October 28, 2008

No thing. Not anything. Naught. NOT YET.

Jochen Gerz, The Gift, "photo studio"

This is a portrait studio if I say so.

Doesn’t look like much, does it?

It will. This pair of empty desks and chairs tucked into a corner of the third-floor landing will shortly become the portrait studio for the Jochen Gerz project THE GIFT, part of the upcoming exhibition The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now. In brief: the exhibition examines ways artists have been engaging audiences as “essential collaborators” over the last sixty years, covers a wide range of genre and media (video, performance, sculpture, photography, text), and includes so much of what this correspondent loves in art. The Art of Participation is also promising those elusive museum experiences: interactivity, noise, mess, fun.

The image I have in mind of what happens when AoP opens the morning of Nov 8 is energetically akin to hundreds of squealing eight-year-olds flooding the Atrium, the stairwells, the galleries, enlivening those spaces with their infinitely renewable, bright excitable intensity. A somewhat undignified way of introducing what looks to be an important, layered survey of participatory art practice, but nevertheless a gesture toward some of the very human, tangible, and lively experiences the exhibition hopes to provide. In coming days and weeks you’ll hear a lot about it  here on the blog, beginning with a (more) dignified conversation with  Art of Participation curator Rudolf Frieling, next week. But for today, just a sneak peek at Jochen Gerz’s The Gift:

Jochen Gerz, The Gift, iteration SFMOMA 2008. The gallery wall awaiting your image; ‘photo studio’; and picture-storage wall-o-cubbies. Those cubbies are big enough for whole teenagers to stuff themselves inside of, according to exhibitions manager Kent Roberts, who caught half a high-school class doing same.

The idea is that at the beginning of the exhibition there is literally nothing on the wall. With your collaboration, and with a lot of help from students and volunteers from around the Bay Area, The Gift is produced over time. We’ll use the photo studio to take portrait pictures of museum-goers, which photos will then be printed, framed, exhibited, and stored all on the same floor, all on view. Gerz’s work is called The Gift because you give your picture to the show, & because you also get something in return: on closing day, we’ll have a big communal event (a.k.a. “a party!”), and the artist will hand a picture to everyone who contributed theirs.  In other words, if you give, you get: and you also own a part of the collection. You don’t get your own pretty face, however; you get a picture of a stranger, and the condition of receiving a portrait is that you exhibit it somewhere. (BART station/your living room/your tropical vacation?) Portrait sittings will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, when the studio is open (provisionally, 12-4 M-Tu-Th-F). Also look for big spreads of museum-visitor portraits in local newspapers during the run of the exhibition, orchestrated by Gerz, and a bid at extending the artwork beyond the museum walls, beyond SFMOMA’s jurisdiction, into the daily life of the city.

Jochen Gerz, The Gift, 2000; digital photography studio, production lab, digital pigment prints, and newspaper advertisements, each photograph: 23 5/8 x 19 11/16 in., overall dimensions variable; installation view at Le Fresnoy, Studio National des Arts Contemporain, Tourcoing, France, 2000; photo: courtesy the artist; © 2008 Jochen Gerz and Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, Germany

More on The Art of Participation here. Members’ preview opening is FRIDAY NOV 7, adjunct to Martin Puryear, with everything open to the public November 8. Become a member! Come to the party!



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