RVW | Object Focus: The Bowl
Museum of Contemporary Craft upends the traditional visitor-object relationship and invites visitors to take the work home.
Object Focus: The Bowl, Engage + Use
By Melody Rowell, MFA CD ’15
To visit Object Focus: The Bowl, Engage + Use is to have a distinctly unique gallery experience, one that truly masters the concept of interactive art. Two projects in particular stand out:
Within the exhibition is Circulate, a system of eclectic, handmade bowls available to be taken home for a week and experienced personally. In short: a library of bowls. Ayumi Horie, organizer of Circulate, upended the conventional ‘touching harms the art’ frame of mind typically held by curators and exhibition artists, and which prevents personal connections between the viewer and piece from forming. Horie disrupts this traditional visitor-object relationship by explicitly encouraging viewers to touch and cradle the exhibition pieces in the palms of their hands, which helps translate the ‘inner’ beauty and feeling of the bowl. With the help of eighteen contributors, Circulate invites the city of Portland to interact with an everyday object in a new way, and encourages the museum visitor to consider not only the bowl’s function, but also its more personal qualities. Through touch and use, Circulate participants learn to appreciate the texture, form, solidity, and comfort of a handmade bowl. While realizing these ‘bowl epiphanies,’ participants are encouraged to document and submit their experiences on the Object Focus: The Bowl Tumblr feed. This is a very interesting aspect of the project, as it allows individuals to see how their same bowl affected others; the user not only becomes connected to the bowl, but to his or her community.
When dining, ideas are exchanged, opinions are formed, and memories are generated. Sometimes, this daily event simply serves as a relaxing retreat from the complexities of the world. The bowl plays a role in this. The bowl is a part of you. Artist Michael Strand has brought attention to this silent participant by developing Bowls Around Town, a project examining the relationship between the bowl and our community. Strand’s project explores our system of dining in terms of social relationships and community by utilizing the bowl as a connecting agent. In contrast to Horie’s Circulate, Strand focuses on the bowl’s impact on community and culture, rather than on individual experience. With Bowls Around Town, Strand distributed boxes among three partnering organizations in Portland: Project Grow, Kitchen Commons, and the Portland Fire & Rescue Department. The nicely crafted, linseed-infused boxes, which contained a bowl, a book, and a camera, were sent to the organizations and circulated among family and colleagues. Members from each of the organizations photographed meals with the camera, wrote recipes in the book, and eventually created a package of culture within each box. The gallery exhibited the pieces used, along with the recipes and photographs of those who employed bowl as a cultural bonding agent.
Combined with the intriguing sounds of Andy Paiko’s and Ethan Rose’s Transference playing in the background, Museum of Contemporary Craft shows that connecting with everyday objects can lead to personal and cultural epiphanies. An epiphany of the bowl.
Circulate Collaborators: Peter R. Beasecker, Sunshine Cobb, John gill, Mike Helke, James Klein and David Reid, Alleghany Meadows, Frances Palmer, David Peters, Peter Pincus, Joseph Pintz, S.C. Rolf, Sandy Simon, Albion Stafford, Christopher Parks Staley, Kyla Toomey, Holly Walker, Robin Wood, and Lilly Zuckerman.
Object Focus: The Bowl, Engage + Use, curated by Namita Gupta Wiggers, is on view at Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR, through September 21, 2013.