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The Mexican artist Pia Camil has set up an open participatory sculptural installation on the New Museum’s ground floor that will continually mutate as visitors exchange objects on display.
The nature of the project, “A Pot for a Latch,” defies notions of sacred bonds between artists and individual work, offering instead a platform for open art-making. Without any formal communication, a multitude of people are expected to cyclically participate in the crafting of a never-ending piece. A hazardous law of supply and demand based on subjectivity (instead of price mechanism) will drive the content of the structure.
Camil’s projects draw inspiration from the urban landscape of her native Mexico City. Her work transforms the remnants of dysfunctional commercial culture and reveals the inherent problems as well as the latent aesthetic potential within inner-city ruin. In recent works, she has expanded the scope of her practice to create theatrical environments that invite the viewer to navigate the exhibition space and experience shifting viewpoints and juxtapositions.
The title of the New Museum project refers to the potlatch: a ceremonial gift-giving festival practiced by the Native-American peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast, for whom it continues to be a system of wealth redistribution. For “A Pot for a Latch,” Camil invites the public to participate to her piece on designated days.
Camil, nevertheless, indicated specifications for the participation:
“The object you bring is a talisman of sorts, and it should be thought of in the same way that the Ancient Romains conceived of “res”, a term denoting a gift that has both a personal value and a history. Bring objects of power, of aesthetic interest, and of poignancy. The monetary value of these items is insignificant ; their values lies instead in their richnesss of meaning and in the new life that they acquire on the Grid within the Lobby Gallery.
Prohibited exchange items include but are not limited to: Electronics, heavy items (over 20 pounds), small scale objects (less than 6 inches in diameter), food or other perishables, weapons, and chemicals or other hazardous materials.”
The red structure is inspired by the modular display systems used by vendors, and the artist has created a succession of gridwall panels of her own design, complete with built on hooks, shelves and other fixtures for displaying items.