Sunday, September 25, 2011
A Forest of Fred
Over the past week, I have gotten very well acquainted with the work of art pioneer and rebel Fred Forest. Forest is an artist in residence at Residency Unlimited, where I intern. It is fair to say that if I wasn't working where I am, I probably never would have heard of him. This surprised me at first because a lot of his work was on the cutting edge of what would become mainstream in postmodern art. For example, Forest began using a video camera to create art in 1067, before they were used widely in homes. He explored video as a sociological tool, recording the everyday events and rituals of his neighborhood. Throughout his career, he strove to overturn the traditional media power structure. Using media as an instrument to facilitate social interaction, Forest attempted to make television and newspapers participatory. His work has also encompassed institutional critique, focusing in recent years on trying to force museums to be more transparent about purchases. He has earned a reputation as agitator, often critiquing institutions of which he is a part. I suspect that this habit of biting the hand that feeds him is a large part of why I had never heard of him before.
Last week, I participated in Forest's performance at the MoMA, "Invisible Square Meter." This piece was a continuation of his work "The Artistic Square Meter," in which he compared the art market to the real estate market by taking out a fake real estate ad. This work was an homage to the art critic Pierre Restany (a supporter of Forest's) and to the artist Ian Wilson. Forest feels Wilson's work anticipated that of Tino Seghal, but Seghal's work is the one in the MoMA. Forest proposes that the reason why Wilson's work is not recognized is because he lacks the insider status that Seghal has in the art world. "Invisible Square Meter" was not an official, MoMA-sanctioned work and Forest was told by security guard that if he performed inside the museum, they would call the police. So, outside the front doors, in the rain, three other volunteers and I formed a square three times, which Forest would measure and then declare, "The invisible square meter is born!" Creating conceptual art isn't such a bad way to spend a rainy Friday afternoon.