November 30, 2009

the circus

Jason Kottke pointing to Greg Allen’s project building Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione dining table out of Ikea parts (whoa) led me to a recent post of Greg’s on Gerhard Richter’s 4900 Colors Version II. Which he then connects nicely to John Cage’s Roywholyover A Circus.

Watching the installation and listening to the several random elements Richter deployed reminds me of John Cage’s rolywholyover exhibit from 1993-4. Using a a list and map created each day by an I Ching-based program, the museum’s art handlers would essentially perform by installing, moving, and removing artworks selected for the show. When not on the walls, paintings and such were stored on rolling walls, still visible, in a roped off section of the gallery. One of my absolute favorite art experiences ever.

And mine. I’ve never since seen a museum used in quite the same way; Roberta Smith’s New York Times review captures some great elements; worth quoting at length:

The exhibition’s heart and its largest section is “The Circus,” an exegesis on avant-garde practice in which Cage’s idea of randomness is applied most aggressively. The 50 artists included, all chosen by Cage, count as his friends, colleagues or inspirations. … To counter such deliberateness, nearly everything in this section is subject to change. Three times a day, every day that the museum is open, staff members shift five of the show’s objects, moving them to different positions in the gallery, placing them in the Reservoir (the open storage area that is part of the show) or bringing them back out on view, all in accordance with an elaborate I Ching-derived score. The growing number of nail holes speak of the changes.

I have a copy of the exhibition catalog from that show, which is a book-sized aluminum box filled with dozens of reproduced artifacts from the show – letters, musical scores, poetry, photographs, print reproductions, recipes, notes, essays and other miscellany.

Photo swiped from this auction.

It’s one of my favorite “books” – it captured perfectly the nature of the show, and, like Cage’s work, invites you to engage with it in an entirely different way than you would a typical exhibition catalog. It’s out of print now; though you can find copies on eBay occasionally and from fine art book dealers.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Enzo Mari tables out of Ikea spare parts. Whoa.