23 March 1998


Posted on nettime.

Over the weekend I happened to stop in at the "Drawing Room," which is a project space run by The Drawing Center in New York and found an exhibition put on by a group called "Parasite." The group describes itself in a handout as:

"...an artist-run organization formed to support, document, and present project-based art work. As a secondary (or para) site for projects undertaken at other locations, Parasite aims to develop a discursive context through activities within occupied 'host' organizations."

The exhibit was of Mel Bochner's "Working Drawings and Other Visible Things on Paper Not Necessarily Meant To Be Viewed As Art, 1966," and consisted of four binders of xeroxed copies of working drawings by artists and other material. The binders were placed on white wooden pedestals for visitors to peruse.

The handout reprints an essay by James Meyer about the original 1996 exhibition held at the School of Visual Arts Gallery and a short interview with Bochner by some of the members of Parasite held in February, 1998 (Dennis Balk, Andrea Fraser, Renee Green, Ben Kinmot, Christiain Marclay and Florian Zeyfang).

The sparseness of the exhibit and what seemed to be a deliberatly user-unfriendly method of exhibiting the copies of drawings was both alienating and, at least for this artist, intriguing. It was a working space for working drawings and I'm sorry I didn't spend more time going through them (it has since closed). Upon reading the handout when I got home I found this rationale by member Renee Green in the interview:

"Taking over spaces to present what we're interested in is especially important in terms of the roles assigned to artists, curators and critics -- roles that tend to become hierarchized. It's a way of taking back some power. But it's also about considering how ideas can circulate and what that circulation means. Can they circulate without being mastered by someone who's claiming the right to own them? What we're trying to do is create a more open, discursive situation."

And by Ben Kinmot:

"...I believe that the piece does relocate value, or at least interest and attention. And that relates to why Parasite is developing a document collection: to present things that galleries can't sell and museums don't show because people don't have the attention span to look at them."

Mel Bochner said he was touched that other artists wanted to show it and that counted more for him than if an institution wanted to show it.

This small exhibition, easily ignored and misunderstood, keeps resonating for me as an artist as a kind of manifestation of "net.art". I could even say I found it while "browsing" the streets of Soho because Parasite "uploaded" it to The Drawing Center site but I'm trying to keep away from that kind of metaphor. Still, this exhibit and some others I've seen lately point to the fact that new technologies may be recasting all art and its presentation for us and that rather than media to work in or tools to work with these technologies will have broader implications we have only begun to notice if only because they make the artist networks that have always existed more accessible and functional.

There's no contact information for the group on the handout but they are funded by the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the MICA Foundation, and it's participants. Art Matters, Inc. serves as Parasite's non-profit fiscal sponsor.