New York

Ben Kinmont

Sandra Gering Gallery

“Public Projects: 1990–1993” displayed the archive of Ben Kinmont’s ongoing investigation into the creation of what he calls “Social Sculptures.” Over the past three years, Kinmont has developed three public works that originated in the city’s streets by engaging in conversations with passersby about the content of the flyers he hands them. In their performative aspect, these works mark the invisible space of human interaction and communication, spoken or otherwise. In Kinmont’s words, “In between the self and the other there exists a space. A malleable space. . . .”

Each archive preserves the necessary ingredients for producing the Social Sculpture, with the additional option for the purchaser to recreate and thereby continue the life of Kinmont’s work. I Am For You Archive, 1990–92, and I Need You Archive, 1992–93, consist of jumpsuits worn by those who distributed the flyers, master copies of each flyer, video documentation, the signatures of those who engaged in discussions with Kinmont, as well as statements of purpose, press releases, and documents describing the relationship between the artist, the public, and the purchaser of the work.

In the gallery, each archive was presented in an informal format: the pristine acid-free boxes were simply stacked in discrete piles on the floor. Yet Kinmont’s work is more sculpture than archive, more autonomous object than information data bank. Its presentation is no longer user-friendly, but ultimately alienating—a strange formal resolution for works that boast public and collaborative intentions.

While Kinmont’s project takes a strong jump forward in the initial stages, he has contrived a series of controls and material resolutions that ultimately enmesh it in contradictions. His “Public Projects” claim to embrace the public, yet the role of the public (as it is defined by the unknowing passerby or future collector) never reaches the point of collaborative authorship but only collective ownership. The individuals who participate in I Need You Archive are offered “partial owner[ship]. . . and, if it is sold, receive a portion of the money earned.” In the most recent work, For You For Me For Painting Archive, 1993, Kinmont offered 23 paintings free of charge (of which 13 went to “previous collectors,” eight to strangers, and two became part of the archive), but requested that the takers sign a document stipulating that should they ever wish to sell the gift, they must first notify Kinmont or his gallery. It is strange that works produced under the guise of “public projects” would focus more attention on ownership than authorship. By not explicitly sharing authorship with those with whom he has collaborated (a solution simply realized by renouncing any copyright on his work) and by instituting rigid contractual constraints, Kinmont’s works can never meld authorship and ownership into an amorphous, public entity.

Kirby Gookin