Monday, April 13, 2009

Josh Melnick's "Chair Work".


I mentioned in an earlier post that I had attended the Art in General Spring Benefit last month and participated in a really interesting artwork by Josh Melnick (who will be having a show at Art in General at the same time that I will). His piece at the benefit, titled Chair Work, involved a studio set up with two chairs. Pairs of volunteers would sit facing each other in these chairs, and stare into each other's eyes for three minutes without speaking or looking away. While the volunteers engaged in this activity, Josh had cameras broadcasting each participant's face onto a large screen so that the other guests at the benefit could see the interactions.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I participated with a sound artist named David, whom I had met about 15 minutes before. So I was a little nervous, since looking into someone's eyes for 3 minutes is a rather intimate thing to do. We sat down in our chairs, and Josh explained what we were supposed to do (relax, look at each other, stay silent, don't look away, don't forget to blink), and then he rolled the cameras.

I have to say, it was a totally strange and intense experience. I imagined that I would count, daydream, or kind of fall out of focus for those three minutes, but that didn't happen at all. I found that I couldn't resist engaging in the experience of looking into David's eyes and feeling kind of thrilled by it. I had also been worried that I'd feel giggly, but I didn't at all. I smiled a few times, but I mostly just looked. I was very aware of my own face--I felt my teeth and mouth, I felt my breathing, I felt my eyelids open and close, I felt the heat of those bright lights on my cheeks, but I don't remember being at all aware of the rest of my body. It was like all of my consciousness had moved into my face for those three minutes. Another surprising thing for me was that it went really fast. I thought it would feel long, that I'd have an itchy nose, that I'd be uncomfortable. But instead, it was over before I knew it.

Josh kindly sent me a couple photos of my and David's participation in Chair Work that I'm posting here.

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