Exhibition Prosthetics: A Portrait of Ross in LA
I am fascinated by the artifacts in our museums that, for better or worse, help people know how to interact. Wall texts, audio tours, pamphlets, information booths and replicas are all artificial connections to an experience that should be naturally alive. These prosthetics are the things that people pay attention to because they are accessible. They speak a language that everyone can understand. I am forever fascinated by the fact that museum visitors will oftentimes spend more time considering the written wall labels than they do experiencing the artwork these labels describe.
Over the course of a year and a half, I paid attention to how people interacted with a piece called 'Untitled (A Portrait of Ross in LA)' by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in The Art Institute of Chicago. I loved this piece because unlike other art in the museum, it was an piece that people could touch, hold, take with them, and interact with (even eat!). It was a piece that confounded museum-goers' expectations and made reliance on the label an even more central part of a their experience. In response, I made a series of 22 new labels that described museum visitors' reactions to this artwork.
Unlike traditional labels, my labels never expressly defined what the artwork was nor were they ever shown alongside Gonzalez-Torres' installation. Instead, the titles of my new labels are snippets of overheard conversation about the piece and the accompanying text describes some quality of the person who said it. As a collection, the 22 labels allude to the characteristics of Gonzalez-Torres' artwork by describing people's interactions with it.
These labels were produced to the same specifications as the existing labels in The Art Institute of Chicago's galleries and were shown as part of the 'Text off the Page' exhibit at the Roger Brown Study Collection. Here are six of the 22.