The manipulation of lighting sets the stage for drama. Entering the gallery’s largest space to view Texts (Waiting for—) for Nothing; Samuel Beckett, in play our immersion in darkness demands one’s eyes’ adjustment to decode the frieze of white neon text that wraps around the room where wall and ceiling meet.
The positive ‘white cube’ gallery is reversed into a negative ‘black’ cube. Kosuth culls excerpts from two texts from Beckett, Waiting for Godot and Texts for Nothing – presenting them in white neon that has been ‘canceled’ by dipping each letter and punctuation mark in black paint which reduces legibility depending on your position in the seemingly cavernous space. Kosuth has lured us into a ‘Plato’s Cave’ of manufactured night where the words of the ‘dead end kid’ of the stage are beheld in pinpoint celestial grandeur. On the wall to the right a box holds a reproduction of Casper David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (1819), which inspired Beckett to write Godot. The artist exerts a wry form of control over this romantic favorite by both its colorless reduction in scale and by its display in a structure equally conducive to the reading of menus on the sidewalk. Kosuth has engineered an unexpectedly ecclesiastic space for the gallery; his discrete treatment of the neon letters risks visual obscurity, blackened neon in a dark room, to produce a Johnsian environment between language and the conditions of its presentation. Waiting around for Godot results in ‘nothing’ but more language.
From the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art:
On this occasion Kosuth will present a new body of work titled ‘(Waiting for—) Texts for Nothing,’ Samuel Beckett, in play based on a play on Samuel Beckett writings, with particular focus on ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Texts for Nothing’. The installation works runs throughout the perimeter of the main gallery space and is fabricated in blacked out warm white neon installed in a matte black space.
Beckett’s project as an artist was in one important way parallel to that of Kosuth: both practices manifest a concern with meaning. Beckett approaches the question of meaning from the absence of meaning rather than, as Kosuth does, from questions concerned with the production of meaning. Beckett for Kosuth reflects some of the origins of his own practice. There can’t be much doubt as to how this work has come about and its reverberation in Kosuth’s intentions.
The present exhibition will also include three historic installation works. Beginning with the artist’s first gallery exhibition held in Los Angeles in 1969 and titled ‘Nothing,’ showing his seminal dictionary definition works, as well as ‘Zero & Not’, an installation from Kosuth’s 1980’s series of installation works comprised of wall papered rooms based on the writing of Sigmund Freud, and a neon installation work based on James Joyce’s Ulysses, from 1998, exhibited on the ceiling of the Royal Hiberian Academy in Dublin in occasion of James Joyce Bloomsday Anniversary exhibition in 2004.
Photography: Jason Wyche, New York