Today from our partners at Art Practical we bring you a review of Work in Progress: Considering Utopia at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. Author Mary Anne Kluth notes, “The exhibition as a whole positions art as a space to think through, test, and potentially develop goal-oriented models of human interaction.” This article was originally published on January 7, 2014.
The three artists in Work in Progress: Considering Utopia at the Contemporary Jewish Museum offer varying perspectives on attaining a social and pastoral golden age. The works are united by a shared interest in collective activity. Elisheva Biernoff’s and Ohad Meromi’s installations in painting and sculpture invite audience participation, and Oded Hirsch presents videos and photos at once documenting and fictionalizing communal labor on a kibbutz.
Biernoff’s The Tools Are In Your Hands (2013) is an enormous landscape mural painted over metal that allows viewers to apply cut-out magnets depicting plants, animals, and simple geometric forms, which can be found sorted into nearby bins. Her flat, graphical paint application in blues, greens, and neutral tones suggest calm skies, and fertile land, inviting viewers to finish an image of a valley of well-tended farms in harmony with nature.
On the afternoon of Sunday, November 10th, however, the audience had instead produced a hurly-burly of magnetic rabbits, chickens, tree leaves, tomatoes, lemons, and abstract shapes, sometimes coalescing into mandala-like circular arrangements, sometimes canvassing wide swaths of Biernoff’s landscape in Dadaist clouds. The temporary effect, looking like a kindergarten exercise and not a picture of sustainable agriculture, deftly demonstrates one challenge facing collective action. The ideal outcome seems obvious, given the parts Biernoff provides, yet the anonymous group effort diverges wildly from any logical cohesion, throwing the specific goals of the project into doubt.