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April 27, 2012

"Please, don't feed the artist" — Dawn Kasper at the Whitney Biennial


Long story — by Penelope Green in yesterday's New York Times Home & Garden section — short: "Dawn Kasper moved the entire contents of her home and studio into a room at the Whitney Museum." 


Excerpts below.

On most days, you can hear Dawn Kasper's installation at the Whitney Biennial before you see it. Bessie Smith or the Beatles or an episode of  "The Young Ones," a British sitcom from the '80s, might be playing scratchily on one of her many devices, spilling out into an adjacent gallery and accompanied by a throaty guffaw from the artist, whom you might then come upon sitting cross-legged on a mattress, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, eating a sandwich and entertaining a few strangers. 

In late February, Ms. Kasper [above], a Los Angeles performance artist, moved herself and the entire contents of her apartment-slash-studio into the Whitney, where it and she will remain for the duration of the show (it closes May 27), in a kind of living sculpture she calls the Nomadic Studio Practice.        

Indeed, Ms. Kasper's finances haven't allowed for a real studio since 2008, a common scenario in the life of an artist and one that generated this piece, which recalls the more festive aspects of Relational Aesthetics as well as a party in the room of a particularly messy teenager. (Ms. Kasper has sublet the room she rents in a two-room apartment in Los Angeles to a friend.)

Since her piece is what's known as a durational exercise, we've been checking on her every couple of weeks. What does it feel like to live, for all intents and purposes, inside a museum?               

For the record, Ms. Kasper uses the public restrooms in the basement, a spot she visits often. The museum's low-humidity atmosphere is good for artwork but dehydrates humans, as she learned early on. So she drinks liters and liters of water. "It's like airplane air in here," she'll tell you.  

She also makes little books out of folded paper that might say, "I have a short attention span"; she plays the drums. You deduce her roots in the D.I.Y., post-punk scene. But as Ms. Kasper, comically frenetic, scoots about her space, sorting cable wires, nailing a huge fragment of paper to the wall that reads "Too Available" in block letters or piling packing blankets in high stacks to make extra seats, an even older tradition emerges: she plays the fool like her hero, Buster Keaton.         

"Sometimes I think of my process as a used-car salesman," Ms. Kasper said. "I'm trying to get people to buy something. It's hard for people because it’s stuff. It's my stuff. My activity in this context on a daily basis is making the contents of my material possessions a sculptural installation. But when I'm not there, you realize the car could be a lemon. It's just books and empty cassette cases."

April 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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Can not imagine the move, the lack of privacy, the people watching you every moment. Perhaps the difference between and artist and layman is that the artist thinks outside the box.

Posted by: Kay | Apr 27, 2012 10:34:45 PM

Sounds like a great way to get a rent-free place at a great address, although the neighbors may leave something to be desired.

Posted by: Becs | Apr 27, 2012 12:39:37 PM

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