“The Talent Show” at the Henry Art Gallery

Do you ever feel your personal life has been invaded? Body scans in airports, tracking of purchases and whereabouts on websites and phones, cameras at street corners, we’re constantly under surveillance, constantly on view. Many of us hate it. Others seek more, their 15 minutes of fame—on reality TV, on You-Tube, in Face Book pages. The culture of celebrity that started with the Louds and Andy Warhol grows at the same rate as privacy disappears.

“The Talent Show” addresses this push/pull of “look at me”/”stop looking at me.” It’s particularly rich in works of art involving people who never knew their images or outputs were being appropriated by artists. Visitors to a 1970s Adrian Piper exhibition were invited to write comments in a prominently placed notebook. They didn’t know that some would wind up on the walls of the Henry and other museums.

Artist Garciela Carnevale invited friends to one of her exhibitions. After they arrived, she quietly left the gallery and locked them in. Then she had a friend document their experience. The photographs are in this exhibit. The guests finally got out when people on the street broke the gallery’s front window.

Phil Collins invited strangers to send him undeveloped film. He promised to develop it for them but he got to keep the negatives and use them as he pleased. His ten-minute slideshow of unrelated pictures grabs you and doesn’t let go. Who were those people? Why did they give up their privacy? Why do I look?

In one work after another this exhibit confronts you with issues of voyeurism and exhibitionism, power and control. It addresses our culture’s contradictory desires for notoriety and privacy. It will leave you with much to think about.

Through August 21 at the Henry Art Gallery, U. of Washington Campus, (206 543-2280 or henryart.org).


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