in Exhbition Review

Greater New York, according to the Security Guards


I wish you had come to PS1 with me last night. I arrived early (I guess) and they just kept bringing me daquiris and snacks. (What is a daquiri?) You know I don’t like to refuse offerings so I soon got pretty drunk. Trevor Paglen showed up and we checked out the backroom, which according to PS1

invites the exhibitors to present source materials that inform and support their thinking, extending the potential for getting to know the artists and their work. More akin to a temporary archive and reading room than an exhibition, the backroom consists of participant’s influences, inspiration, and research.

There was alot to read. And there were chairs, so you could sit and read… but it was difficult to pass from being a spectator to a—what’s the word? You couldn’t say “participant.” Or “reader.” What’s the word for someone you uses a library? That would be a “patron.” But that means something very specific in a museum… Student? Activator? Interactor? Whatever.—-It was hard to go from watching to that. There was just too much to read.

I was still watching, along with Naama Tsabar and her friend. “I think you really have to be stoned to be comfortable in this room,” I said. Naama pointed out the open box of Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies and said someone else had the same idea. I put on some headphones and dove in, to listen to a birth-chart, of a Virgo, a deep-voiced, wise-sounding astrologer speaking to curious parents.

Trevor and Naama and everybody left. It was just me and the astrologer inside my head, who explained how the Virgo child can just “turn off,” while remaining completely aware of everything around them. Then he explained the peculiar morality of Virgos, and for some reason I took off the headphones and went to the next table, next headphones.

I love headphones. Lauren and I should make a show that can just travel around as headphones. I’ve been phobic about doing that ever since Volume: Bed of Sound… Speaking of which: there is a giant bed in the show that I didn’t notice before. (I wondered if it was the actual bed from Bed of Sound–pulled out of a warehouse.) There were videos all around it. Little screens and headphones and a big projected image on the two far walls. I was kind of dizzy so I just lay back and watched the videos. Adding to my dizziness, one of the projectors was of a number of black women vocalists, and their conductor(?) who had a little remote control (?) and then it would zoom out and there was a projected image within the projected image (like a sports bar, showing the Jumbotron–that’s a great word. Jumbotron.)

I don’t know what room that was, or what it was supposed to be exactly, but I sort of know there was something about Blackness in there. And I was drunk. And in bed. At the museum. I didn’t get entranced but not chased away either. I just lay around.

And then a security guard said “Hey.” I sat up. And I said “Hey.” And he smiled. And I smiled. And I set off, on the move again.

I reached the second floor and didn’t know what to look at, so I just asked the security guard. Let’s call her Melissa. “What’s your favorite?”

“Hmm… my favorite? Really. I like these. I like these photos.”

She was talking about Hang Willis Thomas’s “Unbranded” series. — And now I’m late for work because I just spent like 40 minutes looking for an installation view of the series! Because they really are special, altogether like that. Each one is great,

but altogether they are something else!

You could see why Melissa was so happy spending time in that room with them.

I asked her “What’s your least favorite?” and without hesitation, she pointed across the hall. “That room!” To the Bruce High Quality Pedestals. (Weren’t they your favorite?) “I don’t know what that room is. Those pedestals of nothing!”

I thought of the time I had to carry paintings around for Arakawa to show to Ernst Busch, and then we got to the one that was basically a blank canvas, with one of those drafting class signature blocks in the lower right, and Ernst lit up, ecstatic–“Oh Arakawa! You’ve really broke it open here. This. Is. Blank!”

“And what about past the pedestals?” I ventured, referring to A.L. Steiner’s room. She paused carefully, “Well, I don’t know what to say… It seems very… private. I don’t think that belongs in a museum. Children come here.” I nodded that there was a validity in hearing this from a security guard who has to deal with children occasionally coming to the museum. I could imagine them getting all riled up by Steiner’s snapshots and then running around and wanting to knock over all the pedestals… thanked her for her insights, and then started quizzing the other security guards about their favorites and least favorites.

Most of them were mum like good soldiers. “I don’t even see the work. I just see people,” said one proud sentry. Another said, “I like this room best.” It was Lucy Raven’s “Chinatown,” which I haven’t had a chance to sit with yet. “Do you like anything else?” I asked.
“Honestly, I’m always in these two rooms and I like this room better than that room.”

I went back upstairs and a young man said, “I just started. I don’t have a favorite yet. But this is really nice. Are you a musician?” We were by Naama’s (Untitled) Speaker Wall. He wanted to know “What is going on tonight exactly? Who are you people?” We’re the artists! “Oh, you’re the artists! What’s yours?” I organized the maps, I told him. “Oh, I love the maps.” He loosened up, we started playing the Speaker Wall together. I confessed that I was drunk. He said I should make a map of Jamaica. We talked about cricket and pirates until the song felt finished. That was alot of fun. By the way, this Saturday, there is some kind of “performance” of a “public rehearsal” on the Speaker Wall. (I think that’s my favorite piece in the show.)

Anyway, I wish you were there, but it was nice to be alone and talk with the security guards.

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