Audience, as Artist, Juggles Objects

Perhaps inspired by Joseph Beuys declaration that 'Every human being is an artist,' Brazilian artist Ricardo Basbaum's 'Would you like to participate in an artistic experience?,' featured at the current Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, follows the famous German's radical proposition of a 'social sculpture.' A new installment of the project, initially launched in 1994 and presented online, was the first event at Kassel, this year. A few months ago, ten white and blue steel items left an apprentice's workshop and joined ten others on three continents, where households located in Kassel, Dakar, Ljubljana, and Mexico City, among other places, have received them. There, its inhabitants--their temporary owners--have appropriated them according to a personal understanding of their function or aesthetic qualities. As Roger M. Buergel, artistic director of Documenta 12, has commented, the works are 'unreasonable, fitting-in nowhere so they pose a challenge.' Indeed, their uncanny shape--resembling 'an empty pie dish or a bathtub with a hole in it,' as someone once described them--challenges any utilization or contemplation. Visitors to the exhibition at Kassel lay on colorful pillows placed on the green-carpeted floor of a prison-like cell and watch the several TV monitors placed inside the structure. Here they witness the creativity with which different individuals have dealt with the pieces. Living with them has triggered unexpected situations that the videos document (as well as photographs posted in the website), leading to a close relationship between the participants, the objects, and the artist. As Basbaum has put it, echoing Beuy's utopian proposal, 'I want to reverse the relationship between the artist and the audience, to find out something about the people involved. Now the audience is the sender and the artist is the recipient.' - Miguel Amado