Be a Zen Buddhist. Jeppe Hein spoke last night at the New School about his exhibition, Please Touch The Art at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Publicized as part lecture, part performance and part audience participation, the talk lived up to its billing. Hein kicked off his birkenstocks; stared at the audience for what seemed like forever and finally spoke.
My name is Jeppe Hein. What is your name?
Ping pong balls shoot out from a machine on a table.
A series of slides: people looking at their phones in every possible context; on the subway, at a concert, in a restaurant, in a coffee shop, on the sofa, in bed. No one is looking at each other.
“I was often sick. I was never present. I had a panic attack on an airplane once. I started talking to the man sitting next me. Finally he realized something was wrong and began to engage with me”. Hein characterized his condition as burnout. “Burnout can change the way you think about your art. You begin to think… is this the right thing to do, is this the right wife, is this what I want to do? We are all afraid of giving something to someone else.”
Some people get up to leave the auditorium.
Hein: Don’t leave, I am going to talk about my art.
Laughter. The same people continue to leave.
JH: Say hello to the person to your right, to your left, behind you and in front of you.
Ask them: Who Are You?
The staff passes out balloons and black markers.
JH: Blow up your balloon and write a word on the balloon…any word
Bounce the balloon in the air
Toss the balloon in the direction of another person.
Smiles and Laughter
You could say every artist’s work is about their personal history, but not every artist talks about their work in that context. Please Touch The Art is composed of three parts. Appearing Rooms, Mirror Labyrinth and 16 Modified Social Benches. Hein presented his work as a tool for communication and dialog. Please Touch The Art, by its very title, contradicts what we normally are allowed to do; touch the art. The title is celebratory and a transgression at the same time. For Hein, the work is activated through public engagement.
At this point in the evening, Hein introduced a childhood friend, who played guitar and sang a folk song he wrote for his deceased mother.
Hein sat down with Nicolas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of The Public Art Fund. This proved not to be very enlightening. Baume opened up the evening to a Q&A from the audience.
Q: There seems to be a trend today to make all art interactive.
JH: It’s not a trend, it’s a need…it creates empathy. Empathy brings the world together. We need to create new tools for the world we are living in.
I thought that was the end of the evening, but no.
Staff passes out a large white cup with raisins.
Please take a raisin and put the raisin in your hand.
Close your eyes.
Put the raisin in your mouth.
Roll it around on your tongue.
Feel the texture and weight of the raisin in your mouth.
Slowly bite into the raisin.
Taste the sweetness.
Roll the raisin around in your mouth.
Where is it in your mouth? on the right side, on the left side?
Take another bite of the raisin.
Enjoy the sweetness.
Open your eyes.
Goodnight and Thanks.