Pawel Althamer’s Exhibit: Where Visitors Make the Art
Pawel Althamer, a conceptual artist from Poland, is eradicating the traditional norms associated with art exhibits. In his first showing in an American museum, the New York New Museum, the visitors don’t admire the art, they create it. In a cavernous, white room anyone who wants to can contribute to the ongoing piece of art, leaving a footprint of their creativity.
Althamer has hosted the “Draftmen’s Congress” once before in the 2012 Berlin Biennale, a contemporary art exhibition held since 1998, and also holds his own staged events called “actions.” Similar to the Draftmen’s Congress, his “actions” have participants, many on society’s margins, help in creating art in varying forms such as painting and sculpture. Some of these pieces and videos by Althamer will be presented in the upper galleries.
This is a work of absolute freedom. There are no restraints for participants to abide by and the walls are spattered with art from every skill level and in every genre. The wall becomes a physical conversation between all who visit. And just like in conversation, some aspects of the walls are more dominate and occasionally some will get painted over.
One of the features that truly define this exhibit is the sense of community as well, because it’s not just art. Althamer is often present for the run of the exhibit, and provides workshops or company for anyone interested. Local music performers are invited to play in the multiple floors of the exhibit (three in total) and an adjunct coat drive for Bowery Mission.
While much of the impact of this piece is in constant creation, there’s also the inevitable conclusion. At the end of the show’s run, April 13th, staff of the New Museum are arming themselves with chainsaws and taking to the wall. The remaining pieces will then be handed out to the public that created it, and what could be more appropriate?