Giverny at The Hole

E.V. Day & Kembra Pfahler

“Giverny” at The Hole

Walking into the opening of this exhibit was a little bewildering. I had seen a couple of photos from the install in progress, and had heard that the concept of the exhibition was to bring Monet’s garden to life, but I still wasn’t really prepared to step directly onto gravel and Astroturf as I passed through the front door.  The air inside was muggy and hazy (I think augmented by humidifiers and smoke machines, although I didn’t see any), turf, gravel, mulch, ferns, flowers and ivy covered every inch of the space, the plant life wrapping around columns and climbing up walls. I hadn’t even gotten half way through the show yet.

Up a small, fabricated hill, and I arrive at the pond. An actual pond, full of water, and water lilies, with a bridge over it, a turquoise bridge, a replica of the one made famous by Claude Monet’s impressionist musings.  Amidst the canopy of plant life that dominated the space, we found the works that inspired the installation, a series of photographs taken by E.V. Day during her Munn Artist Residency in Giverny, France, at this spot in the actual gardens.

I was very quickly brought to consider our discussions on relational aesthetics, and the notions of relationship, participation and commodity that were touched on by this exhibit. Clearly this is not a practice in avoiding commodification, there are works for sale (or were, the show is sold out) and the installation serves more or less to mystify and generate an added value to the works, and of course hype, hype, hype. Which is fine, I’m not sure why there is such contempt for people who make money doing awesome things.  Yes, it’s a spectacle, and yes it’s sponsored by playboy, and yes some people made a lot of money from it I’m sure, but at least it was interesting, and doesn’t generate it’s worth solely from being “counter” or “anti” contemporary fine art, while at the same time, is exactly that.

What I’m more interested in are the viewers’ relationship with the installation, and the possibility for participation or engagement as such. This was the first, and probably the only, time I’ve walked through a gallery and seen groups of people sitting on the ground, chatting, like they were spending an afternoon in the park. Despite the scene, the press and photographers, the presence of industry big shots and so on, people were chilling, drinking beers, sitting in the grass wearing thousand dollar outfits.  That’s what struck me, that this exhibit is decidedly not geared towards “outsiders,” and was in fact a very well attended event in the traditional sense, yet it brought up the “outsider” tendencies in attendees irrespective of their current status, or whatever we want to call it.  I guess gives some insight into how stale the scene is in some ways, build a garden in a gallery and all of a sudden bourgeois collectors are acting like hippies. It is truly awesome to see how nature and plant life, even manmade and indoors under artificial lighting, can cause even the most composed individual to shed the pomp and circumstance, and relax a bit.

This continued through the duration of the exhibit, I went back a couple weeks later with a friend and found a group of people on their lunch break, eating on the grass in back by the pond.

This really is commercial fine art as an encounter, the material basis, or works included in the show are unlikely to be a defining aspect of a viewer’s engagement with the exhibit as a whole, and the experience of the show is based almost entirely in the relationship established between the installation, and the people there at a given time, yet the focus is not on subverting the existing infrastructure of art politics and commercialization, but simply to build something wild and see what happens.

-OA

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