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Reviews of Tom Sachs' "Nutsy's" in the Deutsche Guggenheim

McDonald's, Le Corbusier, a sculpture park, and racecars – in Tom Sachs' installation Nutsy's, which was on show at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin from 7/24 through 10/12/2003, the usual boundaries between "high" and "low" were dissolved. Yet did the American artist's first one-person exhibition in Europe really just consist of harmless Pop, or was there more to it?

"Model-building, loud noise, racecar driving: it's all about boy's art here again, of course. At least it doesn't tear the world apart for a change, but promotes insight and good spirits" is Peter Richter's praise in the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "It's a model of the world that once launched into the future with its white cement villas and then, for the most part, became stranded beneath the cement of wind-swept highway access bridges – happily seen from a car perspective and hence utterly unsentimental."

"Sachs is a great hobby builder before God – and the motifs he cites are central archetypes of the departing modern age, which he confronts with elements of global post-modernism," writes Johannes Wendland in the Handelsblatt. "Whereas Modernism was still a serious (grown-up) matter, the (childish) urge to play has since come to dominate things exclusively. Sachs himself clearly prefers the latter. So now we're allowed to play in the museum. Sachs' installation lives, it's a variable location for special events of every kind, one can wander through it, admire it – the only thing one can't do is overload it with interpretations groaning under the great weight of their meaning."

In the Tagesspiegel , Christina Tilmann compares Tom Sachs' "hobby building in love with detail" to the model works of the Swiss artist duo Fischli & Weiss, the installation Hell by the Chapman brothers, and the "colorful, fantastic high-rise structures made of glue boxes and other rubbish that the African artist Bodys Isek Kingelez showed at the last documenta. Connecting all of these is an unbridled urge to slap things together, to realize ambitious structures using the cheapest of materials, and a post-modern criticism of civilization. The artists' capacity for improvisation questions the flagship products of Western high-tech architecture."

Uta Goridis of the Berliner Morgenpost also finds Tom Sachs' installation to be anything but harmless. "In the installation Nutsy's, named after a Jamaican bicycle store, remote-control cars either race through an American ghetto under gunfire or through a ‘modern park' furnished with works of art. In this way, a playful connection is drawn between two extremes that exist in our consciousness, extremes that determine our world and our everyday life: the aesthetic concept on the one hand, and the economic concept on the other."

Tom Sachs, according to Goridis, "breaks with an art that shows its concern; instead, he confronts the art-savvy fun society with an intelligent mix that has to be digested, a mix that perfidiously presents itself as an amusing game."

In Nutsy's, the critic signed "leh." in the Berliner Zeitung sees the urban landscape itself depicted "as a product" in which we can read "the various stations like a testimony to the economic booms and crashes": "illusion and disillusion alternate."

For Audrey Dejardin of Neues Deutschland, the installation offers "a vision of the capitalist and socialist, American and European, modern and post-modern worlds." With a mixture of "revolt and humor," Tom Sachs rouses our desire to criticize the conventions of the consumerist society: "thanks to the maquettes, the Matchbox cars and their racetrack, the films, and the video cameras filming the visitors, Nutsy's succeeds as a staging of distortion. Our customs and habits as seasoned consumers suddenly no longer seem so self-evident."

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Ulrich Clewing explains why Tom Sachs' installation goes well beyond "pure, faintly adolescent big-boy fun": in prototypical situations, Sachs portrays the various areas of urban everyday life: "Trade and entertainment, social representation and criminality, goals and realities of urban planning." Clewing finds the last issue in particular to have been solved in an interesting way.

The combination of Corbusier's Villa Savoye and a McDonald's drive-in "might at first seem pretty shallow. Considering, however, that Corbusier used the turning circle of the Citroen Traction as a unit of measurement for the Villa Savoye, a car that had just appeared on the market at the time, a sensitive commentary emerges on the idea of the car-based city: the fast food restaurant as the logical further development of Classic Modernism." Clewing is happy to say that it doesn't often happen "that utopias are taken out of their lofty heights of non-commitment and forced to stand with two legs on the ground of facts so beautifully."

Anja Seeliger

Tom Sachs: Nutsy's in the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin until 5th of October.