opening notes

“Opening”(title intended to suggest “art opening”, “grand opening”, also maybe “mind-opening”)
May 5th, 5-10pm, at FICTILIS (210 S. Washington St at 2nd Ave in Pioneer Square)
a “mock”show
everything that goes along with an art opening – except for the “art”
an installation intended to capture the feeling of a gallery opening

“He who never realizes the difficulty of art never does anything worthwhile; he who realizes it too soon never does anything at all.”- Chardin, 1765

“…At a certain level, we have yet to experience the death of the avant-garde, to imagine what it might be like if the avant-garde really did cease to exist. But if that compulsive repetition by means of which the avant-garde keeps reproducing itself under different names is, as we shall see, its primary form of death, even so, one might still imagine a second death, the death of this repetition itself. To speak of the afterlife of the avant-garde will not be to imagine the next style, manifesto, movement, or postmodern pretense of superceding avant-garde repetitions. The afterlife of the avant-garde will be the first confrontation with the silence of death and will produce precisely nothing.”Paul Mann, 1999

The main “points”of this show are several:

  • to evoke the exclusivity or elitism of the art world, with the notion that there are things only some people can “see”
  • to highlight the primacy of actual artists’ work (via its absence) in the total art-world apparatus, and the difference (and yet, the inseparability) between art creation and its display, representation, criticism, and consumption
  • to suggest the importance of artists and art at a time when Seattle arts funding is endangered [see]
  • to reference in a playful way the avant garde’s (and much of contemporary art’s) obsession with its own destruction or disappearance
  • to point to the sometimes arbitrary-seeming titling and pricing of gallery-displayed work and the social cliches of the gallery-opening setting
  • to make fun of ourselves!

There are also some practical motivations behind this:

  • to do a “dry run”in our space, and get us ready to have an actual show next month, without having to worry too much about content in the beginning
  • to introduce our neighboring artists (that means you!) to the space, and to encourage them to see it as a kind of blank slate to be filled with their own work

And there are some more personal reasons:

  • to mock our own anxiety about producing displayable/consumable art objects to fill the space we’re renting
  • to get certain negative/oppositional tendencies/agendas out of our system to begin with, to clear the way for more creative and affirmative shows

We need 30-60 people, but the more the merrier. (People who are more dedicated to their roles should stay longer, people less so can come and go as they please, check out the rest of ArtWalk and recommend the show to people they see, etc…) There will be snacks and drinks, so apart from a little bit of background, group-level improv, it will probably feel even to us like an actual art opening, which is mostly strolling around talking with your friends. (Bring your friends and have actual fun at a mock opening!)

What we’re aiming for is verisimilitude: the appearance, for passers-by, of a real art opening going on inside the space, so that people will want to come in and see what’s going on. They may come in and be a little confused, and they may ask one of us what it’s all about. If this happens, we should never reveal that the event is staged, but should stay in character and answer with things like “it’s some kind of installation”or “I don’t know what it means”or “I just came here with a friend”or, if you are playing the role of critic or dealer or Intelligentsia, respond with some academese borrowing from the “points”section of this document. (I expect most non-Improv visitors to be confusedly silent, but we should all have responses rehearsed in case there are interactions.)
The minimum people have to do is show up and occupy the space with their bodies, but for it to seem authentic, we should have a mix of character-types doing the various kinds of things people would do, and wearing the kinds of things people would wear, at an art opening.

Encouraged attire: black or dark outer layers, glasses, facial hair, one person with a beret or a keffiyeh (but only one), scarves (weather permitting)

Prohibited attire: bright outer layers, sports gear, logos on outside layers, running shoes, baseball caps, backpacks, flip-flops, more than one beret/keffiyeh

We’ve identified a few of the more stereotypical characters, some more and some less important:

The Artists [3 or 4 of these]
see How Artists Must Dress, alternating between aloof and gregarious, pensive and grudgingly social…

The Dealer
older, dressed very nicely, preferably older, taking notes occasionally, hobnobbing with Celebrity, Artist, etc.

The Photographer
goes from “piece”to “piece”taking photos, changing camera lenses a lot (use of a flash is encouraged, even if photos don’t turn out so good!), also attempts to assemble certain people into photos with work, e.g. Artist, Dealer, Celebrity, etc), makes perhaps too much of a show of his/her own activity

The Intelligentsia (Big Words Club)
group of people standing in the middle having a pretentious conversation making ostentatious use of buzzwords from critical theory; Curator, Critic, and Dealer occasionally in this group

Artwalk Goers [extras]
dressed fashionably or in black or darker colors or appropriate hipster apparel, casually making the rounds, looking and pointing, chatting, etc.

The Thinker
roams mostly alone, studying art closely and appearing to be deep in contemplation

The Writer
goes from “piece”to “piece”writing notes, spends extended periods of time sitting alone and writing

The Celebrity
some shiny-looking person who has a certain gravitational pull, dressed nicely

The New Yorkers
have showy reunions with several others, always loudly reminding that they’ve been importantly busy in New York (research current events to reference?)

The Scenesters
people there obviously to be seen, mostly talking with each other and not that interested in the art

The Couple(s)
many couples preferred, ranging from the clingy attached couple on a date, whispering remarks about the art to each other, to the Awkward Blind-Daters who are trying desperately to say something interesting to each other (their date may or may not be going well!)

The Glarer
glares condescendingly at anyone who walks by, except the Celebrity

The Fashion Police
a very high-fashion-looking person or pair who studies others’ outfits and outwardly judges others

The Circumambulator
the person who is hurriedly walking around and between crowds (this depends how crowded it is in there), often against the grain or flow of traffic, with a sense of urgency that masks their inner lack of urgency

The Older Bohemians
older folks who still dress/act young, dressed in many flowing layers, there to support the scene, some may be buyers or collectors, some artists themselves

The Wallflower
someone standing off by themselves nervously texting or doing email/internet on their phones

other NOTES

Improv Everywhere did something somewhat related in a New York subway platform:
Also somewhat related is the Invisible Dogs project:

We will be creating an Artwalk listing a few days beforehand, installing window signage, A-board with title of show (“Opening”), etc. and possibly even inviting press, though the main “audience”for this is the casual Artwalk passerby.
The A-board out front will say only “Opening”(in quotes), so that people won’t think anything unusual at first, but they might notice the quotation marks on their way out and figure out that what they just walked through was a kind of full-gallery, live-action installation.
If someone wants to shoot video, they should do so discreetly, without calling attention to the ‘staged’ aspect of the show. (Or maybe it will just blend in and look like part of the scene?)
It will be clear, from the overhead lighting (and possibly from title/description cards) where the art is supposed to be “hanging”on the walls.



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