Poet and artist Stephanie Barber has installed herself in the Baltimore Museum of Art. She’s been there since June 25, and she’ll be there until August 7. And she brought along her studio.
This isn’t an endurance piece, like what Marina Abramović did so beautifully at MoMA. Stephanie, who is doing the performance/installation/video work in conjunction with the Sondheim Prize, is making videos as she normally would, but at a faster clip. She’s producing one a day. Her setup in the gallery is a sight to behold for the way it deconstructs the museum. When is the last time you’ve seen pictures from a magazine haphazardly tacked to a museum’s wall? Or the last time you watched a video with a soundtrack performed by museum patrons as they pass through?
The show is called Jhana and the Rats of James Olds. I had to look it up. “Jhana” is a meditative practice directed at total concentration. James Olds is considered the founder of modern neuroscience. He made up the pleasure center of the brain, discovering that rodents couldn’t stop stimulating themselves with a lever. It’s the best sort of title, I think, one that directs and broadens the way you think about the piece.
Bret McCabe wrote about it for the City Paper‘s coverage of the Sondheim Prize.
Barber’s work as a whole manages to steer you toward considerations of weighty questions you can only answer for yourself. And that’s what makes her Sondheim finalists experiment so generous. It’s a chance to watch and collaborate with an artist preoccupied with creating something, anything, to hold on to in the infinite nothingness of everyday existence. And not a cave-graffiti “I was here” memento mori, more a present tense stake in the here and now, something that calmly trumpets, “I am.”
I also wrote more about this at my blog.
Cara Ober, who took the photo at the top, wrote a great article about the whole show at the Urbanite.