|Catalogue. Extra Art: A survey of Artists' Ephemera, 1960-1999, CCAC & Smart Art Press, 2001, pp. 44-45, 93, & 163.|
At the Crossroads
Imagine that you are walking alone in the city in which you live. You come around a corner, almost home. A stranger approaches, smiling. As you smile back, he hands you a piece of paper and waits for you to read it, and he explains briefly that he is an artist who is interested in making a sculpture in collaboration with you. You are confused, perhaps nervous, and certainly not ready to make a sculpture with a complete stranger, but you cannot simply walk away. As you reat the text given to you and listen to the man, you realize that he is telling you that the making of the sculpture has already begun.
Welcome to right here. Ben Kinmont's work moves the location of art one step farther away from the gallery and two steps foward from the past. Over the last decade Kinmont's art has manifested itself primarily through the instigation of specific encounters between himself and other individuals who are at once the audience and co-creators of the work. Ben Kinmont left in a gallery a stack of paper plates that were printed with an invitation the to recipient of the plate to come to his house for breakfast (Waffles for an Opening, 1991). He approached people on the street to ask them to allow him to help with their dishes or housework (Forse, 1995). He persuaded the owner of an expensive fashion boutique to allow anyone from the street to come in and exchange the shirt "off their back" for one of the shirts for sale in the store (Exchange, 1995). His work is generous, relational, and wholly concerned with art manifested in the present and as the product of an exchange, or contract, between him and the recipient.
Kinmondisperses and delivers his work through what he terms "catalytic texts." These are small photocopied fliers, which he hands out on the street; they describe to the recipient who Kinmont is and what he is interested in creating with them. The work of art in this case is not located in a object and not located at a site made remote through time or place. The work of art is located precisley at the moment of interaction between the artist and the audience, at the crossroads of two intersecting paths, and it occupies a space created by that interaction for as long as it continues. The catalytic text becomes a passport to allwo travel into this newly created space.
Looking at several of these catalytic texts today, removed from the artist and the streets where they were passed out, they seem somehow mute — they no longer permit the artist to enter my home, nor doe they provide me with breakfast or a shirt. The simple sheets that once instigated and outlined an artwork in the present art now relics, yet there still remains an evocation in these texts. The action they invite can still be undertaken in a new context, between a new set of participants. In this way, the texts never fully become relics, they ar still passports that contain all that is required for a trip through the portals between art and life. They serve as invitations to all to become part of the social sculpture.