Imagine a large empty factory hall in the middle of which you have a square room with doors into 14 smaller rooms…
The entrance to 14 rooms
You are of course curious about just what is happening behind these doors and there is a brochure explaining it in details. But still – you have to get in, be there…experience the mysteries that a closed door always evokes (and not the least when there is a guard who let’s you in one-by-one after having been waiting in a queue for some time).
“14 Rooms” has been created by Foundation Beyeler, Art Basel and Theater Basel, three very prominent cultural institutions in Basel and it is curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Hans Ulrich Obrist. It is situated close to the main Art Basel Fair but independent of it and the one-day entrance ticket is CHF 18. 14 Rooms is about performance art.
Here are some examples of what you actually experience:
In Yoko Ono’s room you see nothing. The installation, or whatever you want to call it, is pitch dark and called “Touch Piece” which she created for the first time in 1963 and now here. You walk in a see nothing – also not when your eyes have adapted. In the brochure you are encouraged to touch whoever you bump into there and thereby challenge your sense of intimacy and privacy, as it’s expressed. The touches I experience were very avoiding – a little laughter perhaps, an “Oh, sorry” and no attempt to really touch, rather a confusing about meeting some stranger there in the dark and avoiding a touch.
As I had been in there a couple of minutes and carefully set one foot in front of the other I sensed not another human being but a wall. I followed it around to the entrance point and think that by then I was alone there.
I honestly can’t tell you what I felt or thought. It was merely a little fun, a little tickling and I liked to hear people’s laughter or nervous “Sorry” – remember, we are in Switzerland and everything is uptight even in an experimental setting like this. Perhaps there is something outdated in 2014 about an idea from 1963 and that at that time it was revolutionary and lead to more than avoidance? (No photo possible).
Otobong Nkanga’s “Diaspora” (2014) was more lively: two black women carry a Queen in the Night plant in a pot on their heads and sing, speak to the plant and, sometimes perhaps, to each other and the visitors. Much of the text is about loneliness and feeling to be outside , being picked at. And the floor is painted as a topographical map. (Photo possible – as all other visitors did it against the rules). Continue reading