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Documenting Right Now out Here

Though I’m writing this post from NYC I don’t want you to get the impression that I travel a lot.  The vast majority of my days are spent down in the “service level” of the museum conserving objects.  But today is a rare exception:  I’m at the Conflux Festival for the rest of the weekend with IMA adjunct curator Rebecca Uchill to experiment with ways to enhance our work with documenting variable art – art without a static original visible state (such as time-based media or ephemeral art).

Here’s a link to our project description.

Since the Conflux Festival is “The art and technology festival for the creative exploration of urban public space” we thought this would be an ideal place to expand our ideas and methods for documentation as we prepare for a number of upcoming projects in the contemporary department.

So, here’s the plan: we have a bag full of recording equipment that those ever-helpful Nuggets let me use (note to self: don’t get this bag ripped off) and a bunch of interesting projects and artists to investigate.  Rebecca and I have identified three perspectives for “viewing” an artist’s work:

1) Artist Vantage Point
The artist documents his/her perspective of the work.
2) Participant Vantage Point
The participant in a work documents his/her experience.
3) Witness Vantage Point
The witness or observer documents the work.

Of course, there’s some cross over between these three perspectives, but by identifying them this way we’ll be able to pick specific projects that best illustrate them.

Here are some projects that we’ll be working on:

49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs: Grand Finale by John Cage, a realization by Twiceband.

“The piece calls for participants to do a performance of their choice, or make an audio recording, or listen to the environment at any 49 of 147 randomly selected locations in New York City. For Twiceband’s realization, we are using the locales originally selected by Cage (using the I Ching), and will document all of the waltzes with text, audio recordings and photography.”

Here’s a link to a NYT article about this project, and a link to Kurt Gochstalk’s blog that discusses the project.

9/10 by Lucas Murgida

“A cabinet will be constructed and left on a sidewalk. I will be hidden inside and not reveal myself until someone assumes possession and brings the cabinet to their home.”

Here’s a link to Lucas’ Twitter ( and Flickr ( sites, where you can follow his adventure live this Saturday.  Also, here’s a link to his web page ( , where you can see a picture of him in the cabinet.

Acting Stranger by Andrew Schneider

“I act out and document short, scripted scenes with complete strangers as my scene partners. We set up a date, time, and location. The camera is rolling when they arrive, the only words out of our mouths are scripted, and there are no “thank yous” or “goodbyes”. We interact as dictated by the words. There is no direction. There are no second takes. There is nothing that is not within the context of the scene. We experience each other. The scene ends. We leave.”

I think there’s still time to sign up for a scene , if you’re gonna be in the City.  Here’s a link to Andrew’s blog.

Urban Disorientation Game Led by Calvin Johnson and Scott Knowles

“In this 2-3 hour game, participants are blindfolded and driven to a location several miles away from Conflux Headquarters. The game-players are divided into teams, and each team will be led by a UDG “guide.” The guides will each supervise a team, making certain that all precautions are taken to insure a fun and safe play of the game. Teams will not be allowed to use cell phones, maps, or transportation of any kind other than walking, and will only be provided the most minimal of tools in order to find their way back to the Conflux.”

Here’s an article in yesterday’s AM New York that mentions the UDG, and also that this is the last year for the Conflux Festival.

Clearly, Rebecca and I have enough to do to keep us busy for the next few days.  So busy that I don’t think I’ll even have time to visit any museums, but I’ll certainly have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the world: Candle 79.

Filed under: Art, Conservation, Current Events

3 Responses to “Documenting Right Now out Here”

  • avatar
    Meg Says:

    Great presentation at Conflux! You guys got everyone thinking and it was the perfect capstone to the weekend. Personally, I credit the success to the Variable Art Headquarters.

  • avatar
    Mike Says:

    I know of a couple photographers that could have lightened your load.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the note, Meg. I was thrilled you were able to make it and let us use your apartment even while you were transitioning to your new position at the Guggenheim.

    Mike — yeah, I thought of two photographers that would have been much better at documenting than either Rebecca or I, but what we were really most interested in was they why of documentation, and not as much the how. I know two excellent photographers at the IMA (one, coincidentally enough, is named Mike) who could have done a great job.

    We took it as a given that once the why had been worked out, the how could have be done with great skill, as is done by the two guys who work in the IMA photography department.

    More to come about the project that Rebecca and I worked on.

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