The Paintings Nuptials

Ten years ago, we did No Soul for Sale at Tate Modern, the London powerhouse museum that turned 20 this year.  On that occasion, artist Adam Avikainen celebrated the nuptials between two paintings of his and two paintings he chose from the Tate Collection, in the galleries where they were hung with a group of us as witnesses1. Adam has been sending each year for 10 years an e-mail in May to the participants to these nuptials, he promised a forever and he is keeping his word. The e-mail addresses he gathered in 2010 though, have been bouncing, each year less people receive his message on behalf of the paintings. In 2020, we are scattered in different parts of the world, and in different phases of lockdown induced by Covid. 

Adam has been training as nurse and is currently working with Covid patients in a hospital in Minnesota, USA. FormContent doesn’t exist anymore, that is the curatorial project space Pieternel, Francesco and myself started in London. We participated to the 0 budget event at the Turbine Hall with an empty market stall, inspired by our gallery location: an Afro-Carribean market in Ridley Road, East London. The stall was empty because we proposed to sell fruits to visitors but we were told we couldn’t. We organised personalised tours of the collection, trying to wash on us some of that Tate glitter. There were so many people coming through the Turbine hall, for the most part they had no clue what they were seeing, we also weren’t sure what to expect. Partitions consisted of red tape on the floor, and I remember solidarity with spaces coming from Australia or the Philippines, lending them our TV and video equipment as they had to pay for everything themselves. I remember Thurston Moore, yes that guy from Sonic Youth, representing White Columns (a NYC independent space) that was positioned very close to our square, strumming his guitar on a sofa with his new young girlfriend.

As for the witnesses: Pieternel is in Vienna, Francesco in Mexico, I am in Northern Italy. Maria is in the Philippines, Reto maybe still in the UK? Bruna is with Vincenzo in Minneapolis. Daniella is in London, I presume. Most people have children, are married. Happy 10th anniversary, the virus is among us and the Earth is getting warmer. 


1/2010, Tate Modern, London. Adam has been invited by FormContent for “No Soul for Sale, a Festival of Independents,” unfolding for a weekend in the Turbine Hall. He has arrived only a few hours earlier from Bern, where he took part in the second iteration of the group show “Animism” at the Swiss Kunsthalle. There is not enough time to go around the collections, so mainly he prepares his contribution by looking at reproductions of paintings on postcards in the museum’s bookshop. He meets and greets, at the convened spot, a group of ten people waiting for his tour and we walk together to the upper floors. Adam guides us through the galleries to a handful of paintings: “Bridget Riley’s Fall, Barnett Newmann’s Adam, and Jean Dubuffet’s The Tree of fluids.” He is proposing mating his own small-scale creations, which he has been carrying under his arm, with these three from the Tate’s collection. He sealed the joyful union by singing a song of his own invention and taking photos of the group with the Avikainen paintings in front of the original works. The invigilators—to my surprise—never interrupted Adam or asked us what on Earth was going on. Since then, without fail, every year in May, the artist has been sending an e-mail to participants of the tour to celebrate the anniversary of those nuptials and to recount what the paintings have been doing. After four years, I wonder how many e-mails have bounced back and forth, and how many births, weddings, journeys, and stories have engaged the participants.

Within Adam’s research, everything appears so disparate yet so inextricably connected; he has been creating an all encompassing ecosystem, a life-consuming fiction, which breaths through our cells, even as I write and you read this. The spores travel in the mail and online, and infest us with the Adam Avikainen’s disease. You are part of it too now. “Viruses made us (mitochondria).” Excerpt from


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