It is an easy and overused joke to say that an art fair can be a lot like a casino, full of disorienting floor plans and risky financial gambits. I’ve likely made the same joke before, and I’m not above making it again after my experience with Quick Fix, a piece by artist Super Taus presented by the London-based outfit narrative projects. The work is part of the Platform section of the Armory Show, curated by Sally Tallant and on view on Pier 90.
Super Taus is the alter-ego of the Russian artist Taus Makhacheva, whose film Tightrope was included in the 2017 Venice Biennale. “It’s not exactly a project, because what I do are life-affirming practices—let’s put it that way,” Makhacheva said when asked about the work. She was working within a structure comprising mounted video screens and a large table that felt like some futuristic massage device. Video work credited to Makhacheva’s own name rested on an adjacent wall.
The participatory Super Taus piece involves a dice roll and trophies. The die has two modes: one that reads “yes” and the other blank. If you roll the latter, your luck immediately runs out. If you get a “yes,” however, you can pick a trophy from a selection that the artist sourced from Amazon and AliExpress. A second roll is required: if you are able to land on another “yes,” you get to keep the trophy and select an engraving slogan, either from a list provided by the artist or something custom. If you roll a blank the second time, you have to pick another trophy. And it goes on from there.
“It’s a proposition for audiences of the Armory Show to get a trophy that they always dreamt of getting but never did,” the artist said. Asked if she ever thought the Armory Show audience had perhaps won more than a few trophies in its collective lifetime, she said, “I didn’t, did you?” I admitted to thinking otherwise. Shortly after, I rolled a blank.
“Maybe it’s because you got a lot [of trophies],” the artist postulated. I wasn’t so good at sports or competitions—or really anything while growing up—and I currently live in a cell-like bedroom with three roommates. Anyway, I didn’t win a trophy, and that’s fine. All things considered, I am very fortunate, even when doing middling stunt journalism at an art fair.
After my turn, an ARTnews colleague attempted to reclaim the publication’s gambling valor, but she, too, struck out. Hanging around, I witnessed one contestant, whose wardrobe was accessorized with an ascot and an Ash Wednesday forehead smudge, pick an angel statue (a “bold choice,” Makhacheva said) before striking out and picking another large cup-like trophy. He won and opted to go with one of the artist’s pre-selected victory engravings, one in particular celebrating an “All-Russian Freestyle Wrestling Tournament.” The artist took a photo of the winner, who posed shaking hands with a friend in a stately manner.
After a pause in the action, I asked Makhacheva how she thought things were going. “Too good,” she responded. “We might run out faster than we thought.”