JR – ADRIAN PIPER – RAY JOHNSON
“Mail-Art has no history, only a present.” This statement made by Ray Johnson in 1977 has probably never been more true than in the context of today’s correspondence and communication behavior, specifically concerning social networks. Online, everything exists in the present moment. The information we create and circulate is transported by media without hierarchy or centrality, developing the artificial intelligence of tomorrow. Social networking as facilitated by the internet has restructured global society.
In this exhibition, Salon Berlin of Museum Frieder Burda brings together three artists from differentgenerations, with different roots and strategies, who share a common focus: an appeal to the viewer to become actively involved in the artwork, allowing it to fulfil its true purpose: only this “pact”between artist and audience brings the often ephemeral artwork to its intended completion.
An artwork always anticipates its relation to the viewer, which is intrinsic and immanent to its being. A painting suggests an ideal viewer position, offering the canvas as a window looking out on a differentworld. A sculpture in space demands that the viewer walk around it, adopting different positions; onlysuch changes of perspective allow the work to be perceived in three-dimensions. The theatrical andmedia arts demand an investment of time for viewing. Since Marcel Duchamp, and since the advent ofConceptual Art, artists have often tried to render the “dictates” of the artwork productive. What powerdoes an artwork have? How instructive can it be? What can be achieved by providing instructions for itsuse thus turning the viewer into an accomplice?
Ray Johnson, Adrian Piper, and JR: in the work of all three artists, interacting in an art context becomes a model for social interaction and participatory commitment. The result is art that seeks to establish a sense of inter-engagement and belonging to a global community, transcending differences in language, religion, and ideology: emancipating the viewer to collaborate with the artist stimulates political articulation, drives a self-conscious approach to lived democratic responsibility, and raises awareness of the importance of the individual voice. While the “father of mail-art” Ray Johnson (b. 1927, Detroit, d. 1995, New York) used the gesture of communication and interaction is central to his mail art practice and as a stylistic device in his collages, the diversity of the work of conceptual artist Adrian Piper (b. 1948, New York) reflects an open understanding of art that links the personal with the political. For multimedia artist JR (b. 1983, Paris), meanwhile, the cityscape becomes a canvas for large-scale black-and-white collages that aim to activate the participative forces of local residents. All three are concerned with abolishing the classical boundaries of the artwork, linking art and life, and upending elitist definitions of art.
Artistic director and curator Patricia Kamp on the exhibition: “While preparing this show, we were often surprised by the intensity of the dialog between the works of Ray Johnson, Adrian Piper, and JR. This reminded us once again that we do not live as individuals surrounded by meaningless, isolated facts, but that we are part of a multitude of references, correspondences, and encounters that connect us with other people and the world. We very much hope that our visitors will share this experience. The way the art on show touches people by rendering visible their faces and voices for more humanity and an open society is both enriching and a key aspect of this exhibition.”