ATHICA: Athens Institute for Contemporary Art presents “Taking Part,” an exhibition of participatory art by six artists who employ a range of approaches to bring their projects to fruition. While all of the artists incorporate input from the public, some request input from their non-artist collaborators before the work is finalized, while others incorporate participation during the exhibition. However, for all the projects the artist’s involvement remains essential to the final outcome. The exhibit runs from Saturday, January 22nd to Sunday, March 6th, 2011, with a number of affiliated events enhancing the discussion of this contemporary art-making methodology.
Participatory art has its beginnings in the first half of the twentieth century with the performative and often political projects of the Dada artists, but reached its peak in the 1960s with artists such as Alan Kaprow, who coined the term Happenings, and Nam June Paik and Yoko Ono, who were part of the Fluxus network which embraced performance, mail art, sound art and video. The artists in this exhibition look back to those early days of participatory art, but also take cues from relational aesthetics and conversational art of the 1980’s and 90’s, which focused on the social rather than political. In his book, Relational Aesthetics, Nicolas Bourriauld defines Relational Art as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” He speaks of inter-human encounters and familiarity, of the exhibition as catalyst for immediate discussion, unlike more privately consumed media such as television and film. Likewise, the artists in this exhibition each strive to transgress the boundaries between artist and viewer, the academic and the vernacular, and the public and private realms through the involvement of participants and the active engagement of the viewer.
While the works in Taking Part range from handwritten postcards to interactive digital media, each artist is deeply involved with the traditions of portraiture and biography as ever-changing genres. Ultimately, these works identify participation as an integral aspect of all art, for both the viewer and the artist, though it is most visible in art of the last century. In Send Me the Pillow that you Dream On, Michael Lease relies on common experiences shared by many Americans. This project involves over 40 participants who were asked to send the artist four images – a class picture between the ages of 15 and 17, a current picture, a picture of their pillow, and a view out a window in their home. The resulting collection of images serves as a portrait of an individual – their past and present appearance, their intimate lives, and their environment. The photographs’ accessibility instantly creates a bond between viewer and art, with the viewer easily placing him/herself within the project, as a participant by virtue of recognition. Lease’s interest in shared experience and the vernacular reveals the artist’s voyeuristic urge to see into the lives of others, but more importantly, stems from his desire to orchestrate a communal experience. The participants in this project are all friends, family and acquaintances of the artist, making this group portrait and extension of the artist himself, thus giving the viewer the same voyeuristic experience in viewing the life of the artist.
Michael Lease (Richmond, VA)
Lori Hepner (Pittsburgh, PA), Heather Freeman (Charlotte, NC), Rosemary Kate Jesionowski (Richmond, VA), Hope Hilton (Winterville, GA), Brian Hitselberger (Athens, GA).
Walk with me: Athens
Saturday, Jan. 22, 6:30-7 p.m.
Join local artist Hope Hilton as she leads a participatory walk in and around the Chase Park neighborhood. Walk back to the opening and be the first to post your walk description on the Walk with me: Athens wall in the gallery.
Mirror Mob: Come take part in a Unique Group Photo
Sunday, Jan. 30, 2010, 3 p.m.
Bring your own mirror!
Create Art – Create Opportunity
This event produced in conjunction with local business Deal Mobs: photos will be available for purchase during the exhibit run as a fundraiser for a small business incubator–details TBA
Open Lines: A VOX Reading Series Event
Friday, Feb. 11, 7-9 p.m.
Readings of original works by local writers and UGA MFA Creative Writing candidates.
$3 – $6 Suggested donation (but no one turned away for lack of funds.)
Walk & Talk
Thursday, Feb. 17, 7-8 p.m.
Discuss the works in the Taking Part exhibition informally with Assistant Curator Sheena Varghese and Educational Coordinator Sage Rogers.
Kids Take Part!
Saturday, Feb. 19
3 p.m.: 8 -12 year olds
4 p.m.: Teens
Come participate in educational crafts and activities relating to the Taking Part exhibit.
These sessions will also include local artist Gretchen Elsner’s The House of John King, an interactive life-size board game worn by the artist as participants explore a house of riddles.
Suggested Donation $3.00 – $6.00 (but no one turned away for lack of funds.)
Closing Day Events
Sunday, March 6
3:30 -6 p.m.
3:30 – 4:15
The Taking Part Curator & Artist Panel Discussion — followed by audience Q & A
Localized Noise-Induced Transitions: The Athens Survey
A Found Sound and Image Report by Eric Lunde & Julia Cross; visiting Artists from Minneapolis, MN in collaboration with local artists TBA — followed by audience Q & A
Closing Reception with the participants