Last week I met someone who, upon learning I’m a curator, asked me what I do at work every day–a reasonable question. Right now, I’m currently finishing up installing the exhibition Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing with our esteemed crew. (The show opens Thursday nightwith a live performance drawing by the artist: http://calendar.walkerart.org/event.wac?id=4323)
Putting a show together is what I might describe as the spatial voodoo part of what we do. It can often feel like trying to decorate a house while you are still designing it, or building a musical instrument that you can’t try to get a sound out of until all the pieces have been assembled. It becomes easy to obsess over the tiniest details. This is because–as one of my colleagues put it–there are an infinite number of choices you can make, and at the same time, really only a few right ones.
The most difficult section of the show to hang has proven to be a large wall of archival posters from Trisha’s performances over the past three decades, which is the first thing visitors will see when they walk into the gallery. In order to visualize it, we marked off the wall dimensions on the floor, and figured out the configuration within that area. Periodically, I went up in a small lift to get a better view down onto the posters. In the course of about 24 hours, I probably tried three or four different approaches, and each one felt almost right to me. But the best solution eventually made itself clear.
As curators we often have ideas about how to install an artist’s work (whether by itself or with other things) to emphasize different aspects of it, or to best express certain ideas. But when it’s up against the wall, the art tends to tell us what it wants to do, refining its own image in our minds. The voodoo element of our jobs, I suppose, is everything up until that moment.
Installation photos by Gene Pittman