moment.”
- Ilya Kabakov, 1998

Or Until the World Improves is concerned with the ephemerality of experience, its particularity, the ineffability of its moments. The intention of the show was to produce a quiet space for the gallery visitor to read Modern Amusement. The conceptual intent was strongly influenced by what Kabakov calls the 'Total Installation', a theatrical version of the everyday, a simulacra of reality, in which the work includes a chorus of dissonant, critical voices. The first work detailed in Modern Amusement is The Healthy World of Primitive Building Materials, and the sound narrowcasted on the adapted angle poise lamp via iPod is the audio component from this video. The idea for Or Until the World Improves aimed to respond to Kabakov's 'The Mysterious Exhibition' in that at a certain moment the visitor would be reading the text to The Healthy World of Primitive Building Methods while the audio from the video is playing. All of this housed within a gallery installation that mimics the same 'stick' motif illustrated in this video work. In a sense at this moment the video would be complete, but in a third space beyond purely text-based description and beyond a real time experience of the work. The unfinished, provisional appearance of Or Until the World Improves is important, for, as Kabakov says, “between the beginning of the work and its ‘unfinishedness’ a free space appears, a duration which is filled with questions, conjectures and reflections.”






Michael MacGarry