Oh why so serious?, 2008
plastic and electronics, computer keyboard
3 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 8 inches
Greene Naftali is pleased to present its second solo exhibition by Paul Chan. Sade for Sade’s sake consists of the complete ensemble of works made during the past two years and largely inspired by the writings and philosophies of Marquis De Sade (1740–1814). For this exhibition, Chan has created moving image works, ink drawings, a sculpture, and a set of computer fonts that evoke how Sade’s obsessions with forms of sex, violence, freedom, and reason echo in the 21st century.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 5 hour and 45 minute-long projection titled Sade for Sade’s sake which premiered at the 53rd Venice Biennale this year. Like his series The 7 Lights, which were projected on floors, in corners, or across a table, Chan’s new projection uses an irregular surface—in this case, the gallery’s northern wall (including its window panes, radiators, and columns)—so extending what Chan has called the “spectral materialism” of projected moving images and their relationship to static architectural spaces. Structured in the form of a ballad, Sade for Sade’s sake is comprised of forty-five second scenes that relate to one another like lines in a poem. The quivering, shadow-like imagery depicts naked human bodies in discursive, rhythmic, and orgiastic movements, with abstract shadows of geometric shapes floating among the bodies like artwork hung on walls, windows in a room, or even devotional objects. As the piece progresses, the bodies interact with growing intensity, until the entire projection erupts in trembling forms and part-objects, abstractly manifesting images of sex enmeshed with freedom, violence wrapped up with reason, art entangled in it all.
As another major part of the ensemble, Chan has created a set of 21 functional fonts that transform the act of typing into a generative Sadean performance. Available for download on his website, each font spells out a hypothetical sexual monologue, transforming the conventional alphabet into the eroticized utterings of characters from Sade’s novels (Narcisse, Duc de Blangis, Juliette), poets (Hölderlin, Stein), or contemporary public figures (George Bush, Jr., Monica Lewinsky & Monica Goodling). In the exhibition, each font takes on a “body” as it stands in the gallery as a large framed ink drawing propped atop a pair of shoes. This interface of language, object and technology is estranged further in the form of a sculptural computer keyboard whose keys have been transformed into modernist gravestone monuments—acting as a cryptic emblem of our physical interaction with language and other people. Throughout the exhibition, Chan makes visible both hardware and software as functional components of the exhibition, laying bare the interconnections of violence and sexuality that shadow all forms of contemporary communication.