em>Left to right: A detail from Adam Putnam's Untitled (1995) (1995), an installation view of Charles Long's Untitled (2006), and Rita Ackermann's Black Out (2007). Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Mostly, I remember the bird shit. Spindly gray sculptures1 rising from their metal frames, buoyant but droopy, like bummed-out ghosts. Only after walking past the group of sculptures did I spot the photographs of great blue heron droppings that the sculptures elaborate in 3-D. All right; very funny. The poop portraits were taken on the banks of a river, the Los Angeles, I think. (Who knew L.A. had great blue herons?)

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One of the photographs is a horizontal smear, hence the sculpture that looks like a fast ghost, zipping off its frame with tendrils flattened by an imaginary wind. The rest of the sculptures bob around upright, looking more like their avian ancestors. The concept is a little cheap—wildlife in a city, art out of shit—but the objects aren't simply beautiful, an equally easy refutation of their ugly origins. They are both graceful and gross, long and thin but made up of ashy lumps. The composition acknowledges the debased moment of conception. I do not know whether there is actual shit in the sculptures.

Some art is sticky. You remember it the next day, out of all the hundreds of works you saw in a big exhibition, not because you liked it, necessarily, but because it has passive burrs or active tentacles. Ideas are among the stickiest. One of the biennial's sculptures is about proprietary dimensions: a certain shape of box only FedEx is allowed to ship. The artist2 fit glass cubes of the same measurements into the boxes and FedExed them. The cubes were damaged. (Perhaps some intellectual-property god smote them?) The resulting piece is a bedraggled pile of cardboard-and-glass corporate building blocks, fun to read about in the wall text ("Ooh," said a woman brightly to her husband. "You'll like this!"), but really very quiet, almost mute. And yet here it is, sticking.

Other art has been almost impossible to remember since my trip to New York two weeks ago. The worst is when a work doesn't seem to have very much to do with itself. Take one piece3—I wanted to like it, because it included a running loop of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and it looked like it was going to be about Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. Eyeliner and haberdashery. The way piracy, because it's a gleeful expression of powerlessness, is seen as feminine in spite of the swashbuckling. But I don't think this assemblage was about that, because I can't remember what it was about. I do remember how people were huddled around the screen, but all the other stuff—a long, low, wooden sculpture? maybe painted black?—is blurry, just vignetting for the portrait of funny Johnny Depp.

Assemblage was everywhere, and I can't tell you if it was interesting. This biennial has walls with slips of paper4 tacked up in too-neat grids; slabs of resin5 sliced to reveal hard-to-identify objects embedded within; and Plexiglas portraiture6 made with neon paint and lady shapes and not-particularly-explicit political phrases. It's hard to know what to do with these scattered piles of things. There's no glue to keep them coherent, or to paste them into your memory.

The biennial was packed, of course, even on Easter morning—maybe that's why I kept drifting away from the assemblage and toward serene, orderly works, like the charming optical trickery of a magic lantern7, which casts emerald doors deep into the walls of a small, darkened room. It was lovely but not too comforting (the green was kind of spooky), much like the tactile gelatin silver prints by the same artist lining the hallway outside. There were three in a row: The outer two were photographs of rooms, carpeted, I think, and full of a mystical haze; the inner photograph was of a man hanging upside down, his face uncomfortably squished against the floor.8 The gay couple next to me said he was hot, but he looked emaciated.

One artist's works are about memory9, so I'm glad I remember them. Large photographs of walls lean against the real walls. In the photographs, wooden boxes balance atop books and faded family snapshots are pinned above that. The books look like they've been assigned in an undergraduate African-American studies survey, and the people in the pictures are black. The personal leans on the intellectual, conjoined by something unidentifiable, all set in an environment that's close to the real one, but not the same.

The rest, to this art-world outsider, is gone. recommended

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1. Charles Long, Untitled (2006), papier-mâché, plaster, steel, synthetic polymer, river sediment, debris. 2. Walead Beshty, FedEx® Large Boxes, Priority Overnight, Los Angeles—New York (2007), FedEx boxes, glass. 3. Rachel Harrison, Sops for Cerberus (2008), mixed media. 4. Frances Stark, Subtraction (2007), ink on paper inlaid with found printed matter. 5. Jedediah Caesar, Dry Stock (2007), urethane resin, polyester resin, pigment, aluminum, titanium, wood, mixed media. 6. Rita Ackermann, Black Out (2007), Plexiglas, fabric, printed paper, bolts, linen, oil stick, oil paint, spray paint, synthetic polymer, graphite, tape, gesso, pen, staple, adhesive. 7. Adam Putnam, Green Hallway (Magic Lantern) (2007), mixed-media installation. 8. Adam Putnam, Untitled (Wisp) (2007), gelatin silver print; Adam Putnam, Untitled (Post) (2007), gelatin silver print; Adam Putnam, Untitled (1995) (1995), gelatin silver print. 9. Leslie Hewitt, Make It Plain (2006), mixed media.