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As journalists spread out through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) galleries, previewing the The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now, a uniformed man led a group of guards through the exhibition. Stopping before a rubber net flopped open on the floor, he told them,“It’s okay if they touch this, pick it up, wrap it around themselves, roll around in it, whatever.” One young guard gave a quick coughing laugh, clearly picturing a besuited matron doing a spontaneous wrap and roll. Their guide continued his spiel, moving on to the participatory intricacies of works such as Ant Farm’s Media Van v.08 (Time Capsule) and Janet Cardiff’s The Telephone Call.. If the notion of guards watching carefully to make sure everyone participates in an approved way seems to contradict the spirit of the works, it also demonstrates the important questions that animate the show. Not everyone will like it, but everyone who cares about contemporary art and/or museum culture will be talking about it.

Image Credit:  Lygia Clark, Rede de elastico [Elastic Net] (film still), 1973; rubber, dimensions variable; Clark Family Collection, Rio de Janeiro; photo: Eduardo Clark, courtesy “The World of Lygia Clark” Cultural Association; Copyright 2008 “The World of Lygia Clark” Cultural Association

- Meredith Tromble [Thursday, November 6th, 2008]

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