this issue contains
>> Interview with Tom Sachs
>> Tom Sachs' Installation "Nutsy's"
>> Norman Kleeblatt on Tom Sachs
>> Weapons, Status, Shopping

>> archive

Controlled chaos:
Tom Sachs' Installation Nutsy's at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin

From July 24 to October 5, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin is presenting Nutsy's, the latest room-sized installation by the New York artist Tom Sachs. McDonald's, Le Corbusier, sculpture park, and racecars: Maria Morais on Sachs' vision of a world in which the ordinary boundaries between "high" and "low" have been annulled.

Tom Sachs, Nutsy's, Installation in der Bohen Foundation, Foto: Van Neistat, © Tom Sachs Studio

The scene is a classic: the hero is making his way through a busy street, hunted down by invisible pursuers. Bumping into passers-by and skaters, he knocks people over and leaves a trail of devastation behind him. Suddenly, he waves down the next car, jumps in, pulls a weapon on the shocked driver, and forces him to flee – and they take off to the sound of music booming from the car radio. It's Gangsta time, and we're in the middle of Vice City, one of the most popular electronic locations of recent years and the virtual setting of the successful computer game Grand Theft Auto – rife with an abundance of satiric wit, jabs at advertising, weapons freaks, running shoes, and boy bands.

Bass-heavy Reggae rhythms boom out of oversized 10,000-watt speakers, models of Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation (1947–52) in Marseilles and Villa Savoye (1929–31) in Poissy can be seen side by side with a fully functioning McDonald's , deejay cabins, and a modern art park bordering on a ghetto neighborhood – and all of this connected by a gigantic racetrack with remote-control model cars zipping around, crashing into each other, or knocking each other out of commission. Welcome to Nutsy's World!

Tom Sachs, Nutsy's, Installation in der Bohen Foundation, Unité d'Habitation, Foto: Van Neistat, © Tom Sachs Studio

Like Grand Theft Auto, Tom Sachs' current installation for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin offers a miniature likeness of a reality steeped in the laws of consumerist society. It comes as no surprise that Sachs, a video game enthusiast, ignores the boundaries between "high" and "low": without comment, modernist icons stand as equals next to the flagships of global consumerism and symbols of contemporary leisure culture. Just like in a computer game, visitors to the exhibition get a chance to relinquish the passive role ordinarily accorded to them and become actors in this gigantic bricolage by driving one of the racing cars through the installation.

Tom Sachs' Studio, Foto: Tom Powell, © Tom Sachs Studio

Speeding past apartment buildings, containers, ghetto bars, bank machines, and miniature Brancusis and Calders in the sculpture park, exhibition visitors bit by the game bug can drive their car through Nutsy's cosmos, catching their breath for a moment, perhaps, at the McDonald's drive-in. Indeed, this urge to play was what inspired the idea that gave rise to this installation, which is made on a scale of 1:25 and copies its models from real life down to every last detail. Yet then Sachs "started thinking about what our lives are like, and the themes that are interesting to me are how the world's fed… McDonald's, planned obsolescence, global housing… Corbusier, music. So I thought, 'What's our "GTA" (Grand Theft Auto)? What's our mission here?' And we started combining these things."

For a long time, bricolage served as a derogatory expression for improvised, slapdash workmanship. Yet ever since 1962, when Claude Leví-Strauss described the concept in his book on primitive cultures, "La pensée sauvage," as an ability to use myths and superstitions to create ever-new overall contexts in meaning from available props, the term's value has been enhanced considerably. And although Sachs likes to stress how alienated he is by everything mysterious and esoteric, he seems to be carrying on his own form of bricolage in precisely this sense: "So in a way, we're imbuing a temporary material with high status. Like with Foamcore – it's a very low material that we're polishing and refining. The idea of making a silk purse out of a sow's ear is very attractive."

Tom Sachs, Nutsy's, Installation in der Bohen Foundation, Nutsy's Barcelona Pavillon , Foto: Tom Powell, © Tom Sachs Studio

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