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By Rhizome

The sculptures and installations of Saâdane Afif's back catalog become departure points for the French artist's ambitious new show, "Technical Specifications," at Witte de With in Rotterdam. Maintaining his characteristic skepticism to self-enfranchisement, Afif has produced an exhibition colored by evasion and delegation, including a series of untitled works, each built of the same materials as previous pieces; wall texts of lyrics written, at Afif's request, in response to his artwork; and three radios, tuned to FM 107.5 Mhz, which, for the duration of the exhibition, will broadcast the songs incorporating these lyrics and the materials lists of the source artworks, as read in the style of popular radio DJs. Unlike an earlier movement of French conceptualists like Pierre Bismuth, who approached inter-media translation through a structuralist lens, Afif and contemporary Loris Gréaud cross-pollinate studio, exhibition and performance spaces with a beguiling energy that builds itself -- more associatively than analytically -- from the lesser defined realms of creative consciousness. Indeed, the parameters Afif has here set for "Technical Specifications" make their points without stifling the artist's inventive return to familiar materials. Ghost (Round bar of wood/ White Dufa, White Alpa, White Ace, White Email, 179 x 3.5 cm) (2005), an Andre Cadere-inspired modular stick, painted in four brands of white, is revisited as double-helix sculpture Untitled (Ghost, 2005 / White paint from four different brands, wood/ 185 x 3.5 cm diameter) (2008). A ghostly, black-and-white rendering of Bauhaus-esque architecture, Le fantôme (2003), becomes a series of five paintings, split along the diagonal to collectively form a monochromatic gradient. These untitled phantoms both channel and displace their source image, in a confrontation with personal and aesthetic histories that reveals the vitality of Afif's restless practice. - Tyler Coburn


Image: Saâdane Afif, Untitled (More More, 2003 / Neon light, pile of photocopies / Dimensions variable), 2008.

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