Art of Participation

It seems I’ve been catching shows at the last possible moment lately. The Art of Participation is closing tomorrow, leaving behind stacks of empty bottles from a few months of free beer with Tom Marioni, reams of paper covered in news stories, and crates full of portraits taken of visitors.

The pieces that worked best for me were simple concepts with simple executions. Hans Haacke’s “News” prints out an rss feed of news stories as it is published. The beauty is in the overwhelming amount of content generated; many rolls of printer paper flow out onto the floor, curling up on themselves and forming an elegant pile. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Microphones” was similarly austere. A series of microphones were arranged in a circle in the center of a darkened room. Whenever someone spoke loudly enough into a microphone, it would play back their voice, then add some previously recorded sounds in response. The piece demanded a certain level of confidence from audience members to get it towork,but also stood on its own as a collection of beautiful objects.

A number of classic performance/interactive pieces were also on display. Many of these pieces were shown alongside an updated version. Video of Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece” performances from 1965 and 2003 were on simultaneous display. Tom Marioni’s work from the 1970s, “The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest form of Art” was recreated every Thursday for the duration of the exhibition. In other cases, visitors to the museum were encouraged to create their own work using the props and ideas of artists on display. Notably, there was a platform with props for making one-minute sculptures. The inclusion of updated participatory work with classic pieces is a great curatorial move, and really helps to keep the ideas of the older pieces relevant to todays audience.

View more images from the museum in my SFMoMA flickr set.