TBA 2011: On Sight

"We must be brave and look directly at what they have made."

By Claudia La Rocco September 14, 2011

One of the things I love about the readymade art spaces at WHS is what isn’t in them: guided audio tours.

Another thing: exhaustive, explain-everything-away wall texts.

The Works is a social hub as much as an art destination during TBA, and for some people the art will never be more than a colorful backdrop. And that’s fine; it makes the building feel lived in, in a really particular way. But if you do choose to spend time with the many ideas housed in each classroom, if you come in the middle of the day, for instance, when it’s quieter and slower, and you can feel the show’s low, cumulative hum—well, then it’s just you, and the art and the conversations that swirl around it.

I got a blissful does of that yesterday when Kristan Kennedy, PICA’s visual art curator, and I spent an hour or so walking through the repurposed classrooms and chatting about which artists she chose to invite to tba this year, and why.

“There’s not a lot of didactics,” she said of the setup. “I just want people to experience.”

And, of course, to think. Evidence of Bricks, as Kristan is calling the show, swirls around questions of resistance and revolution, including, in Kristan’s words, “the instinct to defy the world with artistic practice.”

That instinct creates its own world, a white room full of possibilities. It’s a particular way of being political. Walking through the Works yesterday, I thought of something the choreographer Ivana Müller said to me a few months ago about what it means to be a political artist in our time:

Being political, she said, “means we don’t employ the same ways, the representation of the political—it doesn’t really work to scream slogans anymore, because the publicity industry does this already. Every single advertisement on television screams slogans. I think we have to be in some way like smooth operators. The physical engagement in this event, creating a community, that is already a political statement."

Time-based art, indeed.

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