Kaldor Projects’ #13Rooms and Jew in a Box: Staring at Humans

We love to have the permission to stare at and to examine every detail of a human body.    Detailed observation of humans is everywhere from internet porn (#1 international audience), television crime autopsy (#1 American TV shows) to human sculptures (#1 art for tourists in major public spaces worldwide).   We just need a stage, screen or small  box to establish permission.


Marina Abramovic ‘Luminosity’ 1997
Permission to Stare

In 11, 12 & 13 Rooms, curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach use the classic cube.    In a warehouse in Sidney, Australia, the Kaldor Public Art Projects built 13 exactly the same white square rooms to frame 13 mainly still performances in the neutral viewing space of ART.  The nostalgic sheetrock gallery presented the works artistically pure and scientific that protects Kaldor Projects from police arrest and saves the good citizen audience from the embarrassment of staring.  ( The exhibition was originally commissioned as “11 Rooms” for the Manchester International Festival and as “12 Rooms” for RUHRTRIENNALE 2012)

The exhibition seems to work to make “living sculptures” just like every other sculpture or every other scripted performance.  Just more objects in a room to look at and listen too.  I doubt that Joan Jonas had this objective in mind 40 years ago.   But this is fate of all artworks stripped of the time of the artwork’s birth.  Something about the hopeful transformative birth of performance art that make the factual transformation to object – a lot more sad than normal.

To my mind, I see comparisons with two projects with purposeful assaults on public preconceptions:  Marc Quinn’s “Alison Lapper Pregnant” on the Fourth Plinth in 2005 and “The Whole Truth”, aka Jew in a Box, at the Jewish Museum Berlin this year.  Both projects sparked a dialogue about the appropriate ways to present human beings – especially ones that have been abused by the prejudices of the majority culture.     Both jolted their countries as much as art can.


Clark Beaumont “Coexisting” , 2013 and Marc Quinn, “Alison Lapper Pregnant” 2005
(Something profound exists in this comparision, but I can’t find it today.)


Hirst Jew

Damien Hirst “Hans, Georg” 1992 and aka “Jew in a Box”, Jewish Museum Berlin, 2013
Satisfying public curiosity



Two Videos of Critics Walking the Exhibition

Manchester 11 Rooms, Guardian art critic Adrian Searle
Sidney, 13 Rooms, Chris McAuliffe, Australian art historian, and Santo Cilauro, Australian TV actor /comedy

Videos of Artworks

Marina Abramovic ‘Luminosity’ 1997
Allora & Calzadilla ‘Revolving Door’ 2011
John Baldessari “Thirteen Colorful Inside Jobs” 2013
Simon Fujiwara ‘Future/Perfect’ 2012
Joan Jonas ‘Mirror Check’ 1970
Laura Lima ‘Man=flesh/Woman=flesh – FLAT’ 1997 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012
Roman Ondak ‘Swap’ 2011
Santiago Sierra, Veterans of the wars of Yougoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia & Somalia facing the corner‘ 2012
Xu Zhen ‘In Just a Blink of an Eye’ 2005

Stills of Artworks:  Permission to Stare………………………………………………..

L3(1) A5(1)

z1(1) F4(1) s4(1) IMG_7645(1) AC6(1) MIF - 11 Rooms at Manchester Art Gallery(photo by Howard Barlow) LEROY


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  1. Scott Redford says

    I’m sorry but am I the only one who finds this whole project totally uninteresting? A bunch of contemporary art cliches supposedly important because rich people like Klador and gatekeeper curators say so. What exactly is new in this effort. Nothing I’d say. I do hope no public money went into this ho hum.

    • says

      Scott – If you eliminate rich people and gatekeeper curators, then just other kinds of people will step up to control the exhibits. Who do you recommend to have more power? Glenn

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