Multi-media Art: Like Layers of an Onion

On my recent trip to DC, I visited Hirshhorn museum. This is a contemporary art museum. I especially liked Laurie Anderson’s exhibit, which consisted of a collection of multi-media projects. The artwork that left the biggest impression on me was “The Handphone Table”. Initially, when I saw this piece, I first saw 2 people sitting across each other at a desk, putting their elbows on the and closing their eyes. My reaction was “wow, this must be a performance art piece!”. However, I quickly noticed that these 2 people were not performance artists, but rather members of the public.

The 2 strangers soon stood up, and 2 new strangers soon replaced them. As I watched this pattern of strangers replacing one another, I then thought that this might be an art piece that involves the audience. “Oh! The PUBLIC must be the art in this case!”.

However, as I took a step even closer to the piece, I realized that the central art piece was the table itself. Essentially, “The Handphone Table” allows visitors to hear a melodic sound when they put their elbows on the table. Anderson wanted people to experience how she was feeling whenever she was stressed and put her elbows on the table.

Although the actual art piece was the table itself, I can’t help but ponder whether Anderson thought about the implications of including her piece in a museum, and how the public would become a separate layer of her art. Apart from touch and sound being the foundations of this multi-media project, public interaction adds an extra complex layer in this multi-media world.

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