The Rules of Engagement

By Julia Einstein
Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

Visitors listen to sounds created from bells in the Biennial installation "Sferics 2: Bell Cloud" by Zach Poff + N.B. Aldrich.

Our upcoming Artist Intervention was designed by 2013 Portland Museum of Art Biennial: Piece Work artist N. B. Aldrich. For the Biennial exhibition, he and Zach Poff, who have been collaborating since 2002 on audio, video, and performance work, have created a site-specific sound-based installation in the parlor of the PMA’s historic McLellan House. On Friday, October 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aldrich will ask visitors to participate in an experiment in social engagement. We talked about this Artist Intervention during a walk through the galleries.

Tell us about your Artist Intervention.
I wanted to create an improvisational scenario in the museum around the question, “What happens to personal conversations when two people in very close physical proximity choose to interact solely through virtual presence?” This performance will be a study for a multi-media collaboration between my students at University of Maine’s Intermedia MFA program and those at the University of New Hampshire Department of Theatre and Dance.

Museum visitors will come upon a scene, played out with actors, set in one of the PMA’s galleries…
…and though sitting face to face, or side by side, the two actors will interact using only virtual means (Facebook, e-mail, Skype, etc.). This situation will conjure many of the rules of engagement in the contemporary technological landscape. It’s about the relationship we have with our personal media networks when it comes to social interaction. And, we’ll provide an opportunity for visitors to participate via their own personal media devices.

I like that the art-viewing audience becomes part of this performance. What are your expectations?
I proposed we set up this scenario in the museum to see what happens to personal conversations and social interactions in this setting, and I’m curious how it will play out.

Artist Interventions are made possible by the Peggy L. Osher Education Endowment at the Portland Museum of Art.

Media Sponsor: 94.9 WHOM

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