Irwin: Time for a New State

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Irwin: Time for a New State
courtesy the artists and Calvert 22; photo: Steve White
IRWIN – 'Time For a New State', installation view

Coalescing in the former Yugoslavia during communism's endgame there, and taking the middle name of Marcel Duchamp's female alter ego Rrose Selavy, Irwin is the visual arts bureau of a larger, interdisciplinary Slovenian movement, Neue Slowenische Kunst. Even knowing that, they're hard to pin down.

This ample show begins with documentation of public provocations: billboards announcing that it's 'Time for a New State', and ceremonial parades with religiously garbed individuals solemnly carrying Irwin's paintings. The latter, grandly framed and scrambling powerful iconographies from suprematism to Western classicism to national socialism, occupy one long wall. Interspersed taxidermy animals, mounted like trophies, further destabilise what's effectively a politicised postmodernist collage, aimed at undoing national and cultural classifications.

Irwin, though, isn't so much an artmaking outfit as a proposition about statelessness. Videos show them on tour, in mobile homes and parks, staging earnest if nimble theoretical discussions about art's function. In the gallery, meanwhile, an improvised office intermittently sells passports that enrol one in the 'NSK State', a hopeful, post-geographical, post-ideological community. (An auxiliary show by NSK-affiliated artists waits in the basement.) The selection of works here, while generous, perhaps undersells Irwin's ironic humour. Still, it's tempting to agree with the catalogue's suggestion that, on this evidence, the sociable, networked art style known as 'relational aesthetics' first rose in the East.

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