In the interest of full disclosure, I am thinking about the benefits of full disclosure. More specifically, I spent a good portion of my day wandering through galleries at the Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (holy shit! Nam June Paik!). I am a lover of art, a lover of the experience of art, but I am kidding myself if I tell you I am not a lover of museum labels. Sure, I like knowing the name of the artist and the name of the work, but I’m really talking about the curator’s comments, the carefully constructed narrative that directs your experience:
Installed as a series, these works do not appear uniform as one might expect; instead, their differences are highlighted and thus together they create a visual cadence. Importantly, Jones’s paintings also perform an active role in shaping the sound in the gallery, thereby introducing a new function for painting. The final precise spacing between the panels is ultimately guided by both their acoustic and visual effects, with neither taking precedence over the other. [from “Directions,” accompanying Jennie C. Jones’s installed works, “Higher Resonance,” at the Hirshhorn]
Am I getting it? There are directions, and there is the idea of following. The stubborn in me wants to follow no one, and refuses to lead. The stubborn in me wants to make a pure experience, and believes in this possibility, but the stubborn in me hangs out with the rest of my body, watching as I gravitate toward labels, allowing an outside voice into my experience. But I know, in a small part of myself, that that voice knows something I don’t, that that voice has lived with the experience of this art longer than I have, that that voice does not discount my own voice or my own experience. The frame does not intrude on the experience, but is a part of the experience itself.
Stubborn is letting go. Stubborn has been preventing me from moving forward with this Paul Thek project–which, I am realizing, has more to do with me, personally, than I thought. I fear the “I” in my writing, the overbearing Voice of Knowledge, but nowadays Stubborn seems more like the overbearing Voice of Knowledge than I, quietly thinking, do. If I am going to curate, I, too, can be the body in the tomb, speaking, pointing, looking directly into the eyes of the reader. I think, in fact, I have to be.
[“palimpsest,” Ann Hamilton, Hirschhorn]