When MoMA Associate Director Kathy Halbreich invited me to observe the inner workings of the Museum and share my observations and critiques with both curators and administrators, I thought it was very important for MoMA to take a look at its interchange with artists—how the Museum is perceived by artists, and also its function and role within the artistic community. After several months of discussion with curatorial and administrative staff, I articulated some ideas for how MoMA might become a more nimble institution, one less constrained by the canonical history it had contributed to shaping. For example, I thought that the Museum needed to expand its entry point for young, local artists. I also suggested showing art in some of the building’s interstitial spaces—this would allow for extra display space, I thought, and also help MoMA to compress the long lead time required by large institutions to realize an exhibition.
After looking around a bit, I identified the nine information screens located above the ticket desk as a site to experiment with this idea. Hovering above the space where the initial contact between audience and institution occurs, yet also visible from the street, the screens are a unique site of exchange between MoMA and the public—you might say they’re both inside and “outside” the Museum. I imagined harnessing as well as disrupting this very visible apparatus for institutional display. And so, working with Kathy, Klaus Biesenbach, and Luis Perez-Oramas, I selected a group of New York–based artists, none of whom have shown work at MoMA before, to create new works for the nine screens. Each of the five videos created for 9 Screens will be shown in a continuous loop for a three-week period. Subtly or explicitly responding to their location at MoMA, the videos replace institutional information at a bustling site of exchange, ensuring that every visitor’s first experience at the Museum is an encounter with a work of art.
Union Gaucha Productions’ As Long as It Lasts is a nearly four-hour video that uses alternating shots of choreographed actions, artworks from MoMA’s collection, and street life. The video has two components linking the world outside the lobby desk to a fictional life produced inside the Museum’s galleries. The first is a horizontal traveling shot of Madison Avenue from its beginning at Twenty-third Street to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The rhythm of horizontal transit from left to right on the nine screens is dictated by the speed of the automobile. The second component is a series of vignettes, produced at MoMA, using a curator, an art historian, and artists as actors. These include Sarina Basta, Leigh Ledare, Juan Ledezma, Jonas Mekas, Olivier Mosset, Blake Rayne, and Michael Smith as Baby Ikki. The characters engage in behaviors not normally seen in a museum. The result is, among other things, a critical and celebratory vision of the MoMA collection the ticket buyers are about to encounter. The title of the video, As Long as It Lasts, is lifted from a public sculpture by Lawrence Wiener that was used as a point of reference.