Last weekend I took a trip up to Long Island City to MoMA PS1 with the lovely Lily-bean to see, specifically, the Surasi Kusolwong piece “Golden Ghost (The Future Belongs To Ghosts)” that was re-installed from its original installation at Living as Form in September/October. I had to see personally how they had re-imagined (?) the piece – I had been totally incredulous that PS1 even wanted the piece in the first place, and that Surasi had allowed it to be “re-installed”. They used the exact same threadwaste that we had fluffed endlessly for 4 weeks inside of the Essex Street Market.
some images taken by a fellow museum-goer here.
It was an up-to-the-last-minute plan changer during the de-installation of the exhibition — were we going to have to take the threadwaste to the dumpster/recycling center (pay for transportation, pay for dumping per pound, all 7 tons of it), or was MoMA PS1 going to take it, paying for transportation themselves, and re-install it as art. it was a very bizarre art moment for me. They took it! and Surasi made new necklaces! and now even more people love it and play around like it’s a political (but that stuff is easily ignorable) McDonald’s ball-pit.
Surasi himself scampering across the “Threadwaste Landscape” opening weekend. This was the piece at it’s height, in it’s full glory. Also having Surasi there himself made the whole thing just 100x better. and more adorable.
From the run of the exhibition — above is one of the necklace-finders and his sister.
My parents adorably laying in the threadwaste landscape themselves. the first weekend.
Kevin, Leila, and myself putting in some late-nights
Anyways. It was great to be re-united with pieces of Living as Form. It even smelled the same as it had in the market (ok maybe this is gross?)! But what was more exciting from my visit was discovering Clifford Owens, specifically his body of work Anthology.
Briefly, for Anthology, Owens “asked 26 inter-generational black artists to provide him with scores for performance works which he interpreted in situ during a residency at PS1 last spring.” He was presenting a collection of highly personal interpretations and reflections on “blackness” and performed most of these actions using his body as the medium. There were many pieces that were interesting, and as a whole they told a collective yet individual story and history.
A great interview with the artist (scroll right): http://www.bullettmedia.com/article/cliff-owens-moma-ps1/
The piece that just had me frozen was the performance / instruction submitted by Kara Walker, who instructed Owens (I’m paraphrasing) to “French kiss an audience member and demand sex”. The performance was a room of presumably MoMA PS1 audience members (it might have been the same room in which I had been standing watching the video documentation of this event) standing along the edge of the room. Some had cans of beer in their hands. Owens walked casually around the room, getting closer to people, locking eyes, sometimes touching their shoulder or elbow, and then kissing them, more or less intimately, sometimes a long time sometimes just short. then moving on to someone else in the room.
image from @Ruschka on twitter, http://twitpic.com/7h2bbn. taken november 20, 2011
For me this was the ultimate social art piece. Not ultimate in the best most awesome wow this is what my work should be, but in that it was arresting on so many levels. It was nothing like watching a make-out scene in a movie. it was awkward, it was uncomfortable, it was extremely revealing of human-ness. You watched people — people that may well have been you!! — being awkward, uncomfortable, hands crossed in front of their bodies, maybe thinking about other people, maybe never been kissed before, and then the artist performed a very intimate and “meaningful” act in a context where everyone knows it doesn’t really mean those meanings we add to it. AND THEN on top of that, he is a black body in a room of mostly white museum-goers, bringing in histories and cultural stereotypes about African-American sexuality or force and all the injustices that have resulted from assumptions and institutionalized racism throughout our American history.
AND THEN on top of all that theorizing and history was the looks on the people’s faces, when they gave into the kissing. When most of them became really a part of it, closed their eyes and let their crossed arms down. Everyone knew it was just a performance, but it was still so human to give in, to connect with the person kissing you. It was like watching your bestfriend, yourself, make out with someone. which I’ve never done, but I imagine it would be like watching this video.
Some great articles reviewing Anthology:
So, this I consider socially engaged art, or at least engaging art, because it stuck me at my core, and made me uncomfortable, made me feel human, made me feel both connected and alone.
He is doing one more performance this Saturday, I think I will be going. Want to join me?