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San Francisco
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94720
January 29, 2014 - May 25, 2014

The Vitality of the Unknown: The Possible at the Berkeley Art Museum
by Andrew Berardini

On a large circular rug in the yawning atrium of the brutalist Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, they are playing a game. A sign welcomes you on the carpet though it requests you take off your shoes. 

It’s not too hard to figure out, but the MC pads across the carpet with bare feet and whispers to you the rules. Most but all wear white sleeveless sheets belted over their clothes, but not all. Echoing sounds of a couple playing music on a laptop and synths, they stand and lay and bend, all statue still. A woman hollers “Me!” and moves arcing her body over a prone man, stops, poses, and hollers “You!” Another woman shouts “Me!” moves and poses in a sashay, handing resting on her hip, looking down on the two others. Each of the dozen or so people only move singly when each calls. Only one at a time. I take off my shoes and join the game. 

A crowd surges around the rug, watching and moving past, towards the shelves holding dozens of unfired clay pots, past the loom and the long sheet of cloth dyed indigo over a concrete vat filled with the dye, towards the colony of risograph and photocopy machines just beyond, down to the children one floor beneath squeezing bits of colored molding clay placed each on its own shelf, up past the makeshift recording studio where a guitarist plays to a handsome man singing and another dancing and through to the display of ephemera vitrined along the walls of a half century of artist magazines and documents.

The MC on the carpet is Fritz Haeg, the musicians are Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara of Lucky Dragons, the color bits of molding clay are by Charles Long, the ephemera organized and chosen by Lauren Mackler of Public Fiction along with the organizer of this confluence of activities, the artist and exhibition curator David Wilson. Only a few of the eighty and more artists participating. 

This is The Possible. With the beloved and spacious concrete box soon to close for retrofitting and the museum to move to new digs, BAM/PFA director Larry Rinder invited Wilson and co-organized The Possible as a fitting send-off. The Possible is an exhibition of a kind, but rather than close this building with a greatest hits or the stasis of already made and easily lapped, Rinder and Wilson created something so much more, a space to create, a vehicle for artists to make and share, a way to say goodbye to the experimental history of a museum building historically housing the new and the strange. 

The effect feels porous, a little Utopic, wholly inviting, and in all its cacophony, magical. The wall-text, hand-painted, begins “Dear Friends.” And the last line of its first paragraph asserts that “it is designed to the preserve the vitality of the unknown.” 

The exhibition will evolve over its four months, with classes and jam sessions, makings and dances, always shifting, the list of artists painted on the wall expands as the exhibition does. My first visit to an art museum, I wandered the wildly varied objects and gesture with wide-eyes, understanding little except that each of these ways of looking belonged there, that a museum was and could be a place where so many different possible ways of seeing a world could co-exist, that there would always be room for new additions, new visions. The Possible with its gentle touch and an open, shifting space radiates the expansive truth of this.


Andrew Berardini 



(All images: The Possible Opening Ceremeony , 2014; © Photo: Peter Cavagnaro.)

Posted by Andrew Berardini on 3/8/14 | tags: performance music ephemera clay games interactive

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