On Saturday I went to the new exhibit at the City Gallery: Seung Yul Oh: MOAMOA, A Decade.
As you enter the gallery, the guides explain to you that some things can be touched but not others, as indicated by the signs. The first curatorial note I read talks about how the artist subverts and throws away the rules of the gallery.
One of the issues I've been thinking about recently (particularly with Binge) is that a lot of the time the overriding feeling during 'interaction' is of self conciousness of the situation, which overshadows a real sense of participation. Provoking reactions and opening space for responses inside a spectator's head is one thing, but getting them to actively do stuff and actually commit to it is really hard. With Binge it's usually worked best when we've made a task simple and clear, or made the scenario feel relatively anonymous. Kids and cats can play with a cardboard box in public, grown ups need a bit more help.
I feel like most of the 'fun interactive' stuff at the City Gallery ignores this issue and pretends it doesn't matter. Exhibits like this one assume that we can find a way to play not just in public but in a gallery, the least playful environment around. Galleries are high-culture spaces where we demonstrate our good own taste to those around us, where we feel self concious for not looking long enough at paintings. They are sparse, bright, policed spaces where we have to perform 'gallery goer' to those around us.
In the room full of giant upright inflatable tik taks I noticed the difference between the kids' and the adults' behaviour. For the kids, big blow up things are just good fun, and they go nuts scooting around them. As an adult I read a sign that says, 'this work playfully ignores gallery conventions' and it only makes me think more about gallery conventions and how concious I am of them. The opportunity for interaction is so broad (check out this thing! It's inflatable!) that I don't know what to do, and can't find a game through which to engage with the work. Especially with the attendants keeping such close eye on us all.
There are also two video pieces, one of people blowing up balloons until they pop, and the other a music video. They are both engaging- the kind of thing I'd watch if they showed up during my daily rounds of the internet and maybe even forward on to a sibling. I know its been said, but the boundaries between high and low culture really are arbitrary, even more so now that we all seek out material online. There are so many videos and collections of images turning up on gawker and facebook every day, and I think that many of them could inhabit this kind of space just as assuredly. Here's a favourite video that comes to mind. I think this is a fantastic work of art.
This video work teeters tantalisingly on the edge of irony, as we recognise the man's unfashionable 'look' and dance moves while at the same time we admire his conviction and skill. He's so committed that its hard to just make fun of him, we have to respect him as well.
In the piece, a blueprint for a future performance event is presented. The man's precision as he narrates the moves stands in contrast to the unseen final version of the dance, which we can only assume will be a rough simulation of the vision outlined here. We are invited to imagine this final version of the performance from the map of it presented here.
Bold rhythms run through the piece and the parallel spoken and physical texts are a source of surprise and delight.
What if there was just a gallery space set up with 20 projectors displaying the most interesting stuff from the internet, as voted by a panel, which changed every week? I'm not talking cat photos, but actual art that's just floating around languishing and not being called art. I wonder what the point of 'subverting galley conventions' is now that most of us don't need to go into a public space to get our art, literature and drama.
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