Bernadette Corporation Gets Its First Retrospective at Artists Space in New York (Photos)

Founded in 1994, the art collective known as the Bernadette Corporation has always tried to blur the normal categories—between art and business, fashion and performance, the serious and the ironic, truth and lies. BC’s ever-changing roster of members has been entirely ellusive and hugely influential. On Sept. 9, the New York non-profit called Artist Space will launch the first BC retrospective, which the corporation insists will be unlike any other.

Courtesy the artist and distributed by EAI ; David Vasiljevic and Greene Naftali Gallery ; Courtesy the artist and Galerie NEU ; John Minh Nguyen

Courtesy the artist and distributed by EAI ; David Vasiljevic and Greene Naftali Gallery ; Courtesy the artist and Galerie NEU ; John Minh Nguyen

Business as Unusual

Founded in 1994, the art collective known as the Bernadette Corporation has always tried to blur the normal categories—between art and business, fashion and performance, the serious and the ironic, truth and lies. BC’s ever-changing roster of members has been entirely ellusive and hugely influential. On Sept. 9, the New York non-profit called Artist Space will launch the first BC retrospective, which the corporation insists will be unlike any other.

A couple of members recently spoke to me about their non-art, and this Web gallery presents a sampling from BC’s un-corporate history.

—Blake Gopnik

Cris Moor

This 1997 photo by Cris Moor shows clothes designed and styled by the Bernadette Corporation. BC got its start in the early 1990s in New York, arranging underground parties downtown. By 1995, however, the mock corporation had shifted its focus to fashion and branding, always with some element of the art world's postmodern irony.

David Vasiljevic and Greene Naftali Gallery

A digital photo from the series called Ars Nova, taken by David Vasiljevic. In 2008,  Bernadette Corporation took a step into the official art world with a show called The Complete Poem, at Greene Naftali Gallery in New York. It included a piece of esoteric collective writing as well as consumer-ish photos, like this one, of lithe models in jeans. John Kelsey, a BC member since 1999, remembers "some of the artists in the gallery having an immediate, kind of suspicious reaction to why we were suddenly in their space, being treated like an artist. ... I felt like we were confronted with an extreme cynicism – an artist questioning another way of doing things."


Cris Moor

"Creation of a False Feeling", a photo taken in 2000 by Cris Moor.  During their fashion years, the Bernadette Corporation was featured in magazines such as i-D, The Face, Index and Purple and collaborated with well-known photographers such as Moor, Ines van Lamsweerde and Wolfgang Tillmans.

John Minh Nguyen

This photo by John Minh Nguyen, from Purple Fashion No.2, features clothing from Bernadette Corporation's Spring-Summer collection for 1997. BC hybridized the world of high fashion and the styles and clothing of urban minorities, always with the aim of resisting business as usual.

Courtesy the artist, distributed by EAI

One of the (apparently) more documentary moments in BC's "Get Rid of Yourself", a one-hour video from 2003.

Courtesy the artist, distributed by EAI

A still from the video called "Get Rid of Yourself", from 2003, in which the Bernadette corporation mixes (apparently) real interviews with rioters from the 2001 G8 summit with footage of Chloe Sevigny reading the lines they've just uttered. Confusion and doubt reign as fiction and reality cross – rather as they did in the riots themselves.

Courtesy the artist and Galerie NEU

"Only She Could Be Other", from 2011, is described by BC as a "Dornbracht TARA.LOGIC wall-mounted singlelever basin mixer with sandblast etching and hand engraving", as presented at Galerie Neu in Berlin.

Courtesy the artist

The cover of the last of three issues of Made in USA, which the Bernadette Corporation published in 2001. The magazine venture was some kind of cross between Purple and Artforum, with a dash of Derrida thrown in.

Semiotext(e)

This is the cover of "Reena Spaulings", a collective novel with dozens of anonymous authors brought together by the Bernadette Corporation in 2004. The book traces the rise of a Manhattan ingenue, but it's true subject may be post-9/11 New York – and how the novel itself was composed.