The Highlight of the New Museum Triennial That You Probably Missed
The best kept secret within the New Museum Triennial(NYC) doesn’t even occur in themuseum. It is Luke Willis Thompson’s performance for this year’s triennial entitled
“Eventually they introduced me to the people I immediately recognized as those
who would take me out anyway,” a pursuit throughout New York that
visitors are invited to participate in.
The museum is just the starting point for experiencing a performance
that elegantly offers a timely examination
of racial tensions in the US, permitted voyeurism, and the institutionalized art
is what the piece literally entails: As a museum visitor one is invited to follow a person on choreographed
paths through the streets of NYC and into the surrounding boroughs. Each path
is named for a different New York writer or artist, such as James Baldwin or
Adrian Piper, but the person you pursue will not tell you this. This person will not speak to you at all.
the day of the triennial press preview the performer was Justin Allen (pictured
above). I joined the small group of “pursuers”
who met in the lobby and were taken on a brisk walk through the east village to
Union Square where we boarded the train to the Bronx. As we walked Allen sometimes glanced back to
make sure we were still with him. Coming
off the train we walked to a quiet street with a pretty white church across
from our ending point. Later it was explained this end
point was where David Floyd the eponymous plaintiff from the Floyd
et al vs New York used to live,
with his grandmother. Thompson stated that we re-walked the 5 or so minutes
Floyd did as the police followed him to her front door before carrying out the
frisk that motivated his action around the case.
this project requires research, time and walking. No lazy art goers are being
if one did not have knowledge of the Floyd
et al vs New York case, the act of people with enough privilege to spend the afternoon
at a museum, following a black man dressed in New York city, becoming both is
observer and document-er will not be lost on the participant. Other performers for this piece are: Christina Blue and Tobi Haslett. Each performer will take his/her visitors on
a different route. Moreover, as the performer changes so will the
transgressions the audience associates with the act of pursuing. This is what
makes this such a nuanced piece.
I found myself very comfortable snapping photos of Allen as he walked and sat
on the train. He was part of my exhibition,
so it was allowed. Right? It is odd how as you walk through New York for the purpose
of being in an art piece you look at everything differently. Every corner we
passed, every street we crossed I looked for meaning in. Where was he taking us
and why? I was in an artistic production, so I
looked at the world as if it was an exhibit, without even realizing that
was what I was doing. Yet as soon as Allen informed us we were at the end and promptly turned to leave us, the bubble was broken. This was an abrupt sensory ending. I instantly stopped looking at everything as as a study. I was suddenly aware that I didn’t really know where I was or what was the time. As I walked back to the train with the only person left in my group, still trailing Allen even though the piece was over, it occurred to me that
I might not have even notice the beauty of the church across the street had I
not been following with the eye of an art gazer rather than the eye of a
hurried New Yorker (my usual point of view.)
speaking with Thompson it was clear he wanted exactly this reaction. His goal is to disorient the viewer, make him/her
see the world as a “ready-made” object.
In this sense he is doing the reverse of placing the ready-made object
in an institutionalized space. Thompson is putting the viewer in the world and
forcing him/her to look at the world as he or she would a ready-made in a
museum. This is a tough task but he succeeds.
last layer of artistic pleasure that Thompson revealed he hoped to convey was
the cinematic experience of watching the back of someone’s head. He’s right it
is an angle I observe all the time in movies. Yet, in my everyday travels I rarely
indulge I that angle, even if I did I know I would be “staring without permission”
or in New York I could garner the famous “What you lookin’ at!?” question. “Eventually they introduced me to the people
I immediately recognized as those who would take me out anyway” allows for
a cinematic experience while walking down busy streets. Just as in a movie, the viewer is not sure
where the next turn will be and looks intently at the “backdrop.”
added conversation about race relations that this work opens up is an added
too often lately I have born witness to bad “Stop Don’t Shoot” art, in response
to Ferguson or other recently publicized instances of police brutality. While I
strongly agree that this work is useful I also strongly believe that no matter
what the subject matter is, it is the job of the artist to offer a thing of art
not just political views, to engage the audience. The beauty of the work of
Thompson is that it not only cleverly engages the viewer in a conversation about
race and police brutality it also engages the art senses at the highest level.
because Thompson wants the work to remain subtle and spread through word of
mouth, a lot of museum goers are missing this project. On opening day, even visitor services seemed
unclear about what the project was about and where one should stand to wait for
the performance to begin. With time this has improved. My hope is that the word
of mouth begins to pick up some serious traction soon. The New Museum Triennial
ends May 24, 2015. The piece is
approximately one hour long however, viewers are not required to stay for the
full duration. The cement marker, in front of the museum meeting spot (pictured
above), makes this allowance clear. Tell
a friend to visit this project before it leaves. This performance is well worth
“Eventually they introduced me to the people I immediately recognized as
those who would take me out anyway” takes
place at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.every day that the Museum is open to the public
(Wednesday–Sunday). Museum Visitor Services can direct you to the meeting place
where the work begins. Participation in this piece requires a metro card with a minimum of two rides.
PHOTO CREDITS: (top two) Benoit Pailley for the New Museum, (Bottom) Ayana Evans
Denim and Supply partnered with the New Museum for its signature Triennial, titled “Surround Audience.” Guests enjoyed a private performance by#ProjectWarehouse singer-songwriters Us The Duo, a first look at #SurroundAudience and an exclusive art experience.
Learn more about #ProjectWarehouse at @DenimandSupplyRL on Instagram.
Ashland Mines promise of echo, 2015 sound and light installation in the New Museum stairwell
Don’t miss the lovely sensation of standing at the top floor and hearing the sound play tag along the stair case arriving at your eardrums in waves. Also reminiscent of: bad sci fi movie warp speed sound effects.