CHRISTIAN BOLTANSKI, Dispersion, 1991–2017, used clothing and bags, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.  

Take me (I’m Yours)

Pirelli HangarBicocca

The first iteration of the exhibition “Take Me (I’m Yours)” was set up in 1995 at London’s Serpentine Gallery. Since then, the exhibition has involved many internationally renowned artists, and its subsequent editions have been presented over the years in several cities. The project originated from a conversation between curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, then guest curator at London’s Serpentine Gallery, and artist Christian Boltanski. In retrospect, its setup is in conversation with the ideas of French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud, who argues in his 1998 book Relational Aesthetics that the public’s interaction with artworks can become the work of art itself, producing new ways of experiencing art. The latest version of “Take Me (I’m Yours)” was set up at the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, where works of more than 50 international artists can be touched, modified by adding or removing parts, worn and in some cases carried off. The show is co-curated by Boltanski, Obrist, art historian Chiara Parisi and HangarBicocca curator Roberta Tenconi.

On entering the Hangar’s huge hall, the impression was that of accessing a flea market, with works mostly arranged on the floor or on pedestals, as part of the exhibition display designed by Italian artist Martino Gamper. Gift-giving, a sense of play and the dispersal of the artwork were threads binding the show together. Multidisciplinary French artist Christian Boltanski’s Dispersion (1991–2017) featured four of his iconic piles of second-hand clothes, to be taken freely. (Visitors could also add to the pile.) This is an arrangement that, like a few others, has appeared in all iterations of “Take Me (I’m Yours),” so its inclusion was to be expected.

LIX GONZÁLES-TORRES, Untitled (Revenge), 1991, endless supply of individually wrapped candies, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. 

HEMAN CHONG, Monument to the People We’ve Conveniently Forgotten (I Hate You), 2008, offset prints on 260 gsm paper, approximately one million copies, 5 × 9 cm each. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist; Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London; and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. 

DOUGLAS GORDON, Take Me (I’m Yours), 1995/2017, plastic tub and raffle tickets, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.

This fostered an overall mood of being in a supermarket for art that was marked down with discounts, and distracted from some of the work’s deeper meanings. This was the case with Félix Gonzáles-Torres’s iconic Untitled (Revenge) (1991), a carpet of cellophane-wrapped blue mints, which visitors were to consume. The installation, displayed in varying forms over the years, was originally meant to convey how Gonzáles-Torres’s late partner, Ross Laycock, slowly wasted away after contracting AIDS. Heman Chong’s Monument to the People We’ve Conveniently Forgotten (I Hate You) (2008) was also cinfused with humanity, consisting of a messy pile of one million black, blank business cards stacked in a corner. The work brought to mind the invisible people worldwide and the communities and individuals subject to neglect, abuse and violence, ended up being trampled by many visitors who weren’t aware of its meaning—but maybe that was the point.

IAN CHENG and RACHEL ROSE, Untitled, 2016, fortune cookies and fortunes, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtest the artists and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan. 

GILBERT AND GEORGE, The Banners, 2015, metal badges, 12 water color papers mounted on linen, red and black spray paint cans, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artists; White Cube, London; and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.

By contrast, Scottish artist Douglas Gordon’s Take Me (I’m Yours) (1995/2017), a lottery where the winner shared dinner with the artist, was banal, as were Ian Cheng and Rachel Rose’s fortune cookies (Untitled, 2016), Gilbert and George’s irreverent badges (The Banners, 2015) and Daniel Spoerri’s marzipan pastries in Amulette phallique de Pompéi (2015/17), though they were all still hoarded by the public. There were highlights, such as Cesare Pietroiusti’s 3,000 signed and numbered paper works featuring a variety of captivating abstract patterns created with burn marks (Untitled, 2017). On each piece, an inscription warns viewers that it is not to be considered a proper artwork until it is set on fire by the artist during a scheduled performance, conveying the idea of ephemeral art as an agent of social encounters in a concise and witty way.

When visiting “Take Me (I’m Yours)”, the first consideration springing to mind was whether works of such different natures could be brought together under a general conceit of “playfulness.” Nevertheless, the show’s experiment remains up to date in registering the changes in visitors’ attitudes in art-designated spaces. Unfortunately, when perusing the show in HangarBicocca, the lingering notion was of mass-consumption, and the rapacious logic of amassing as many goods as possible prevailed over the public’s meaningful experiences at the show. It may be necessary to rethink the way in which this type of exhibition is mounted and promoted, or if such a proposition is still viable at all.

CESARE PIETROIUSTI, Untitled, 2017, fire on paper, dimensions variable. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy the artist and Pirelli HangarBiccoca, Milan. 

Installation view of “Take Me (I’m Yours)” at Pirelli Hangar Biccoca, Milan, 2017–18. Photo by Agostino Osio. Courtesy Pirelli HangarBiccoca.

Take Me (I’m Yours)” is on view at HangarBicocca, Milan, until January 14, 2018.

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