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Exhibition of participatory works by 42 contemporary artists opens at the Jewish Museum
Uri Aran, Untitled, 2016, plaster. Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- This fall, the Jewish Museum is upending museum conventions with Take Me (I’m Yours), an exhibition featuring artworks that visitors are asked to touch, participate in, and even take home. On view from September 16, 2016 through February 5, 2017, Take Me (I’m Yours) features a group of 42 international and intergenerational artists working in a variety of media including sculpture, works on paper, installation, performance, and digital media. Many of the artists created new and site-specific works for the exhibition. On average, 10,000 of each work have been produced for visitors to take away. Over the course of four months, artworks will be replenished so what awaits visitors will constantly evolve. Selected artists include Uri Aran, Christian Boltanski, Andrea Bowers, Andrea Fraser, General Sisters, Gilbert & George, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jonathan Horowitz, Alison Knowles, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Jonas Mekas, Yoko Ono, Rachel Rose, Martha Rosler, Tino Sehgal, Haim Steinbach, Amalia Ulman, and Lawrence Weiner, among others (see below for complete list).

The Take Me (I’m Yours) installations are primarily on view in the second floor galleries, but can be found throughout the Jewish Museum, inviting visitors to explore and engage with art in several different locations.

The exhibition creates a democratic space for all visitors to participate in the creation and ownership of an artwork, questioning the politics of value, consumerism, and the hierarchical structures of the art market. Take Me (I’m Yours) encourages shared experiences and direct engagement with works of art, suggesting alternative ways that artists can live in, contribute to, and gain from society at large.

First mounted by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and artist Christian Boltanski in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery, London, Take Me (I’m Yours) featured works by 12 artists that explored concepts of value and participation in the arts. Over twenty years later, Take Me (I’m Yours) at the Jewish Museum features an expanded roster of artists and projects specific to both New York City and an institution of art and Jewish culture, including several from the original exhibition. In addition, the Jewish Museum’s presentation marks the first time that Take Me (I’m Yours) is on view in a collecting institution, examining the role of museum collections by giving works away rather than holding them.

Take Me (I’m Yours) is in many ways an homage to the work of Felix Gonzales-Torres. He picked up the tropes of Minimal art – units of measure, geometry, phenomenology – and infused them with autobiography and intimacy, inviting viewers not only to look closely but also to feel and, in many cases, to touch and take away his artworks as in “Untitled” (USA Today) comprised of candies individually wrapped in red, silver, and blue cellophane. He sought to engage viewers as active participants rather than passive observers – to highlight not only the mutability of meaning but also the instability of form, and from that flux to evoke a new paradigm for art and exhibitions.

Born during the Holocaust, Christian Boltanski often confronts death in his work, infusing found objects and images with a sense of loss. In his piece, Dispersion, Boltanski offers articles of used clothing to visitors, granting each item an opportunity to come back to life. The artist first exhibited this piece at the Quai de la Gare, Paris, in 1993. Free clothes to some and an artwork to others, Dispersion is transformed as it is broken apart and bits of it are taken away.

Andrea Bowers works at the intersection of art and activism. Her projects and exhibitions center on issues of social justice, and in Political Ribbons, she addresses the 2016 United States presidential election. Bowers owns a vast collection of recent and historical agitprop, including ribbons that were once used to carry political messages, later replaced by buttons and pins. In Political Ribbons, she reactivates this bygone, stereotypically “girly” material to communicate her radical leftist social and political agenda.

Ian Cheng and Rachel Rose, both born in the 1980s, have produced a fortune cookie with an original message inside. The artists often explore themes derived from the natural sciences and science fiction. They create time-based works, self-evolving simulations (Cheng) or dream-like, narrative videos rooted in cinema (Rose). Our relationship to the fortune cookie, with its disembodied, clairvoyant voice, is akin to our response to the moving image: both are deeply artificial, yet we embrace them with a willingness to believe in fiction. Will a viewer be compelled to open their cookie or keep it sealed, its contents unknown?

The art collective General Sisters (Dana Bishop-Root, Ginger Brooks Takahashi) seeks to produce creatively, rather than turn to consumption as a means of self-definition. This leads to the General Store, described as “a site for the exchange of goods, nourishment, and perspectives.” Their sustainable toilet paper, No One is Disposable, installed in Take Me (I’m Yours), calls attention to the global refugee crisis, which, unpleasant as it may be to think about, will not be ignored.

German artist Yngve Holen, who lives and works in Berlin, offers a thoroughly modern slant on the evil eye in the form of a contact lens. These contact lenses are printed with a Nazar (from the Arabic word for sight), a talisman resembling an eye that protects against the Evil Eye. Holen’s project is offered together with the free audio tour of the Museum’s permanent collection, drawing a direct link to the centuries-old objects on display, many which have supernatural uses and meanings.

Yoko Ono, the multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, and peace activist, packages units of air in a 25-cent machine her piece, Air Dispensers. Air is a recurring theme in Ono’s work. Here, she commodifies it as a consumable product to make us hyperaware of the immaterial, intensely vital oxygen that sustains life on earth and that we all depend on together. Ono, affiliated with the Fluxus movement, pioneered conceptually driven, performance-based, participatory art in the early 1960s. This piece was first exhibited in a retrospective of the artist in 1971 at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. It recalls 50 cc of Paris Air, a 1919 piece by the Dadaist Marcel Duchamp: a glass container full of the inimitable air of that city.

A central figure in early conceptual art of the 1960s, Lawrence Weiner uses language as the primary vehicle to present his work, which can be realized in a variety of forms. Presented in Take Me (I’m Yours) are a temporary tattoo, a do-it-yourself stencil, and a formal installation on the wall. The language used is pidgin, a form of speech that incorporates elements from existing languages and develops when speakers do not share a common tongue. Art, like pidgin, offers a universal means to communicate and to evolve. Seen in this light, Weiner’s work is both an aphorism and a truism: NAU EM I ART BILONG YUMI (The art of today belongs to us).

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