by Karen Archey

December 11, 2014

Christopher Williams’s “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19)”

DAVID ZWIRNERNew York

November 6–December 20, 2014

Do you think any collectors were bothered by the raw, open drywall and exposed electric wiring at Christopher Williams’s newest exhibition at David Zwirner? Or did they read it as a bad-boy “fuck you” without actually feeling insulted? Did they read it as Christopher Williams probably intended, as a savant gesture referencing the institutional critique strategies of his mentor Michael Asher, who made work during a time in which manipulating a gallery’s architecture was actually a radical gesture? Do you remember the time in Sex and the City that Charlotte meets a movie star in her gallery and he confuses the fire extinguisher for contemporary art?

Wait—cringe! I forgot mass-appeal pop culture isn’t in-the-know enough to be considered a salient reference in a contemporary art criticism context, even if it’s poking fun of the art world’s need-to-knowness, and especially not if it’s a television show detailing the lives of “basic” women. Intentionally raw walls okay; Sex and the City references not okay. Got it.

You probably get what I’m going for here. There are certain radical gestures—walking around nude in full body paint at an art fair, making monochrome paintings, or performative alterations in the gallery space, for example—that through time have become so prescribed that they’re really not subversive at all, but are still created with the expectation of an earthshattering, slack-jawed reception. These practices are both narcissistic and impotent.

Although I’m poking fun at Williams’s blue-chip gallery institutional critique, his exhibition “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19)” doesn’t entirely fit into this category. To be fair, his recently closed exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art was impeccably conceived and installed—it’s just that any brand of institutional critique only works, well, in an institution.

Williams’s inquiry into photography, as the exhibitions at both MoMA and Zwirner demonstrate, looks at the medium as a vast network of material and conceptual production and reception processes, and illustrates this, directly and metaphorically, through the medium itself. For example, his striking photograph of a cross-sectioned Leica camera lens at Zwirner (Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0…[the full title is not quotable here as it is many, many words long], 2014) speaks to each the materiality of the lens and photographic formalism, to photography as an array of symbiotic operations, and to the deconstructive impetus of art.(1) K-Line Matt Dulling Spray… (2014) depicts what appears to be a yellow ceramic sautée pan, apparently treated with K-Line matt dulling spray, being immersed in water by a hand wearing red nail polish. The full title goes on to include the literature on the product’s label:

CFC Free
Applications
- Photographic
- Motion Picture
- TV Studio
Removes Glaring Highlights from Polished Surfaces in Camera
Work.
Coats evenly with a very fine spray pattern – it effectively dulls
any polished object to be photographed.
Directions
Shake the can well, and whilst spraying, hold not more than
30 cm (12 inches) from the object. The spray sets in about
2 minutes, and further coats may be added if necessary. It

wipes off easily with a soft cloth and all smears can be
removed with a little spirit.
K-Line spray is safe with most materials, but a test should
be made on a scrap surface if in doubt, especially with some

types of plastics.
Caution
Pressurised container.
Protect from sunlight and do not expose to temperatures

exceeding 50º C.
Do not pierce or burn even after use.
Do not spray on a naked flame or any incandescent material.

Keep away from sources of ignition – No Smoking.
Keep out of reach of children.
Do not breath spray.
Avoid contact with eyes.
Use only in ventilated areas.
Store at a minimum of 20º C
UN 1950
Extremely Flammable

2827
S W Kenyon
Cranbrook – Kent U.K.
Division of K-Line Photographic Supplies Company Telephone: 01580 850770
Made in Britain
Registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office

Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
August 24, 2014

By titling his photograph after a component of the photographic production process, K-Line Matt Dulling Spray activates the artwork title as an often-overlooked space where information about artwork is conveyed while simultaneously pointing to photography’s commercial purpose. Williams similarly turns his gaze to book production in Printed in Germany (2014), a “wordless essay using the materials of graphic design and book production (repetition, scale, placement, pagination, binding, etc.),” as per the press release, or in other words, an elegantly empty book.

Again channeling Asher, the photograph Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago… (2014) depicts a movable wall panel, prompting us to think about the architecture—again, metaphorical and literal—of the museum. Michael Asher did this perhaps more poignantly in his 2008 retrospective at Santa Monica Museum of Art, in which he reconstructed all of the institution’s temporary walls from 1998 through the exhibition’s opening. The resulting exhibition comprised aluminum studs and looked akin to a gigantic cage. While Williams’ Demountable wall panel is a beautiful photograph in its own right, it hardly adds anything new to this strategy, and only works in tandem with a constellation of other works pointing outward toward other networks of reception.

However, “For Example” completely ignores one very powerful network within which it exists—that of the collector. As Williams’s MoMA retrospective proved, the artist has undertaken an incisive body of work connecting institutional critique, conceptual art, and photography. Given his sensitivity to and success in such past endeavors, it comes as a shame that his object of inquiry, which is often site-specific, hasn’t shifted to the increasingly mutable form of the commercial gallery.  While the art institution was the locus of much power in the heyday of institutional critique, that power has now arguably shifted to the gallery. Why retread old tricks today, when something new and more ugly is afoot?


(1) The full title is
 Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 Focal length: 135 mm Aperture range: 4 – 22 Number of elements/groups: 4/4 Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity Angle of range: 18 degrees Filter thread: 39 mm Weight: 405 g Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm Manufacturer part number: 11850 Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf March 14, 2013.

Karen Archey is Editor of e-flux conversations and an independent curator and art critic based in New York and Berlin.

View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

1View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

(Left) Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Gray) 1967 Citroen DS Serial number: DS851360a Color code: AC 226 Color name: gris satiné Color year: 1964 Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf November 3, 2013, 2014. (Right) Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014.

2(Left) Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Gray) 1967 Citroen DS Serial number: DS851360a Color code: AC 226 Color name: gris satiné Color year: 1964 Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf November 3, 2013, 2014. (Right) Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014.

Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014.

3Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014.

View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

4View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

Christopher Williams
, K-Line 
Matt Dulling Spray 
CFC Free 
Applications 
- Photographic 
- Motion Picture 
- TV Studio 
Removes Glaring Highlights from Polished Surfaces in Camera Work. Coats evenly with a very fine spray pattern – it effectively dulls any polished object to be photographed.
 Directions 
Shake the can well, and whilst spraying, hold not more than 30 cm (12 inches) from the object. The spray sets in about 
2 minutes, and further coats may be added if necessary. It wipes off easily with a soft cloth and all smears can be removed with a little spirit.
 K-Line spray is safe with most materials, but a test should 
be made on a scrap surface if in doubt, especially with some types of plastics. 
Caution 
Pressurised container. 
Protect from sunlight and do not expose to temperatures exceeding 50º C. 
Do not pierce or burn even after use. 
Do not spray on a naked flame or any incandescent material. Keep away from sources of ignition – No Smoking. 
Keep out of reach of children.
 Do not breath spray. 
Avoid contact with eyes. 
Use only in ventilated areas.
 Store at a minimum of 20º C
UN 1950
 Extremely Flammable 2827 S W Kenyon 
Cranbrook – Kent U.K.
 Division of K-Line Photographic Supplies Company Telephone: 01580 850770
 Made in Britain 
Registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf 
August 24, 2014, 2014.

5Christopher Williams
, K-Line 
Matt Dulling Spray 
CFC Free 
Applications 
- Photographic 
- Motion Picture 
- TV Studio 
Removes Glaring Highlights from Polished Surfaces in Camera Work. Coats evenly with a very fine spray pattern – it effectively dulls any polished object to be photographed.
 Directions 
Shake the can well, and whilst spraying, hold not more than 30 cm (12 inches) from the object. The spray sets in about 
2 minutes, and further coats may be added if necessary. It wipes off easily with a soft cloth and all smears can be removed with a little spirit.
 K-Line spray is safe with most materials, but a test should 
be made on a scrap surface if in doubt, especially with some types of plastics. 
Caution 
Pressurised container. 
Protect from sunlight and do not expose to temperatures exceeding 50º C. 
Do not pierce or burn even after use. 
Do not spray on a naked flame or any incandescent material. Keep away from sources of ignition – No Smoking. 
Keep out of reach of children.
 Do not breath spray. 
Avoid contact with eyes. 
Use only in ventilated areas.
 Store at a minimum of 20º C
UN 1950
 Extremely Flammable 2827 S W Kenyon 
Cranbrook – Kent U.K.
 Division of K-Line Photographic Supplies Company Telephone: 01580 850770
 Made in Britain 
Registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf 
August 24, 2014, 2014.

View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

6View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014. 


7Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014. 


Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014.

8Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014.

View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

9View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

  • 1View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014. All images courtesy of David Zwirner, New York and London, and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne.
  • 2View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014. (Left) Christopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Gray)1967 Citroen DS Serial number: DS851360a Color code: AC 226 Color name: gris satiné Color year: 1964 Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf November 3, 2013, 2014. Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 20 x 25 inches. (Right) Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014. 
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
, 22 x 18 1/4 inches.
  • 3Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014. Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 
17 1/8 x 21 7/8 inches.
  • 4View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.
  • 5Christopher Williams
, K-Line 
Matt Dulling Spray 
CFC Free 
Applications 
- Photographic 
- Motion Picture 
- TV Studio 
Removes Glaring Highlights from Polished Surfaces in Camera Work. Coats evenly with a very fine spray pattern – it effectively dulls any polished object to be photographed.
 Directions 
Shake the can well, and whilst spraying, hold not more than 30 cm (12 inches) from the object. The spray sets in about 
2 minutes, and further coats may be added if necessary. It wipes off easily with a soft cloth and all smears can be removed with a little spirit.
 K-Line spray is safe with most materials, but a test should 
be made on a scrap surface if in doubt, especially with some types of plastics. 
Caution 
Pressurised container. 
Protect from sunlight and do not expose to temperatures exceeding 50º C. 
Do not pierce or burn even after use. 
Do not spray on a naked flame or any incandescent material. Keep away from sources of ignition – No Smoking. 
Keep out of reach of children.
 Do not breath spray. 
Avoid contact with eyes. 
Use only in ventilated areas.
 Store at a minimum of 20º C
UN 1950
 Extremely Flammable 2827 S W Kenyon 
Cranbrook – Kent U.K.
 Division of K-Line Photographic Supplies Company Telephone: 01580 850770
 Made in Britain 
Registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf 
August 24, 2014, 2014. 
Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 
27 1/2 x 22 inches.
  • 6View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.
  • 7Christopher Williams, Demountable wall panel with panel storage cart from the exhibition The Production Line of Happiness, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, January 24 – May 18, 2014
 Wall panel materials: Oak, plywood, metal, cardboard, fabric, rubber, vinyl, and adhesive
 Wall panel dimensions: 102 x 72 x 4 1/2 inches
 Storage cart materials: Steel, carpet, rubber, plywood, and paint
Storage cart dimensions: 78 x 86 x 18 inches 
Gallery display system designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), Chicago, 1982
 Pedestal materials: MDF, plywood, Douglas fir blocking, screws, lag screws, neoprene rubber spacers and shims, and metal 
Pedestal dimensions: 134 1/2 x 66 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches 
Pedestal designed by Mack Cole-Edelsack, Department of Exhibition Design and Production, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in accordance with loan specifications from the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Photography
 Exhibited in The Production Line of Happiness, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 27 – November 2, 2014 
July 20, 2014, 2014. 
Selenium toned gelatin silver print
, 22 x 18 1/4 inches.
  • 8Christopher Williams
, Cutaway model Leica Leitz Wetzlar Tele-Elmar 135/4.0 
Focal length: 135 mm
 Aperture range: 4 – 22 
Number of elements/groups: 4/4 
Focusing range: 1.5 m – infinity 
Angle of range: 18 degrees 
Filter thread: 39 mm
 Weight: 405 g 
Dimensions: 53.4 × 122.69 mm 
Manufacturer part number: 11850 
Lens design by Dr. Walter Mandler 
Manufactured by Ernst Leitz GmbH, Wetzlar, Germany 
Studio Rhein Verlag, Düsseldorf
 March 14, 2013, 2014. Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 
17 1/8 x 21 7/8 inches.
  • 9View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.
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