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Art in the New World: Part 2

October 14, 2009

Jeremy Deller It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq

Today I walked through the work on the main floor of the MCA for the first of what will be many walk-throughs. Being shown in collaboration with Gillick’s work (which I pondered earlier this week) is work by Jeremy Deller. With It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq Deller creates a social construct within a social construct by placing a grouping of sofas and chairs in one of the galleries attended by a rotating group of experts on the subject of Iraq .  Visitors of the museum are invited to come in, take a seat, and enjoy some intelligent conversation about Iraq (and some tea and cookies as well) with these experts who range from former American Marines to Iraqi Artists.

The art in this instance is not the arrangement of the Ikea furniture or the choice of the flavor of tea and cookies (Deller in fact essentially said he could care less about that.)  The artwork in this scenario is the conversation; the genuine interaction between strangers who live in a common world and grapple with the same larger than life questions.  In the same room (less than 10 feet away) stands a bombed out car removed from a real event in Iraq.  The area in Iraq from which this car was salvaged was once home to the printing district and sustained itself as a meeting place for the exchange of information and ideas even when print media was made unavailable.  It, unlike the ikea chairs, is incredible intentional.


Taking in this space and this artist’s intentions, I thought about the idea of a Greek Agora.  The agora served as a central meeting point in Greek cities.  This central place served many purposes, but most importantly, it served as a common point of connection.  Everyone went there and everyone was together.  There is a beautiful public artwork here in Chicago by Magdalena Abakanowicz called Agora. The piece consist of 106, 9′ tall figures all cast in iron.  The figures walk through one another, each on their own pathway.  They have no heads.  When asked whether or not she would start created figures with heads ever again, Abakanowicz explained that only when she saw people in the world using their heads would she feel it was appropriate to put them back.  She continues to make headless figures.

It seems somewhere along the way we forgot about the need for places like the agora.  We forgot how much we needed this connection with other people (maybe we forgot that Twitter doesn’t really count.)  Maybe we just got scared to admit we couldn’t figure out everything by ourselves.  It is now taking artists like Gillick and Deller to remove themselves just enough from their own work to remind us what was there all along.

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