When artists produce art involving other people, or produce works which encourage participation, what is that ‘part’ which is taken or given? Do collaboration and participation in the production and reception of art create and maintain mutual regard and respect, or serve to reinforce and amplify the artist’s voice?
The art works chosen for I Take Part and the Part Takes Me explore interactions between artists and spectators, in turns ephemeral, poetic, confrontational, and address the question: how should one define this part? Liz Glynn proposes that each visitor ponders the idea of stage directions and by extension, artistic direction, hinting at staging a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk , or a work embracing-all-art-forms within the gallery space. Her silent film, Emotional Register, relocates Wagner’s opera Die Walküre in the imagination of each spectator. Ari Benjamin Meyers’s new work DUET is based on mutual regard and the effect of a distance between one and another while momentarily bridging it. Adrian Piper’s iconic workMy Calling (Card) #1 Meta-Performance from 1987-8 raises the question of how to approach one another with courtesy as a first step in addressing those both present and absent. Her exploration of race suggests the necessity of maintaining respect. Martha Rosler presents a new work created for this exhibition; she directly poses questions to each gallery visitor in a provocation of institutional critique.
Ulf Aminde collaborates with Shi-Wei Lu in an ongoing project Performing Labor Contracts (to give is love) (2013) that addresses the viewer by way of inviting a meditation on the construction of the self. The self, as proposed through this collaboration, is presented as inquisitory, showing an argumentative side to reflection, an inner-struggle made external. Kateřina Šedá’s installation Mom, Look at Me / Count to Three (2013) addresses the absence of attention, and the inherent need for relating one to another. Her work raises the possibility that at the base of all relationships is the persistent memory of the one-to-one parent-child regard.
At the core of the art presented in I Take Part and the Part Takes Me is the use of theatricality and the addressing of each art work to real or imagined spectators. The work points to a definition of participation in visual art that goes beyond the idea of a group taking part in the production or reception of an artist’s work. I Take Part and the Part Takes Me proposes that the act of addressing and the reception of that address are themselves acts of participation, and that participation, in this sense, is at the core of all art experiences. In this sense, when has art not been participatory, when does art not consist of an address from one to another, even if that other might be one’s own imagined alter ego?
Nearly two decades following the publication of Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, collaborative and participatory approaches in galleries, museums, and the public realm continue. As the art works presented here attest, this could be due to the fact that art is at its core participatory through an address of the artist to another.
I Take Part and the Part Takes Me explores the strength of that persistence.