Little White Cubes II: An Exhibition Review by John Farnum
Maiza Hixson, the Gretchen Hupfel Curator at The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA), working with a grant from the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, presents three, month-long, curatorial meditations entitled Little White Cubes (LWC) I, II, & III in the Constance S. & Robert J. Hennessy Project Space at the DCCA (December 7, 2013 – April 6, 2014.) In these LWC exhibitions, regional artists and curators are invited to address the concept of gallery as a work of art or creative medium. In LCWII, the second iteration in re-imagining the white cube as created/creative space, Philadelphia (Kensington) based artist collective, the Little Berlin artist collaboration (LB), interpreted the ‘undefined exhibition’ space in the Hennessy exhibition as space curated by an artist-as-curator collective.
LB appropriated the LCWII space to exhibit their do-it-yourself (DIY) style group exhibition, replacing the white cube with artifacts and content from prior LB exhibition events/locales and simultaneously filling the space with live action and audience engagement. LB transformed the exhibition space into a satellite art space of their primary gallery in Philadelphia replete with an assortment of couch, armchair, antique folding chairs arranged before a raised performance stage, banks of TV sets on which prior art performances ran in continuous loops, burning incense, mixed electronica and pop soundscapes, and a homemade magazine rack offering a portable sampling of LB’s extensive DIY ‘zines’ collection. These publications, collected by LB, present limited edition DIY tracts from national auteurs/authors published in guerilla-Xerox cut/paste formats that contain personal musings, journals, poetry, obsessions and other subversions.
LB’s re-interpretation of the white cube countermands the traditional role of autocratic museum curator with their democratic voting process for exhibition content. LB’s LCWII presented various ‘interrogations’ of the ubiquitous, staid, serene, and isolated white cube exhibition space via live performances, audience engagement, and streaming Internet video feed from an exhibition outside the DCCA, hosted at their sister LB space located in Kensington, Pa. Photographs arranged along the walls and documentary video loops repeated on a multi-screened bank of television recounted/recalled past LB events such as faux pro-wresting style events, community involvement through artistic intervention in an abandoned lot improvement effort, music performances, and the documented destruction of a piano by hammer-wielding performers. A standard artifact during LB exhibitions, a raised stage presented a locus within the space for various live engagements (i.e., musical performances, mixed DJ soundscapes, and stand-up artist improvisations.) Notables included an eerie and hypnotic performance by Marshall James Kavanaugh as his man/god/shaman/jazz musician-poet persona: MA JA KA. Following this, Rev. Eric Danger Clark’s performance, Bitter Tantrum, consumed the gallery’s floor space as the artist struggled to crawl through and drag a 12’ transparent balloon-filled tube of membranous plastic throughout the gallery space. While Clark struggled to emerge from his birth-canal/chrysalis, gathered members of LB, on cue, punctured balloons surrounding the artist’s struggle with upholstery pins.
With Little White Cubes II, Little Berlin artists successfully re-defined the ‘undefined exhibition space’ of the DCCA’s Hennessy’s as a collective, DIY exhibition space, energizing the exhibition space via artist/locale/visitor engagements, staged live performances, installed engagement-stations, and constructed virtual spaces.