Exhibitions are a tool, not the result. Art should open up for a democratic dialog and rethink the ‘ordinary’ exhibition practises. Martha Rosler: “art make difference to a social movement only when it is made in cognizance of those movements.” . Exhibition making can be a model of resistance, a tool and not the result.
An exhibition that I recently saw and really enjoyed were the born in Argentina and based in London artist Amalia Pica, at Museum of Contemporary art in Chicago. Amalia Pica explores communication and civic participation through drawings, sculptures, large-scale photographic prints, projections, performances, and installations. What made this exhibition interesting was the fact that the curators and the artist had managed to engage the beholder from the first step with a smart and thoughtful lay out of the room. As soon as you walk pass the first wall you are challenged and questioned as a viewer. The curator and the artists make you ask; how close am I supposed to go? Where is the borderline between the work and me? And am I only the beholder or am I a actual part in this piece.
This exhibition is her first large-scale solo exhibition in the U.S., Pica presents observers with sculptures, installations, drawings and films that explore the intricacies, failures and challenges of communication. The exhibition includes fifteen pieces from the last seven years, in addition to new commissions. Pica is using simple material that are easy for the viewer to respond to, such as light bulbs, drinking glasses and cardboard, in many ways, this simplicity makes her pieces both beautiful to look at and raising questions about communication. There is one piece that especially focuses on the communication, the work “If these walls could talk (with door),” from 2011, built on site. (see picture).
What’s interesting with this piece is the recognition and familiarity it brings to the viewer. It brings up memories form childhood when these cans were used to “call” your best friend and from school assignments when your teacher wanted to teach you about sound and movement. The piece interacts with you but it’s still very private, you can hide behind the wall and no one will ever know that you are listening. It’s impossible to communicate with anyone on the other side without the cans. Pica suggests the complex relationship between listening, privacy, and consent.
Something that is continually coming back in the exhibition is how Pica wishes to communicate with the viewer. She want people to get involved and be attached to the things she’s doing, for example in her nomadic sculpture: ”I am Chicagou, as I am in Chicagou”, is lent to members of the Chicago community who sign up to take care of the sculpture for one week, then pass it on to the next host. Participants fill out a lending card, which serves as a record of the sculpture’s travels.
Pica’s works communicate, as most messages do, on multiple levels, with subtexts both tragic and triumphant, technical and political, passive and active, but with an aesthetic merit and playful nature that keeps them from becoming pontificators. I think that is why I like the exhibition so much; her work is optimistic in its reflection of moments of shared experience, both between the viewers and the work and in the relation between the different pieces, often incorporating signifiers of celebration and communal gatherings such as party lights, flags and banners, confetti, and colours. Surveying the artist’s sculpture, performance, installation, video, and drawing produced over nearly a decade, the exhibition is itself conceived, as a conversation among Pica’s works across various mediums and it’s interesting, fun, beautiful and thoughtful.