Visual Arts Center Site Visit
The Visual Arts Center(VAC) within the Art Department at the University of Texas features five gallery spaces. The first exhibition our class visited was Placeholder, a collaboration between Mexico City-based artist Victor Perez-Rul, independent curator Lesley Moody-Castro and members of the UT student community. The exhibition is a product of the Vaulted Gallery Artist-in-Residence Program of the Visual Arts Center. This Program brings in different artists for short periods of time to produce an artwork specific to the Vaulted Gallery space.
In this case, Perez-Rul and Moody called upon UT students, not just art students but from a variety of departments and educational perspectives to contribute to the development of the work that would eventually come to occupy the space. I was particularly interested in the unique challenge of writing a proposal for an exhibition before you have a clear picture of what the exhibition will actually look like. The description of the work, as it appears on the VAC website, is apparently drawn from this proposal and offers little description of the physical artifacts of the project. The artifacts themselves being in some ways secondary to the “collaboration with students” by which they were produced.
The collaboration continues in the viewing. A booklet accompanying Placeholder speaks for the collaborators in their absence and creates its public. Short writings, presumably each written by one of the collaborators, define the viewer as participant and give strong suggestions as to how one should participate. The writers ask: “Here are some of the ideas we held while we created this piece. Will you find the same ideas?” It’s a rhetorical question and it’s meant to persuade. I’m glad I didn’t read this before or during my visit but I’m not exactly sure what I think should replace it, or if it should be replaced at all. What do you think? Are supplements like this useful? Is there another way to ask viewers to engage with a piece like this without telling them how to experience it or what to think about while they do so?