ARTFORCE! CAMBRIDGE @ CACG
“This isn't your newspaper critic's gallery show,” exclaims the ArtForce! Cambridge invitation-- which unsurprisingly makes this exhibition especially compelling to review. Leave behind all of your presumptions about art, as this show will certainly challenge them; you might even find yourself noticing artwork in the most unexpected places. The gallery is a functioning laboratory that demonstrates and documents the inner mechanisms of the creative process. Unlike the majority of art exhibitions, where the final product is on display for public reception, here the majority of the actual art exists outside the edifice. The gallery is only the tip of the iceberg-- the city of Cambridge is at its core.
Organized by 14 young artists from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this exhibition raises critical questions about art produced through a public and performatory context. Nowadays, it is apparent that the role of the artist is shifting and expanding. Many changes have been forecasted, as the modes of artistic distribution diverge into interdisciplinary experiences, crossing into the realms of sociology, psychology and anthropology. The ArtForce! collaborative echoes this reality, by bringing to the forefront a relevant direction in art. The headquarters for this endeavor is ideal-- the Cambridge Art Council's gallery at the City Hall Annex. Here many citizens serendipitously encounter the show, as the building houses facilities for a variety of public services.
ArtForce! artists include: Amanda Cassingham, Jillian Chapman, Chloe Christian, Gabriella Kirby, Phyllis Labanowski, Sarah Mayabb, Allison Price, Sabri Reed, Lisa Silveria, Emily Somma, Terrance Wong, Mong-jane Wu, Courtney Young and Ursula Ziegler. ArtForce! is under the direction of: Mags Harries, professor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The viewer enters the lilac room under a clothesline of bright red lab coats. Dominating the center is a colossal makeshift street cone where notices are posted throughout the exhibition. Road signs, maps and arrows point you in all directions; while the floor resembles a road for the viewer to determine their own personal path through the space. The jumbled, mazelike character of the exhibit can be overwhelming at first, as the abundance of information makes it difficult to focus. But after realizing that this is truly a work-in-progress, the havoc all seems to somehow make sense. In the “laboratory” you will get a glimpse of the experiential evolution of art, which extends far beyond what's found in typical art institutions. The surrounding city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, provides the multifaceted topics and resource materials, while the neighborhood’s inhabitants become the uncontrollable variables that determine each work. These artist/scientists are essentially problem solvers for aesthetic and social concerns; their lab does not strive to produce objective technical research, but instead it conducts social investigations on how the community comes to think about and value art.
Coffee anyone? As a guest you are welcome to have a snack in the “kitchen” while relaxing in a chair to converse or contemplate. This concept is reminiscent of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s 2005 instillation that involved sharing free meals with gallery-goers in London. Meanwhile, the artists, identified by their red ensemble, are diligently working on their research. But don’t hesitate to interrupt them. Conversation is a critical component to their work-- in fact; it wouldn’t be complete without it! And, if you still have lingering questions on your mind, or are too shy to ask, you are free to post up your own anonymous inquiries that will be addressed during public forums held in conjunction with the exhibition.
This discourse is necessary to reflect on the complexities of community-based art, and to explore the relationship between visual art, public art and civic dialogue. Artists have the freedom and flexibility to go beyond common standards, and to explore the delicate borders of a subject; therefore, they have a much wider path of navigation. However, this artistic method is not entirely novel. In the 1950’s Allan Kaprow redefined the relationship between the object and the viewer by performing “Happenings” to incorporate art into life; the act of creating art was privileged above the finished product. Furthermore, the contemporary artist Tino Sehgal creates “constructed situations” that involve assigning people to carryout a set of instructions conceived by the artist. Sehgal’s art is completely intangible. Both of these artists have undoubtingly been an important precursor to this exhibition.
In total, ArtForce! Cambridge presents 7 unique projects and 18 special events that continue throughout the duration of the show. The artists perform around Cambridge and anyone is invited to attend. But beware -- these actions seem like so much fun, that you might just forget that you are participating in art! The lineup includes glow-in-the-dark hula-hoop dancing, guided city hikes, wrapping trees in hand-sewn quilts, blogging about our every day objects and rituals, and creating symbolic languages with kids.
"ArtForce! Cambridge, A Public Art Lab" was on view April 17, at Cambridge Art Center Gallery, City Hall Annex.
All images are courtesy of the artists of ArtForce! Cambridge.