"I like to think of myself as resistant to the powers of suggestion, albeit naively. "

Alexandra Phillips (Pure Propaganda) visited the opening of Various Exhibition Titles and was inspired to share with us the way she experienced the whole happening. You can still visit Various Exhibition Titles and create your own experience until the 24th of November.

This is not an entrance, well it is but to get inside you need a ticket. 

The tickets are free.

But you have to wait until there are tickets available.

Just have a drink and listen for when they are giving more away.

That is how to get a ticket.

The ticketed opening suspended my disbelief.  It set up a structure that focused attention to the activity of physical entering an event.  As opposed to a typical entrance that would hardly be noticed let alone be contemplated, entering in small numbers and only with ticket in hand extended the time frame and created the first collective activity of the show.  It was generous, literally, being that the tickets were free of charge, and conceptually in that it allowed everyone to avoid the regular cadence of art openings.  Instead of the fend-for -yourself aspect of many cultural events, this one insistently yet subtly invited every visitor to take part by waiting.  With no real information regarding when tickets would be distributed or how many would be able to experience Various Exhibition Titles that evening, we were all held at bay together. Waiting heightened my awareness of how malleable, we, in this case a group of people agreeing to be good art viewers, can be.

I like to think of myself as resistant to the powers of suggestion, albeit naively.  I like to think I maintain a healthy skepticism as I move through our cultural landscape.  And yet there I was wondering if I would be able to see the work that evening, if I would be one of the lucky few to step through the red curtained doorway and behold the wonders contain within.

That’s funny right?  That is funny not only because failing to get a ticket that evening would not mean I did not get to see the show at all, but also because at any given moment of waiting it was possible to see through a window, straight inside MAMA.

Watching others see only made my desire to see and see right then or at the very least next, even greater.  Finally there was one ticket available, and although I was not there alone, I jumped at the chance to take that ticket, thinking we should not waste a limited item such as that.  I abandoned the person with whom I had come and went inside feeling a sense of relief, chuffed that I had managed.

See what I mean? There is a mischievousness contained in the act of offering an invitation or making a suggestion that prompts the invited to agree and to give them self over willingly.   I made a series of decisions informed by a false sense of scarcity all stimulated by the simple act of ticketing.   And so I was tricked, I was coerced! Like Tom Sawyer’s friends watching Tom white washing the fence, I too wanted to white wash.

That same mischievousness is echoed throughout the show in its overarching, highly scripted structure, as well as in the individual works. Various Exhibition Titles requires one to give themselves over to the real-time unfurling of each work. The execution of the show, the attention to how the works reach the viewer, the use of multiple wall texts and mismatched translations, functions as work itself in my opinion. The set up makes a playful, somewhat theatrical framework for each autonomous work all of which interact with the architecture of the space, the windows and red curtains most notably, and the street beyond and all of which hang on the structure laid out by the adaptable but scripted text. This dance between conceptual art show and comedic skit is part of the mischief that makes Various Exhibition Titles so refreshing.

All sitting there together, aware of ourselves as a group in space, hyper-aware in fact not only because of our reflection but also because of our power of attention and the attention that brought to us. The windows are the setting of each work. Looking onto the sidewalk made the act of viewing a two way street, all of the sudden we were being looked at while we looked. I say all of the sudden because sitting there, the intensity of people’s reactions as they pasted was striking. I thought, so many shop windows in the city and so many people wondering around in groups. If their relationship shifts slightly, if everyone begins looking out of the window, seemingly at nothing, bam! Such common things as people and windows become instantly and hilariously disruptive.

Through a series of such adjustments, through seemingly simple shifts and by upending aspects of exhibition making that often go unquestioned, Various Exhibition Titles disseminates a charming mischievousness and sense of serious play. It is light but not lacking depth, which I think is a difficult balance to strike and a pleasure to experience when one does.

This story was written by Alexandra Phillips (part of the collective Pure Propaganda) in the context of Various Exhibition Titles, the exhibition that is programmed by Willem de Haan and deals with different versions of reality and the power of suggestions.

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