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Public to Create Ephemeral Artwork at Library
Oliver Herring. Task - Photo Archive #61, 2006. Digital C-print. 9 1/2 x 14 1/4 in. Collaborative performance at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Max Protetch Gallery, New York.

SEATTLE.- In an unprecedented collaboration between the Frye Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, On the Boards and the Seattle Public Library, artist Oliver Herring will stage a day-long Task performance at the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library on Saturday, June 28, from 10 am to 5:30 pm.

An improvisational art-making event, Oliver Herring | Task brings together a group of strangers of diverse ages, professions and backgrounds to create a unique site-specific contemporary artwork. Herring devises simple “tasks” for the participants, which become catalysts for performance.

“I write a bunch of simple tasks in order to get the performance going,” Herring once explained. “Each one is put in a task pool, and the performance starts with each participant taking an envelope, opening it and trying to fulfill that task. Once they’re done, they each write a new task, put it back in the task pool, grab a new task and go on with business.” After the first five or 10 minutes, the performance is entirely self-perpetuating.” The performance’s unpredictability is inherent to its process: the artwork takes shape according to the interests and creativity of those on stage as well as the relationships they form with one another.

Herring has staged Task performances at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (2006); Plaza de Toros in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (2003), the Former Federal Security Bank in Lake Worth, Fla. (2003); L’Ecole Supérieur National des Beaux Arts, Paris (2002); and the Masonic Temple at the Great Eastern Hotel, London (2003). The upcoming Seattle Public Library performance will be the first staged indoors, and the first involving multiple organizations.

Herring, who was born in Heidelberg, Germany, lives and works in Brooklyn. His early works involved knitting Mylar into sculptural human figures, clothing and furniture, in an homage to the drag-performance artist Ethyl Eichelberger, who committed suicide in 1991. Since 1998 Herring has focused on creating stop-motion videos and participatory performances, often with “off-the-street” strangers. One photographic series involved documenting strangers’ faces after hours of spitting brightly colored food dye, recording the subjects’ exhaustion, intensity and astonishment.

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