“Operating System” features collaborative works by thirty-five artists and writers, and is slated to take place in three different locations over a six-month period in 2012. In addition to the three exhibitions, a post-production publication has been planned for purposes of documenting the various installations, artworks, and essays. According to Heng Gil Han, visual arts director and curator for Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, the title “Operating System” refers to the vital component used in computer software. As current operating systems emerge from technical advances used in the past, these systems destroy previously localized systems. Interestingly, the title of his project might also apply to the kind of methodology found in the 2012 Whitney Biennale. For example, the open-ended, densely structured, and unassuming arrangement between the various works in the Biennial involved a certain kind of energy based on a system; a set up wherein the viewing audience interacts with the artists, art works and with one another. The fact that the viewers become participants is what makes “Operating System”, and by comparison the Whitney Biennial, different from other exhibitions. The New York Times saw the Biennial as “a new and exhilarating species of exhibition, an emerging curatorial life form, at least for New York.” This effect also occurs in recent exhibitions where experimentation is included in the curatorial intention. And in particular, “Operating System” does just that.
Artist, Odathrowback, asked the gallery if he take a picture with his children in front of his work and then walked over to me to with a headline article about him in the New York Daily News: “Jamaica man takes his talent from construction sites to art galleries.” Odathrowback has worked as a carpenter for over 20 years, and recently became a self-taught artist. His piece on view is a 7-foot tall wooden brick wall, entitled DNA. Although his brick shapes are similar to real bricks, they are made of wood with worn-out jean fabric used as a wrapping. His tightly wrapped blue bricks compose the wall that suggests a simple, but significant, biological reality. Here, the artist took the fabric from his old carpenter jeans and those of his four children. For him, the work represents his progeny or his DNA. John L. Moore is a well known abstract painter in New York working as a professional artist and educator for almost 30 years. The two artists’ works stood side by side in the middle of the gallery.
The curator’s concept for this show is based on an experimental intention. Mr. Han invited various artists with different backgrounds. So the show includes drawings, paintings, sculpture, collage, installations, video, and performance art. He decidedly kept away from any controlled objective theme or unified notion of aesthetic taste. I found the curator’s intention activated in several works shown in the exhibition. Most notable were Quintín Rivera Toro’ ceiling installation works and Juana Valdes’s Loving & Living. The latter is comprised of 35 photographs documenting mattresses thrown away out on the streets of NYC. The images are banal, everyday and yet startling.
In the middle of the show was Jayoung Yoon’s and Julie Spodek’s performance piece Musicality. Replete with music, the two female performers danced their way into the surrounding audience. Attached by a long, connective funnel made with human hair the performers moved as one singular figure. Their moving and meditative gestures lead the audience into a trance-like state where issues surrounding personhood, ego and movement collapsed and coalesced.
Jin Kang Park’s work entitled The Wall, was placed in the center of the gallery, made up of a constructed door that separates viewers with a pair of fabric gloves on each side. If so desired, visitors could place their hands into the gloves and meet one another. Here, the glove represents a metaphorical connective element between audience and performer, one that redefines the act of greeting. Marcel Duchamp’s stated in his famous lecture, The Creative Act (1957) “The artist does not perform alone, but the viewer contributes to the creative act by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications.” “Operating System,” acknowledges the present situation of art as being within the context of the gallery’s changing role – both physically and ideologically –and therefore pivotally affects the way we grasp meaning in globally fragmented societies.