Curator Meg Shiffler has decided to close the exhibition Binocular Parallax at Consolidated Works after only six weeks, and here's why: Jackass Vandalism.
Jenny Heishman's Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board was patently broken, in a way that suggested that someone may have sat on it; someone else decided to free-climb the stack of newspapers in the SOLO Exhibition Room, tearing them up as he went; and finally, lipstick prints were found not once but twice on the bare asses of Dan Webb's naughty/creepy gnomes.
Now as someone who has long been interested in transgressive gallery behavior, it occurs to me that I might in some way have encouraged such idiocy. And Shiffler, who is inclined to be more generous than I would be in these conditions, sees the larger issue.
"The question," she said, "is why people in Seattle don't feel boundaries. We're a city with lots of public art that you can touch, so people don't understand the difference. We think we've been providing one kind of education, but the undercurrent of providing so much of it is a lack of respect."
That's one way of putting it. What Shiffler means is that it's difficult to tell art viewers "Touch this, but don't touch that"--experience this in a nontraditional way, but not to the fullest extent of your imagination. Heishman's piece, in particular, was made to be experienced physically: You were meant to activate it so that it wobbled around its own axis. So how does one know where the interaction ends?
The result is that Binocular Parallax is being de-installed as we speak, and the installation in the SOLO room will reopen next year. "If people don't have boundaries," Shiffler asked, "how do you curate them in?"
She and ConWorks executive director Matthew Richter are discussing ways to keep this kind of behavior at bay, and none of them (stanchions, gating the gallery when it's not specifically in use) are the least bit in keeping with ConWorks' vision of one big art space where genres flow, overlap, and cross-inspire.
But in the interest of keeping this dialogue public (and keeping shaming language--my own impulse to tsk-tsk notwithstanding--to a minimum), Shiffler is holding a public forum on art and vandalism on November 19, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m., in the (pointedly) empty gallery.
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For those of you who heard the wild rumors, here's the truth: ConWorks Executive Director Matthew Richter is not abandoning ship. The man who hasn't had a day off in about a million years is going to sit on a beach somewhere through December. We wish him rest, and sunburn.