An often asked question in the present moment is how we deal with changes in the light of the political upheavals and the climate crisis. According to various scientific predictions, the future doesn’t seem bright at all, which brings us to the articulation of the present moment and what can be done to prevent the global changes that ultimately lead to the destruction of life on Earth.
The upcoming exhibition titled Measure Your Existence to take place at The Rubin Museum tends to question that through the works by Shilpa Gupta, Meiro Koizumi, Taryn Simon, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Tehching Hsieh, and Lee Mingwei.
Although the mentioned artists come from diverse theoretical backgrounds, and their practices span through a period of five decades, all of them share the same interests in exploring history, relationships, borders, fate, and more, while underlining the urgency of the present moment. Christine Starkman who curates the exhibition briefly emphasized her position with the following words:
"Measure Your Existence" invites the viewer to experience the concept of impermanence through participation, co-creation, and reflecting on change, duration, and disappearance. The artists make us aware of ourselves sensing the flow of time and change. Materiality is also at the heart of this show.
On display will be Untitled (Placebo), a ground installation made by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in 1991. It consists of silver-wrapped hard candies that are arranged in the square constellation on the gallery floor. The visitors are encouraged to take candies which makes them active participants and indicates the transitory nature of the work itself.
Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Performance (1980–81) operates similarly in the sense of underlining the passage of time and the disappearance of the self; it is practically a self-portrait of the artist who delivered yearlong performances by punching a timecard in his studio.
Another participatory work to be displayed is Lee Mingwei’s The Letter Writing Project (1998); the visitors are invited to enter a booth and write letters to the deceased or absent loved ones to indicate the loss of trust, and the exchange of unspoken words.
On display will also be the project A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–IVIII (2008–11) by Taryn Simon that explores the fragile nature of survival; through four years period, the artist traveled across the world collecting and researching different bloodlines.
Shilpa Gupta’s 1:14:19 / 1188.5 Miles of Fenced Border — West, North-West / Data Update: Dec 31, 2007 (2011–12) unravels the disappearance of people and places in the context of political contestations in South Asia. The last artwork to be displayed is Meiro Koizumi’s video My Voice Would Reach You (2009). It is based on a letter written by an actor to his deceased mother that was transformed into a script that the actor used while calling Japanese companies and inviting his mother out for the weekend.
This survey will be part of the museum’s yearlong thematic exploration of impermanence and accepting change, a fundamental principle in Buddhist philosophy.
Measure Your Existence will be on view at The Rubin Museum of Art in New York from 7 February until 10 August 2020.
Featured image: Lee Mingwei - The Letter Writing Project, 1998–present. Mixed-media interactive installation, wooden booth, writing papers, envelopes. Installation view at Lee Mingwei and His Relations, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2014. Photograph by Yoshitsugu Fuminari. Image courtesy of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. All images courtesy The Rubin Museum.