“remember france? it broke from within. that can happen here. we can only protect our own country within by making more of us more understanding of each other’s freedom and each other’s work and possessions.” [1]

25/07/2011 § 1 Comment

ai wei wei, marble chairs (2008)

 

things are wrapping up in minneapolis and i’m heading back down to austin very soon.  a few highlights surrounding the trip involved chairs.  chair are ubiquitous.  if you had the time to watch the entire video the social life of small urban spaces, you would eventually come across a moment in which the researchers studied the use of chairs in public places.  starting around 20 minutes into the video you get a great glimpse at just how neurotic we can be sometimes.

that said chairs can also be political.  i was pleased to see ai wei wei’s marble chair the moment i stepped into the minneapolis institute of art’s asian galleries last week.  it was a reminder that art institutions are political entities, as well as, venues of personal expression.  this is a topic which would eventually resurface during my visit of the walker art center with matt olson of rolu.  goshka macuga addresses the topic of politics and museums head on in her confrontational solo exhibition it broke from within.  if you happen to be in minneapolis i recommend a visit.

 

gianni pettena, wearable chairs (1971)

 

touring the walker with matt eventually lead me to gianni pettena, whom we’ve both been very interested since i first stumbled upon his photograph some call him pig.  gianni did more than photograph advertising campaigns.  while teaching at the minneapolis college of art and design he put on several performances.  one of which involved walking around the city with wearable chairs for six hours.  in his artist statement giannia declares:

for a day, a group of people, in indian file, had made themselves self-sufficient: they created disjointed objects without form or meaning, giving up something to them.  the whole thing was then recounted, so as to preserve its memory, to those who had not been present that day and who had therefore to trust in the good faith of those who told the story.  the chairs were just the means suited to a possible integration, disjointed if not worn, and signals of the need for the presence of a body in order for them to have meaning.  so from the behavior also came the instrumentalization of the journey to unknown regions, which became in their turn practicable.

 

gianni pettena, wearable chairs – exhibition view (1971)

ai wei wei, fairytale (2007)

 

after their journey around town, the chairs were hung in a gallery at the minneapolis art institute for twelve hours.  though gianni’s work is much less emotionally charged today, there is something very powerful about the desire to ensure that an event whether poetic or political isn’t forgotten.  this added layer gives personality and character to a piece that elevates it past just an object.  on display forty years after gianni pettena’s exhibition, the plaque next to ai wei wei’s chair acknowledged the artists arrest, though it hadn’t been updated to include his release [2].  a reminder that this chair’s presence is political and not just poetic.

 

looking for a comfy chair

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     today’s title comes from goshka macuga’s informational pamphlet accompanying the exhibit.  the text was taken from the walker art center’s membership drive brochure in 1941.  it continues, “we must learn to place a high value on the things that we have created and built and which we would inevitably lose through disunity and social revolution.  nothing is more important to us than those civic institutions, of which the art center is one, that create a broader appreciation of our common bonds – our homes, our work, and our personal expressions.”

[2]     i assume most people know of ai wei wei’s arrest this spring and eventual release some ninety odd days later.  but if you would like to know more about this issue i recommend looking in archives of paul schelmzer’s art blog eyeteeth for an exhaustive look into ai wei wei’s arrest and the support/neglect art institutions provided to him.

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