Just Do It -- Artistically Speaking
The dark-haired young woman strolling around the Museum of Art in a fashionable business suit and a pair of Nikes isn't really a horrible dresser. It's just curator Ginger Gregg Duggan, and her mismatched clothing and footwear are a prop in the exhibition "do it." Her fashion faux pas fits right in with the eclectic array of unrelated objects strewn around the first-floor gallery. A vintage '50s dining table with a rack of postcards on top, for example, sits a few feet from a black mailbox perched on a post. At the gallery entrance, a pile of wrapped candy -- 180 pounds of it -- has been dumped in a corner, and next to that is a row of plastic containers filled with shrimp paste. Against a nearby wall lean a spare tire and a jack.
This bizarre collection of everyday items was amassed for the traveling exhibition by Duggan. Using written directions provided by a group of international artists, she gathered the parts and ingredients for the show's 15 installations. In turn each setup bears a placard full of directions for patrons to follow. While seated at the quaint table of New York artist Joseph Grigley's Do It Now, participants are invited to " feel free to take a postcard, and send it to a friend whom you have not spoken with, or written to, for a period of perhaps six months or a year." The cards are then placed in the conveniently located mailbox, and each day the staff puts stamps on them and mails them out.
"This has been a very hands-on project, like a scavenger hunt," says Duggan. In fact the tire and jack are from the trunk of her car, as dictated by artist Jason Rhoades of California. His 1996 creation, titled Spare Museum, consists solely of the tire and jack. The catch is that the items must be from the car of an employee at whatever museum do it happens to be showing in, and that person must buy a pricey pair of Nikes and wear the tennis shoes whenever driving or at the museum. The idea of the piece, according to Rhoades, is that "it's OK to take a chance and one must always be prepared to walk."
"I'm going to look very silly with a suit on and sneakers," admits Duggan, who was volunteered for the task by other museum staffers.
She also went shopping for the candy in the untitled work devised in 1994 by Cuban artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The mound of sweets is ostensibly a fluid sculpture. "It's constantly changing, because people come in and take a piece and eat it, or a handful," Duggan notes.
Viewers can also walk away with a jar of shrimp paste courtesy of the untitled installation conceived in 1994 by Rirkrit Tiravanija. The Argentine artist is known for setting up kitchen appliances in strange places and putting on cooking demonstrations as performance art, but for this piece the jars of seasoning were made at home by Duggan.
None of the whimsical installations was created specifically for this exhibition. The first version of do it took place in Austria in 1994, and in keeping with the show's "art by instruction" theme, each museum curator interprets and executes the booklet of artists' directions a little differently.
And local flavor, however foul, is guaranteed in the True Crime installation. The pieces are created by nefarious artists in each city where do it stops, who anonymously answer their local museum's call for art depicting the illegal deeds artists have committed or witnessed. In the Fort Lauderdale show, colorful paintings, drawings, and graphics illustrate prostitution, speeding, even nose-picking. The most compelling piece, though, is a computer-enhanced, black-and-white photo of the sentence "Hortt 41 sucked" spray-painted across the Museum of Art façade, a pointed jab at the museum's annual juried show. At least the entry was the most compelling for Duggan when she received the realistic-looking graffiti photo. "I had to run around the front of the building and check," she says.
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