"The exhibit changes every day at 12:30 p.m.
The exhibit comments on politics today.
The exhibit is unpredictable.
The exhibit is alive."
These words guard the entrance to Thierry Geoffroy's extensively collaborative exhibit, "Emergency Room," at PS1. It is an installation that is as much about the art inside as it is about the concept behind it. The show-though its participatory nature really makes it more of an experience-pulls the viewer into its frantic and fast-paced nature, while instilling a sense of global awareness and even of retaliation.
French artist Geoffroy is better known throughout France, Denmark, and Germany as The Colonel. Working through a multitude of media, including video, performance, and photography, Geoffroy has become a media celebrity of sorts in Europe. He is known for turning the everyday into the ridiculous or urgent through elaborate presentation and innovative execution.
"Emergency Room," already presented in Copenhagen and Berlin, is no different. With the goal of surveying opinions on current events, Geoffroy has brought together over 30 local and international artists to create art in response to global news. But "Emergency Room" doesn't stop there. Geoffroy introduces the element of time to challenge the artists even more. As promised by the disclaimer looming over the entrance, the entire exhibit changes every day at 12:30 p.m. Artists install new works each day in response to the news of the past 24 hours, while the works of the previous day are moved to a nearby archive gallery.
The exhibit space is a smallish gallery designed by participating artist Jean de Piépape. The circular shape of the room contributes to the communal, forum-like nature of the exhibit's philosophy. Upon entry, a viewer is confronted by a multitude of pieces, ranging from videos to performances and sculpture, on the walls and floor. There are sounds and screens, and even the artists themselves roam through the crowd. The atmosphere is kinetic and manic, making the gallery an exciting place to be.
To keep in step with the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of "Emergency Room," participation seems to be encouraged beyond the group of artists installing works. Gray chalk sits on a ledge with a sign encouraging viewers to scrawl messages and political commentary on the walls. Geoffroy himself had a group of volunteers circulating through the crowd asking visitors to write political phrases or personal mantras in permanent marker on pieces of cloth. The volunteers then tied these around the writers' heads, filling the room with headbands of political importance. These phrases were later read aloud and mixed with music. Meanwhile, the artist, Susanne Schuricht, trailed by a video camera, began a lively debate with people, asking if they'd vote for a woman president and keeping a large tally on a wall.
Steven Day displayed a destroyed advertising book for a new, luxury residential building going up in a historic part of Brooklyn, commenting on New York's struggle with developments changing the face of neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Raphaele Shirley, Lee Wells, and Paul Middendorf collaborated on a small map reconfiguring nations such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Sudan into the shape of the United States. In another part of the gallery, Mark Estabrook's video installation had headphones that emitted the recitation of a found poem, created by blacking out lines from a New York Times article about the war in Iraq.
While these pieces each captured important and intricate issues in the world, they are part of an exhibit in a constant state of reconception and flux. Their existence is short-term, with each day promising a new set of stimulating installations that delve into the important issues affecting our own lives, from this city to the entire world. Geoffroy has truly created a forum of discussion through "Emergency Room," with an atmosphere of a proudly makeshift grassroots fight to raise issues, eyebrows, and awareness.
"Emergency Room" is at PS1 through March 19.