TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 2010

Tim Griffin

AMONG THE MOST INTRIGUING ASPECTS of conversations around contemporary art is the language most commonly used to describe the unprecedented expansion of its field. More and more often, in this context, one hears references to democracy and democratization, and doubtless such terminology is prompted today by the increasing number and diversity of audiences migrating to museums and galleries around the world. And, of course, these words seem all the more fitting as art-world institutions increasingly present works steeped in performance and participation, with the distance between art and audience ostensibly eroding as the latter is invited to actively engage with the work on view rather than to passively behold it. Yet, one wonders, beyond this welcome air of inclusivity: How are these words—democracy, democratization, participation—actually being used? What dynamics do they truly portray? Contemporary circles tend to traffic in a tacit assumption of art’s exchangeability—a notion that art, artists, ideas, and the language employed to describe these things are immediately and infinitely transferable from person to person, place to place. But perhaps art’s ever-widening and faster-paced production and dissemination only give us the impression of an unfettered circulatory system and, in fact, camouflage (or prompt us to overlook) significant cultural differences even among regions and communities typically assumed to share a great deal in common. If that is the case, the need to explore current usages of words such as democracy and democratization is all the more pressing. After all, even taking just European and American contexts into consideration, one recognizes substantive variation within the conception and functioning of democratic systems, and this is bound to affect our grasp of the most elementary frameworks these systems create for artistic production and reception today. Ironically, the premise of contemporary art’s ever-extending reach might force us to revisit—and privilege—questions of context in the creation of meaning.

One of the more significant stories of the past decade and a half in contemporary art has been the transposition of socially minded (or “relational”) artistic practices from Europe to the United States—more precisely, the failure of that cultural translation due to a pervasive undervaluing in critical discussions of context, especially institutional context, for such work. To an extent, this lack of analysis arose from a genuine lack of information: The artists in question have exhibited in numerous locales, but the discourse around their work—an understanding of the basic circumstances in which their work took shape—did not make the same journey. To consider just a few of the most prominent figures, and to limit myself among American periodicals to Artforum, the likes of Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno did not have significant essays on their work until 2003, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster until the very end of that year, and Rirkrit Tiravanija until 2004; Liam Gillick, in fact, has yet to receive anything more than a brief interview (in 2005) and an extended review (last month, though one hastens to add that he has written for the magazine since 2006).¹

This discursive void has lent these practices a kind of ahistoricity in the United States—it has rendered their relational complexion utterly unfamiliar and set it at a kind of distance, if it is encountered at all—something that became eminently clear in 2008, when many of these artists (including Angela Bulloch, Gillick, Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Huyghe, Tiravanija, and others) were brought together in the exhibition “theanyspacewhatever” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Rather than trace these practitioners’ sundry intellectual rendezvous and partings of ways over the years, the exhibition consisted almost solely of new work. Audiences were left to peruse, say, Gillick’s benches and signage along the Guggenheim ramp, or to watch Tiravanija’s video documentation of these various players in a ground-floor, loungelike enclave—but with not a clue as to how these pieces might have come about or been related to decades-long debates among these participants. Meant for engagement, the works instead retained an air of exclusivity: They were the stuff of specialized knowledge among a small coterie.

Yet the ahistoricity imposed by the presentation of these works—and of the underlying practices, such as they were apparent at all—was, I think, only a part of what made the exhibition seem lackluster or, more precisely, unactivated. (It was social simulation: The graffiti on the walls seemed remnants of a party that had never actually happened; the lounge downstairs seemed used by people who were never actually there.) Indeed, it might be the institution of the (American) museum itself that ran counter to and inhibited the conveyance of any relational program. To frame this problem as a question: What happens to such work when it moves from European to American institutions; from, for example, the kunstverein or kunsthalle setting—with its decidedly civic affiliations and historical ties to the rise of the public sphere—to the museological context? (While the latter does not necessarily have literal ties to governing structures, socially minded work would inevitably be affected by the terms of any setting that could, significantly, be called—to quote theorist Tony Bennett in The Birth of the Museum—“a space of observation and regulation in order that the visitor’s body might be taken hold of and be moulded in accordance with the requirements of new norms of public conduct.”²) How are the very terms we use to evoke social exchange—participation and democracy—altered in these different settings? Further, and to bring these questions into an institutional register, what is the role of the museum in our ideation of the public sphere? How does it mediate our understanding of the political? Perhaps, after all, the “social sphere” should be understood to manifest itself differently in Europe and the United States.³ Indeed, even just a few case studies—employed to investigate the ways in which the structures of institutions and audiences in different places inflect or even shape the work at hand—might help us grasp the various senses of democracy being used in conversations around art today. Practices that are “participatory” can be equally framed by way of “the civic” or “the commercial”—the subsequent questions being, To what ends, and with what effects?

However much we might feel today that relational work is territory already well traversed, it’s intriguing in this regard to return to one of the first group shows featuring this constellation of artists, Nicolas Bourriaud’s “Traffic” exhibition of 1996 at CAPC, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France. For as the curator sought to create opportunities to “highlight social methods of exchange [and] interactivity with the onlooker within the aesthetic experience,” to quote from his essay looking back on the show in the Guggenheim’s “theanyspacewhatever” catalogue, he found that he needed to create “human-scaled spaces” within the grand and impersonal site of CAPC. “This led me,” he writes, “to the idea of a flea market and hanging photographs and paintings on the pre-existing walls.”⁴ In this way, Bourriaud created, whether by conscious effort or by intuition, a kind of space inherently antagonistic to that of the museum. Indeed, the opposition is so fundamental as to find articulation in Bennett’s Birth of the Museum on its very first page. Turning immediately there to Foucault’s 1984 essay “Of Other Spaces,” Bennett cites the philosopher’s observation that the museum in Western culture manifests “the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself out of time . . . the project of organizing in this a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place.”⁵ By contrast, Bennett continues in deference to Foucault, such places as fairgrounds, “with stands, displays, heteroclite objects,” are “linked to time ‘in its most fleeting, transitory, precarious aspect, to time in the mode of the festival.’”⁶ Hence, at CAPC, Gonzalez-Foerster invited visitors to the exhibition to recall the homes of their youth, making drawings of these Proustian settings according to the participants’ descriptions. Christine Hill created an antecedent to her Volksboutique project, 1996–, presenting suitcases full of detritus culled from East Berlin thrift stores along with books assembled in a library so that people, as she said recently, “[could dig] through the history of the GDR.”⁷ And Jes Brinch and Henrik Plenge Jakobsen contributed Alternative Society, an installation comprising an artificial landscape with huts of plaster, a pond, and an area with tables and kitchen equipment; the artists were supposed to live in the environment full-time for two weeks, during which period visitors could discuss the piece itself and alternative lifestyles more generally.

But if fairs are by definition impermanent, the effect here was no less fleeting, and, indeed, recollections of “Traffic” today—even by a number of artists in the exhibition—revolve around problems of temporality. In fact, many of the artists have since deemed the project a failure. During the weeks leading up to the show, artists were working side by side at length, creating a kind of community by design, and they were collaborating with local students in order to weave themselves—or “the exhibition”—into the social fabric of the city. (Lothar Hempel, for instance, brought in both a dance school and an “association of people who like to criticize others,” presenting them on a set for a television show.⁸) The opening itself took place over the course of four days and featured numerous performances (like those already mentioned) along with panel discussions. Thereafter, however, audiences would be left with the artifacts. To quote Jakobsen from a recent e-mail exchange:

After the four-day opening—once all the events and performances were over—the exhibition metamorphosed into a wholly traditional exhibition. We were the only artists still present in the space, which meant that the status of our project was somehow altered: We were reduced to actors performing in a sculpture. So we left Bordeaux much earlier than planned, a bit disappointed about the possibilities for relational aesthetics.⁹

In a similar vein, and to elaborate on this temporal question, Gillick would deem the exhibition a failure due to its very structuring. As he argued in the journal October in 2006:

So why was the exhibition “Traffic” a relatively straightforward and problematic affair? There are two main reasons. One is that the CAPC may have thought it was a conceptual show . . . and secondly, that by denying access to the preproduction and postproduction aspects of the show they ensured that the defining quality of the exhibition was improvisation and interactivity. . . . The CAPC handed over a degree of responsibility to an outside curator . . . but they still define the atmosphere of the place, both structurally and literally.¹⁰

In other words, for all the artists’ efforts to create and capitalize on a contiguity with the city as a site for their endeavors, the delimiting infrastructure of the institution stayed immobile. (Intriguingly, Gillick also says CAPC is “rooted in a professionalization of the apparent openness of the late sixties and seventies.”¹¹) When the fair tents of “Traffic” went down, the cavernous spaces of CAPC remained intact.

One cannot help but think that Bourriaud had heard Gillick’s complaints when a few years later he came to head the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (with Jérôme Sans). Seeking to create what he called “a sort of interdisciplinary kunstverein—more laboratory than museum,” he would make every effort to generate an unprivileged kind of institutional proximity to the larger cultural landscape.¹² As he would also write in Postproduction, making this purpose clear: “The art center and the gallery are particular cases but form an integral part of a vaster ensemble: public space. . . . The gallery is a place like any other.”¹³ In this regard, one primary and immediately identifiable shift for the Palais would be temporal. “The museum will also be open from noon until midnight,” he explained in an interview just before the Palais’s opening. “Why do museums and art centers copy bankers’ hours?”¹⁴

Of course, to depart from the hours of bankers is to enter the time of leisure and of diversion, forcing us to ask, How do we see this temporality meeting institutional space? It is with this question in mind that we might productively return to the American context and, more specifically, to the example of an exhibition, opening at roughly the same time as Palais de Tokyo, that took such leisure as its subject: Philippe Vergne’s “Let’s Entertain: Life’s Guilty Pleasures” at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2000.¹⁵ The conception of the show by itself has much to offer the present conversation, since Vergne’s curatorial statement at its start professes deep admiration for Fluxus artists, who, he says, sought to turn the media of mass entertainment to alternative ends, luring audiences into the artistic sphere by using familiar motifs, but only in an effort to upset societal norms. Still more intriguing, however, is the way in which Vergne’s conversation with Olukemi Ilesanmi (which serves as his curatorial statement) elaborates on the idea of “the impossibility of looking at our society of spectacle from the outside. . . . Like it or not, we’re all a part of this republic of entertainment.”¹⁶ The term republic is used advisedly here by Vergne, as evidenced by his subsequent perspective on his immediate surroundings. Considering the landscape of the Walker’s hometown, Minneapolis, he continues: “In terms of public space, there are simply not many options. . . . In a city such as Minneapolis, one can wonder, where is the plaza, the center for public meeting and enjoyment?”¹⁷ And seeking to situate his institution within the larger, evolving culture, he directs readers to communications scholar Susan G. Davis’s observations on the increasing privatization of public space throughout the United States, whether it’s the crowded urban setting of the then recently transformed Times Square in New York City or theme stores in less idiosyncratic suburban and rural areas. In her own essay for the “Let’s Entertain” catalogue, Davis argues that in the United States, after the late 1980s and early ’90s, “the most striking architectural points of pilgrimage cultivate . . . the magic of belonging through identification with the corporation. . . . Core cultural ideas are not just embodied by products; they are products. Citizens are collapsed into consumers, and loyalty is a virtue that expands the bottom line.”¹⁸ Customization and personalization abound, it is true, offering individuals a variety of apparently singular encounters; but such flexibility is nevertheless part of (and, indeed, is not only accommodated but necessitated by) a larger economic program.

Today, a full decade after these words were written, it is all too tempting to dismiss such rhetoric as the overheated language of the dot-com era. Yet what remains striking about “Let’s Entertain” is the degree to which it uses the language of the republic, of citizenry, of public space and a participatory, democratic sphere, when addressing the subject of the mass media and spectacular society. It is also striking that Vergne made his exhibition somewhat site-specific to Minneapolis, conducting his dialogue with Ilesanmi at the Mall of America—nesting himself, in fact, in the very Rainforest Café that also served as the opening setting for B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore’s landmark 1999 treatise on emerging business models, The Experience Economy, in which the authors argue that the duty of any good corporation, like that of the museum, is to supply customers with a transformative experience that lasts— to “sustain transformations,” as they put it, “through time.”¹⁹

But in considering this exhibition and the terms for democracy it proposes, we must also consider the structure of the Walker itself at that historical moment—and then ask as well what possible comparisons to and contrasts with the Palais de Tokyo can be made when it comes to the democratic values of flexibility and creative fulfillment. In a recent interview I conducted with Kathy Halbreich (who was director of the Walker at the time and is currently associate director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York) about the museum as a figure of a changing public sphere, she described her desire at the start of her tenure at the Walker “to help the staff see the power of a flat organization that was governed by a shared mission.”²⁰ Traditional hierarchies within the museum would be set aside, with new channels of access established among departments, from curatorial to installation and so forth, “to see if some of the class divisions within an institution could be erased . . . [with the result being that people would] feel deeply engaged in the institution.”²¹ (In this vein, it is also interesting to note that Vergne’s interlocutor in the rain forest, Ilesanmi—whose voice was as prominent as his within the exhibition catalogue—was a curatorial intern at the time.) Most remarkable, however, is Halbreich’s next observation: “I was considered naive by some board members when I first talked about this, but before long there were an increasing number of business models steeped in this approach.”²² Indeed, while critical and art-historical discourse today often revolves around the research and theories of such incisive sociologists as Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello or of philosophers such as Paolo Virno—noting the ways in which the desire for creative fulfillment in work during the 1960s gave rise to alterations in the ideation of work today—here it is noteworthy to mention that one of the Walker’s board members would bring into the museum none other than Joseph Pine himself, coauthor of The Experience Economy, for discussion with the museum’s directorship.²³ This republic of entertainment is, in other words, populated by real people. “Let’s Entertain” is about a place, of which—as a representation and an instantiation—it is a part.

I do not want to say that these are the terms for every American museum—or for the art the museum houses. But they provide us with a prism through which to consider representations and instantiations of democratic or participatory work in such a context. How does one experience exhibitions by artists such as Marina Abramović and Tino Sehgal—to choose just two examples, fresh in the mind today—more than ten years after Pine and Gilmore’s influential volume proposed (in the flap copy alone) that companies “script and stage compelling experience [whereby] all workers become actors, intentionally creating specific effects for their customers”?²⁴ How do we encounter such work in the museum when, on the one hand, Bennett describes that institutional space as molding viewers “in accordance with the requirements of new norms of public conduct” and, on the other, Pine and Gilmore argue that “with a transformation, all these experiential realms merely set the stage for helping the customer learn to act” ?²⁵

For Abramović, consider the dual valence of the title of her recent exhibition at MoMA, “The Artist Is Present”: The name reflects a desire among audiences for presence—for being in the same, contiguous space as the artist; occupying the same terrain and sphere; sharing space—at the same time that it is abstracted, having the sloganlike quality that denotes an occasion’s “added value” or announces an “attraction.” (How does one read, in this context, the artist’s statement for the 1997 performance piece Luminosity, in which Abramovic´ describes a “transmission of pure energy between performer and audience”?²⁶) In fact, the centerpiece of the show invited audiences to stare at the artist at great length, but only after standing in line and finally entering a dramatically demarcated “stage” area lit for filming—seemingly lifting the work out of natural, social space and placing it again in that “timeless” arena of the museum. (Here, amid the crowds of the MoMA atrium, audience members had a private experience only by becoming public—and by offering themselves up for potential privatization in the work’s documentation.) Similarly, in the upstairs galleries, Imponderabilia, 1977—which originally forced audiences to pass between a nude man and woman to enter the gallery space—was set off in a corner: The performers were in the same gallery but not in the same social space as audiences, who could just look if they wished before perusing the rest of the show—as viewers walking the space, as viewing minds able to be separated from bodies.²⁷

Such a quality also seems salient when considering Sehgal’s This Progress, 2006, for which New York audiences earlier this year ascended the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda while discussing the notion of progress with four individuals in sequence—an elementary school–age boy or girl, a teenager, an adult, and a senior citizen. At first blush, Sehgal’s piece seemed a remarkable intertwining of subject and site. To once more paraphrase Bennett (from a chapter perhaps not coincidentally titled “Museums and Progress”), the museum has traditionally been a place of organized walking put forward to the ends of illustrating and narrating historical and, indeed, evolutionary progress—creating of the viewing experience a kind of procession designed to shape behavior in the contemporary public realm. But this procession at the Guggenheim did not aim to ask how, in Bennett’s words, “persons [might be seen] as being formed through particular assemblages of mind and body techniques—particular ways of working on and shaping bodily and mental capacities—which are made available to them via the array of cultural institutions, or technologies, characterizing the societies in which they live.”²⁸ Rather, progress here was approached as an idea, or a possibility, as one passed from one interlocutor to the next on the ascending spiral. Or, put better, if the museum once made “progressive subjects” of viewers—“assigning them,” as Bennett says, “a place and an identity in relation to the processes of progress’s ongoing advancement”—then here progress was presented as an idea, or as an advertisement for itself, a promise.²⁹ Indeed, with Pine and Gilmore’s Experience Economy in the background, it is difficult not to see the apparently free exchange among individuals in This Progress—which was, it must be noted, unidirectional; and certain subjects, such as the artwork itself, were not to be discussed—apart from those highly scripted and legislated parameters that make a lasting experience possible in a service capacity. In fact, if Bennett’s comments about the museum pertain to anthropological institutions, where primitive societies are subjected to colonization, one wonders whether another kind of colonization—of time, leisure, engagement—was on display here.

Suggesting as much might have been, in fact, precisely Sehgal’s point.³⁰ Regardless, such presentations are not necessarily unpleasurable—and they may offer unique experiences within the greater panorama of culture.³¹ Still, an adage of artist Peter Halley’s has long been a favorite of mine: “You know something is disappearing from life,” he once remarked, “when it is appearing in advertising.”³² Can the same be said of art and its institutions, when it comes to the great majority of their presentations of social interaction? In the American cultural landscape, what happens when you consider Bourriaud’s desire to avoid bankers’ hours alongside, say, Target Free Fridays? Increasingly, we encounter a desire for more democratic institutions, and yet the participatory moments we are offered are choreographed very specifically, providing us with examples of democracy as quantities rather than of singularities. If this is the case, how are these institutions real figures of the public sphere? Obviously, such an alteration of the terms for social discourse would necessarily affect our conception of criticism’s role and, further, what shape it will take—or whether criticality as we know it will have a role at all.

it may prove useful to consider another protagonist of the so-called relational turn, Pierre Huyghe, whose latest project takes up the subject of the museum very specifically—indeed, almost uncannily so. For, as if in direct reply to Bennett’s contrast of the institution and the fair, Huyghe chose as the setting for his work a museum situated, remarkably enough, on the perimeter of an amusement park, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, in the Beaubourg district of Paris.

The structure of Huyghe’s work, The Host and the Cloud, 2009–10, is at once elaborate and simple: During the past year, he staged three performances in this setting on popular holidays—Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and May Day—for which a troupe of fifteen actors was supposed to adopt the roles of museum staff, from director to gallery guards. To an extent, this premise resembles those of earlier works by the artist, including Streamside Day Follies, 2003, for which Huyghe sought to create an annual holiday in a small town being newly designed in upstate New York—a ritual, in other words, by which this invented community could organize cultural time and space and create a sense of history (much as a museum does, Bennett might suggest). But in this instance, the site Huyghe selected has a distinct history of its own, which must be taken into account: the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires, an institution established in 1937 by Claude Lévi-Strauss colleague and theorist of the modern museum Georges-Henri Rivière. A child of the structuralist paradigm, Rivière adhered to the belief that cultures could best be understood using the language of their objects. (Though famously, and problematically, he once put Josephine Baker on display at the Musée de l’Homme and, on another occasion, placed museum guards in the corners of a boxing ring. As author Isac Chiva puts it: “[Rivière] sought to make museums an active pole of social life, and visiting them a leisure activity as common as sports events or cinema.”³³) And so here the striking backdrops for Huyghe’s project are the displays generated by this ethos—but, incredibly, in a partial state of abandonment, since the museum is currently in the process of being moved to Marseilles.³⁴

It is, in so many words, a museum by default, a display of displays, a crypt containing all epochs but obviously belonging to one that has just passed. It is a place of all times, but a place definitively in time. This sense of displacement and contingency pervades Huyghe’s work. For the performances, Huyghe invited small groups of people from all walks of life (not just art specialists) and over the course of roughly three hours allowed them total access to the space, from the basement auditorium to the upstairs offices, including the partially deinstalled galleries, where one found, say, displays of bread and wine alongside bows and arrows, juggler’s outfits beside an entire mason’s workshop, and Mardi Gras paraphernalia next to a maypole (as well as wall texts discussing how objects such as these had come to reside in a museum). Each audience member received a map of the infrastructure with marked locations and times—indicating where and when, in other words, specific actions would take place. But in all likelihood, viewers would miss their appointments or stumble onto something else not intended specifically for them. For me, seeing just the May Day performance, such apparent disorganization was among the most compelling elements of the piece. Scripted behavior was always falling out of the script: One always sensed that something else was happening just outside one’s line of sight and that one’s experience never contained the entirety of the piece. As if to amplify the point, cameras were occasionally present, indicating—as has been the case in numerous other Huyghe works—that one’s immediate experience is only one instance in a sequence of manifestations of the work. You are, in other words, at once subject and object, just one link in a temporal chain. This gentle defamiliarization was underscored by the administrative air of the performers, many of whom did not “act” so much as behave, occupying the bureaucratic movements of professional staff moving from space to space, seeming to do the business of the day. (In conversation, Huyghe played on this sense by calling them the “personal” rather than the “personnel,” alluding to the cultural roles and types to which we all adhere.³⁵)

If one did come across a performance obviously demarcated as such, it was likely to portray some speech act from another period: from the trial of Action Directe or the crowning of Bokassa. In all these cases, the sense was supposed to be one of a language that had lost its power of transformation—that, in other words, no longer provided the sense of presence it originally had. The roles were, after all, just roles. For his part, Huyghe describes these instances as pertaining to the need to loosen the accepted purview of language in order to reinhabit the words—that is, to obtain new presence in their field. And yet in this regard, and in terms of the critical dialogue between artist and location, it is perhaps the site that ultimately inhabits the artwork here, not the other way around.36 Indeed, most compelling for me when it came to such perpetual displacement was the entryway—large plateglass windows where, on May Day, one could see parents and children playing outside, running up the steps of the museum, standing in line for the rides, or wandering around with treats in hand, enjoying the day. And I had to ask, Which is the more virtuous pastime? When you get down to it, what is art but another such diversion? Another modeling of behavior that belongs to a specific time and place, but with a much larger trajectory and spectrum within sociological history? We are but another type, playing our roles in a cultural script. And yet perhaps in this recognition one finds the artistic component of Huyghe’s project, as he left the place alone but for his cameras that scanned the space and the performers who roamed its halls. Therein lies the very potential of reinterpreting the scenario—an opportunity to refashion those roles, or to inhabit them more fully and richly, since the activity of our time is by necessity not the only one available to us. We can do something else if we like, or if we so choose.

NOTES

This essay is based on a paper delivered on April 10, 2010, as part of the symposium “Art and Democracy” at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, which coincided with the institution’s recent exhibition “Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)Possible.” I would like to thank symposium organizers Kerry Oliver-Smith and Alexander Alberro for their generous invitation and encouragement, as well as Lloyd Wise for his research assistance.

1. Tiravanija was, in fact, introduced in these pages in 1996 with Bruce Hainley’s incisive yet speculative “Where Are We Going? And What Are We Doing?: Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Art of Living” (Artforum [February 1996]: 54–59), but, importantly, this essay does not seek to place Tiravanija discursively among his peers. For that, see Daniel Birnbaum, “The Lay of the Land: An Experiment in Art and Community in Thailand,” Artforum (Summer 2005): 270–74. As for Huyghe, a short discussion of his work in Olivier Zahm, “Openings,” Artforum (March 1997): 82–83, would be followed by a treatment of the artist’s Ann Lee project, made in collaboration with Philippe Parreno, in Philip Nobel, “Sign of the Times,” Artforum (January 2003): 104–11. See also Daniel Birnbaum, “Running on Empty: The Art of Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster,” Artforum (November 2003): 168–73. For Gillick, see Sean Keller, “Liam Gillick,” Artforum (April 2010): 188–89. Among other artists in this community more broadly speaking, neither Douglas Gordon nor Angela Bulloch has received a monographic feature in this publication, though Gordon’s film Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait, made with Parreno, was discussed in Michael Fried, “Absorbed in the Action,” Artforum (September 2006): 32–35, 398, and Tim Griffin, “The Job Changes You,” Artforum (September 2006): 336–38. Bulloch was the subject of a “1000 Words” feature the same year; see Martin Herbert, “1000 Words: Angela Bulloch Talks About Group of Seven,” Artforum (April 2006): 218–19.

2. Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 24.

3. And, obviously, elsewhere and on all the continents. For simplicity’s sake, I limit myself here to the examples of North American and European artists and institutions.

4. Nicolas Bourriaud, “Traffic: The Relational Moment,” trans. Molly Stevens, in theanyspacewhatever, exh. cat. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2008), 174.

5. Bennett, 1. (See Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” Diacritics [Spring 1986]: 26.)

6. Ibid., 1.

7. E-mail from Christine Hill to author, April 2, 2010.

8. Giorgio Verzotti, “Traffic: CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain,” Artforum (May 1996): 111.

9. E-mail from Henrik Plenge Jakobsen to author, April 1, 2010. Notably, Brinch and Jakobsen’s ambitions already had been curtailed to meet the standards of this administered space, since their project was originally intended to take place twenty-four hours a day; it was, however, ultimately limited to regular exhibition hours.

10. The phrasing above comes from a letter written by Liam Gillick to the editors of October, “Contingent Factors: A Response to Claire Bishop’s ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,’ ” October (Winter 2006): 95–107. But this passage is attributed there to “Ill Tempo,” Flash Art (June 1996): 69–70. Gillick’s collected writings reference the same passage and original source, but the pages of the Flash Art issue in question are actually titled “The Corruption of Time: Looking Back at Future Art.” The artist does not refer there specifically to “Traffic,” but his text is informative nonetheless as he speaks to “a need to understand the relative value of work that deals with time as much as space. Not artists using time-based media alone, such as video or film, so much as the application of media-based time, such as scenarios, propositions, middle positions, negotiation and acknowledgment that it is necessary to occupy a block of time alongside the definition of space, mood or social effect.”

11. Ibid., 97. The institutionalization of “openness” after the 1960s is a central question here.

12. Bennett Simpson, “Public Relations: Bennett Simpson Talks with Nicolas Bourriaud,” Artforum (April 2001): 47–48.

13. Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction (Berlin: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002), 35.

14. Simpson, 47.

15. It warrants mentioning, of course, that Vergne is French, and one wonders whether his eyes might see United States society and spectacle more clearly, or more willingly, because of his origins. Also, an intriguing present-day backdrop for this conversation is Michael Asher’s recent proposal to keep the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York open twenty-four hours a day for one week during the 2010 Whitney Biennial. Due to budgetary and human resources limitations, the museum was able to remain open for only three entire days, May 26–28, 2010.

16. Philippe Vergne and Olukemi Ilesanmi, “Conversation Part I” in Let’s Entertain: Life’s Guilty Pleasures, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2000), 18–28; 23.

17. Ibid.

18. Susan G. Davis, “R&D for Social Life: Entertainment Retail and the City,” in Let’s Entertain, 132–60; 157.

19. B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 1999), 172.

20. Interview with Kathy Halbreich, March 18, 2010. In this issue, see Halbreich’s statement, “as told to Tim Griffin,” p. 276.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Pine, it turns out, is himself a Minnesotan who signs The Experience Economy from the Twin Cities suburb of Dellwood. And from another perspective on such proximities, it is intriguing that Halbreich recognized that the Mall of America was, in a sense, the Walker’s competition. See her statement in this issue, p. 277.

24. Flap copy to Pine and Gilmore.

25. Pine and Gilmore, 195. Italics in original.

26. From wall text in “The Artist Is Present,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010.

27. See the interview in these pages with Rem Koolhaas, where the architect offers a remarkable account of his experience of this work decades ago (see esp. p. 287).

28. Bennett, 188.

29. Ibid., 179.

30. Sehgal is obviously acutely aware of the museum’s impact on social space and, moreover, the ways in which the objects of consideration in the museum are inextricably linked to the day’s economic structures. Arguably, his work is both attuned to and intended to underline these interrelationships. In this issue, see Sehgal’s statement, p. 281.

31. Among the primary arguments of Pine and Gilmore, in fact, are that a transformative experience is necessarily a unique one, and that a corporation must recognize that its project is on some level to generate and accommodate the possibility for such difference—in a word, to customize.

32. From a conversation with the artist in 2000. Also, see Peter Halley: Collected Essays 1981–87 (Zurich and New York: Edition Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, 1988).

33. Isac Chiva, “Georges-Henri Rivière: Fifty Years in the Etymology of France,” Social Science Information 25 (1986): 539.

34. Falling attendence is typically pointed to as an explanation for the closure of the museum and its anticipated merger in Marseilles with the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée.

35. Conversation with the artist, April 2, 2010.

36. The degree to which mine is a partial account of Huyghe’s work cannot be overstated—in fact, it is nearly radically so. A film of the performances is being edited as of this writing—for which animated elements will also be inserted into the frame—and other performances were more dramatic than what I saw or describe in the body of this text, including hypnotisms, the carving of Halloween pumpkins in the conservation laboratory, and, on Valentine’s Day, a simulated orgy that seems, based on documentation, evocative of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999).

An e-flux announcement sent for the Halloween performance reads:

At the far end of an attraction park, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, stands an empty building.
Once a folk museum, an identity crisis led to its closing.
Live situations from our recent history now inhabit this place.

The imaginary, the psychological state of our condition is this museum.
We enter and witness a game of roles, a ceremony of multiple personalities.
Here everything is real, constantly transforming itself.

In this tale of the present, the personnel of the museum encounter fragments of our heterogeneous history, acclimate themselves and change into polyphonic characters. We follow them on their journey through this collection of situations, their roles shift and multiply as they migrate. This situation presents the alter egos of an absent subject, on their way to construct a new state.

This live experiment occupies the entire building and involves about thirty players. Some take the part of the personnel: director, guard, archivist, receptionist . . . Others, the “interpreters,” play situations and stories of historical significance or popular culture.

The personnel witness these situations which are played by the interpreters, or presented by authors of culture and specialists in different fields who perform their own roles (actor, model, singer, comedian, magician, mentalist, hypnotist, jurist, lawyer . . . ).

The situation unfolds over the course of one year (October 31st 2009, February 14th 2010, and May 1st 2010) and changes every time.