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Odd Spaces at the MFA Boston


Wednesday night the MFA and Big Red & Shiny were proud to present the Odd Spaces panel discussion at the MFA Boston, following the group exhibition of performance art curated by Liz Munsell, assistant curator of contemporary art and MFA programs. We all feel the days events were a success and we can’t thank you enough for being present with the performers and our panelists David Levine, Kate McNamara, Sandrine Schaefer, and Tony Schwensen, and the curator of the exhibition and panel moderator Liz Munsell.

The back-story to the Odd Spaces panel, is that it came out of conversations with Liz, dating back to the summer of 2012. We deliberated over what would make a panel work and would be mutually beneficial to BR&S and the MFA. We knew that we wanted to work together, so it was just the matter of finding the right situation.

The Odd Spaces name, of course, comes from the performances being placed in unusual gallery locations; under a bench, between the kitchen and the dining room, in front of a few famous art works, and in an enclosed educational space that the audience was not allowed to enter. At the same time that Liz was curating the performances for the MFA, we started working together on a list of possible panelists and the range of subjects that would create a conversation that would resonate with the art. Co-programming the panel with the MFA offered us the chance to help convert the performances into an ongoing conversation and we thought that this would interest our readers.

We were right. You showed up in force, asked pertinent questions, and challenged the panelists to further their arguments. As the people who were at our MIT panel in October already know, our fabulous readers are not afraid to ask their questions. In the last year you’ve made our two panels into complete successes and we thank you for it.

Enough about the panel though, what about the art?

John C. Gonzalez’s Family Meal was staged in collaboration with the MFA’s restaurants. He created a dialogue with the employees that quietly make the museum run, and talked about the food that they call their own. In the Garden Cafeteria, Hamilton Luna Alvarez added arepas to the menu for lunch, and Jodeson Francisco created a mix of Northern and Southern Brazilian cuisine for Bravo Restaurant.

Sandrine Schaefer and Philip Fryer gathered sounds from around the museum prior to playing that sound back via small speakers on their bodies while viewing two works that they chose in the Rotunda.

Marilyn Arsem was the talk of the night without question. She spent 6 plus hours lying under one of the benches in the Egyptian galleries. The smell of jasmine filled the gallery and she was as close to invisible as you can be in a museum. Many visitors sat on the bench, completely unaware of her presence.

David Levine’s work was staged in the Druker Classroom. Angie Jepson recited Greenberg’s Avant-Garde and Kitsch as a monologue, in a loop for five hours. Her performance filled the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art as Jepson’s voice was being broadcast via speakers into the whole space.

All of the works activated their venues in different ways and changed the way that I perceived these familiar spaces. As a group, they create a continuum of visibility. Where Levine’s durance literally projected itself into your sonic space and Gonzalez’s Family Meal was there in your hands and mouths, Arsem’s body was obscured by the bench in With the Others and Fryer/Schaefer stood with you even if they didn’t announce the presence of Untitled View.

We aren’t sure what the next panel will be, but we can’t thank our readers enough for coming out to support our efforts and we look forward to seeing more performances in the MFA's galleries.

Special thanks to everyone at the MFA that made the performances possible. Alexa Beychok, Contemporary Art Intern; Gabriella Shypula, Contemporary Art Volunteer; Rita Freed, Chair, Art Ancient World; Tim Partridge, Executive Chef; Gregg Fontecchio, General Manager; Cooks Hamilton Luna Alvarez and Jodeson Francisco of Restaurant Associates. In addition, thank you to Shane Godfrey for photographing the evening.

We at Big Red & Shiny also can't forget to thank Liz Munsell. Working with her was a pleasure and resulted in a fantastic evening. Thank you again Liz.

About Author

John is an independent writer and curator. He was the Editor in Chief of Big Red & Shiny from 2012-13 and Journal Editor through June 2014. John has written for Art New England, Art Papers, Artsfuse.org, Artwrit.com, DailyServing.com, the New American Paintings blog, Printeresting.org and others.

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