|Weil, Benjamin. Flash Art, "Ouverture: Ben Kinmont", Summer 1994, p. 114.|
The process of dialogue and/or interaction with his audience is at the center of Ben Kinmont's concerns. The artist has developed a body of wrk primarily in painting and sculpture. However, since 1990 Kinmont has focust his attention on the social function of the artist in our postindustrial, Western society. If art is supposed to be an agency of the intellectual and emotional challenge, then the artist concludes that the audience whould also be addressed beyond the institutional frame of the gallery and the museum, and that contact should be more direct. To that effect, Ben Kinmont goes on the street and engages in dialogue with any passer-by who demonstrates interest in his proposals. These range from offering his paintings for free (For Me, For You, For Painting performed in New York in the fall of 1993) to offering assistance in domestic tasks: his contribution to the Rischart Projekt1'94 will consist of proposing his services in washing people's dishes in their homes. In one of his most recent projects, Kinmont engaged in an ongoing dialogue with a priest about issues of compassion and attention to others, comparing the religious viewpoint to that of art. The artist aimed at producing a prayer which he envisions as a sculpture. As with previous endeavors, the importance of documenting the process that leads to the final performance or product is crucial. Each sculpture (the artist deliberately refers to Joseph Beuys's concept of social sculpture) materializes in a thorough archive that becomes the sellable producto of his practice. That in itself refigures the activity of art collecting, as the purchaser not only acts as a patron for the arts but also becomes responsible for keeping the archive updated and potentially making it available for researchers.
One of the first performing sculpture events the artist developed, I Am For You, focused on the exchange with hsi street audience in order construct his own interpretation of Beuys's understanding of social sculpture. In the flyers he distributed both in New York and Cologne from 1990 to 1992, the artist invited the recipient to communicate her/his experience of the space that exists between the self and the other, and relate to communication as the vehicle that both acknowledges difference and is siultaneously the means by which one establishes one's position within a given community. With I Need You (performed in 1993), Kinmont implemented thta exchange with a monetary binding: the participants were invited to leave their signatures and addresses which inturn entitled them to a share of the profits made upon the sale of the archives.
Ben Kinmont's views the artist as a promoter of social change. He envisions his art activity as a tool to inform the way his audience experiences life in its monst menial aspects, turning these moments into creative ones. Asked whether his work belongs to the sphere of the arts, the artist responded: "Some people I talked to wondered if I was a memeber of some religious sect. I do not think the issue is about nameing the experience as art, politics, or religion. The quality and effect of the experience are what matter to me."
Benjamin Weil is a critic based in New York and Paris
1. The Rischart Projekt is an outdoor sculpture project held every three years in Munich