Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zefrey Throwell - I'll Raise You One - Art in General

 I stopped to check out the scene at Art in General, where Zefrey Throwell’s new performance work “I’ll Raise You One” is being staged.

From 10 am to 6pm,  seven people sit around a table in a storefront window and play strip poker until they are all naked. Then they get dressed and immediately repeat the process “creating a meditative repetitious action that continues over the course of a workday… allowing the casual onlooker to participate in a guilt-free voyeurism, while teasing out a different outlook on our personal interactions and day-to-day routines.”

I usually find this kind of titillating exhibit easy to dismiss, but I have to admit Throwell’s staging has something going for it. As the game progressed, the empty corner accumulated more and more onlookers, raising the stakes (pun intended) for those playing the game and growing the spectacle. The crowd was surprised and delighted and there was a sense of disbelief and fun that you could feel.

I started off taking photos of the exhibit, but what became much more interesting to me was the behavior of the people watching. When I would take pictures of people’s faces you could see sudden panic and embarrassment. When the girl in the window took out her own camera to take pictures of the crowd, several peeled off and scurried away. One man left and came back with a bottle of vodka to “Stay all night, got nothing else to do. I been here for two days watching.” There was shock, laughter, cheers. A truck circled the block and its crew got out to inspect more closely. Men in suits took pictures on their blackberries. An old Chinese man stood on the trunk of a car to take a picture. Strangers talked to strangers. In a city that shrugs off so much, Zefery at very least got people’s attention.

The games at “I’ll Raise You One” continue from 10am to 6pm through November 19th.