Some Parts Might Be Greater Than The Whole

dadandbear4siteAn exhibition created during a six-week residency at the Arizona State University Art Museum.

I was invited to do an exhibition and residency at the ASU Art Museum as part of their “Social Studies” initiative. I was given a 2200 square foot museum gallery, some money and support. The exhibition began with an empty gallery that was open to the public. Over the course of my six-week stay I did a variety of projects, several of which can be found below.

Gallery Decoration As Suggested By My Wife

On my first day in the gallery I set up a small office – a desk and some chairs- on an 8 x 8 foot platform on wheels. As I was settling in I noticed that museum goers would peer into the gallery, see me at my desk, and then walk away. There really was no indication – no walltext, no artwork- that they should enter the space. As a solution to this problem, I decorated a portion of the gallery. I contacted my wife, via Gmail Chat, and asked her to provide me with some decorating suggestions. I heeded her advice adding, paint, a mirror, two wind-chimes, a fish, some plants, a rug, and two chairs. I printed an enlarged version of our Gmail Chat and hung it alongside the suggested decor.

Jessie Smith in the ASU Art Museum’s Permanent Collection

Jessie Smith’s Selections From The Permanent Collection (installation view)

While I was Gmail-chatting with my wife a couple named Alastair and Jessie Smith approached my desk and told me that they were in Arizona for three weeks as part of a senior citizens tour from Canada. I briefly explained to them that my wife was giving me suggestions as to how to decorate a portion of the gallery. Jessie Smith suggested adding some paintings so I invited her to return in a few days’ time and choose some works from the museum’s permanent collection.

John Spiak, the museum’s curator, and I took Jessie through the permanent collection as she chose a selection of paintings and sculptures. We hung the work salon style, according to Jessie’s specifications. In addition, there was walltext with a paragraph of Jessie’s writing, as well as my own. We had a small opening for her show for her senior-citizens tour group. Several weeks later I added a video that showed Jessie going through the collection.



I enlisted the services of a mascot to act as a docent for my show. Disney-trained, my docent toured people through the exhibition using gestures and lots of physical contact – but no actual talking- to explain my work.

Stills from Other Artists’ Videos

I made myself available as an actor in other artists’ videos. My only stipulations were that I not have any aesthetic involvement and that I be able to show the videos as part of a larger collection of videos in which I appear.

ASU Art Museum Curator, John Spiak’s Office

In an effort to deal with certain pressures to “engage” and “interact” with museum visitors, I relocated the curator’s office into the exhibition space. Prior to moving John Spiak’s office, I photographed it incrementally in about 150 images. Along with the museum preparators, I used the photographs to recreate the space with near perfect accuracy. John worked in his office in the gallery for the duration of the exhibition (about eight weeks).

I am currently working on traveling John and his office to another institution. The long-term goal is to sell the entire office and its contents with the stipulation that whenever it is exhibited, John spends some period of time working out of the space.

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