Roman Ondak Measuring the Universe 2007

  • Not on view

Without people’s active participation, Roman Ondák’s Measuring the Universe would not exist. A cross between a site-specific installation and an event open to everyone, the work begins as an empty white gallery. As visitors enter the room, they are invited to stand against the wall and have someone mark off their height and label it with their first name and the date of their visit. As the artist describes it: “Every visitor [who] enters my room is welcome to be measured. And participation of people is very spontaneous.”

Measuring the Universe took place over the course of nearly three months at MoMA, and the accumulation of thousands of measurements formed a thick, ragged black band that encircled the gallery walls. Ondák himself was the first to be measured. Some measurements fell significantly above or below the band’s borders, highlighting the presence of taller and shorter participants.

Like much of Ondák’s work, Measuring the Universe stems from his interest in blurring the boundaries between art and everyday life. “The idea is taken from a habit of parents to measure children,” he explains, which he does in his own home with his two sons. “I was thinking about this very peripheral and marginal moment of everyday life to be expanded and…transformed to the context of the exhibition.” He was also thinking about how these marks of growth indicate time’s passage, and how as we age, our experience and understanding of time, and of the world itself, changes. As the title Measuring the Universe suggests, it is through our own scale that we measure the world.

Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Object number
© 2024 Roman Ondak
Media and Performance

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