With the end of All Hallows’ Eve, the month for officially celebrating Chicago artists is over, but the chase for the mysterious Exquisite Corpse is not yet complete. I went to the opening night of the Will to Power Art Exhibition at the Bridgeport Art Center on October 5th in an attempt to grasp this scheme of an ongoing citywide art hunt, the object of which is to discover the collaboratively made Exquisite Corpse. I was curious what kind of participants would find the Will to Power–as the event was grandly entitled on Twitter and Facebook–alluring.With the multi-event arrangements for Chicago Artist’s Month in the Bridgeport Art Center, I had difficulties finding the hunt itself (was I losing already?); however, once I entered through the open garage door at the loading dock of the Bridgeport Art Center, and stumbled upon an astonishingly picturesque view of Chicago, I was right on time. I could hear a strange noise within the gallery; the wooden floors creaked as I bounced from one artwork to the next. One artist and curator, Lelde Kalmite, gladly showed me around the fourth and fifth floors and introduced me to those who were at the helm of this Will to Power orchestration. The artist and curator for the exhibition, Luis De La Torre, explained to me the significance of this gallery: the noise was the air conditioner, hung from a makeshift wall near a miniature display of homes, framing a question of socio-economic status. Torre said this exhibit questions whether an MFA degree is necessary to succeed as an artist. Is there a real inequality between artists with master’s degrees and those without?
Soon thereafter, I was introduced to Eunice Carson, who helped organize the interactive virtual quest for the Exquisite Corpse. While I might have been overwhelmed by the Augmented Reality application she was explaining on her iPhone, the idea was intriguing to me: a phone application that enhances what the participant sees through video and images as if in another dimension. I needed to attend the hunt the following weekend, because the opening reception was not the all-embracing Will to Power art hunt, which would involve eleven other artists and five additional art galleries.
I explored the Fine Arts Building to see if the art hunt was gaining momentum at a new exhibit crafted by former University of Chicago humanities student Tiffany Gholer. As I thumbed through her book “Post-Consumerism: Paintings, 2007-2010,” a few people were trickling in, but I didn’t notice anyone using the Augmented Reality app. Gholar’s book is an extension of an exhibit that encompasses a lot of synthetic stuff I didn’t quite know what to do with. It was like bubble wrap and toys meets pop-art, of which Gholar said “gives my work texture and consistency.” To me this gestures toward a social critique of Chicago, consumerism coming full circle.
The title makes consideration of the show’s historical and philosophical context unavoidable. Perhaps the works point to an ironic exchange between Surrealist artists and Nietzsche’s Will to Power. Nietzsche’s notes, published posthumously by Heidegger in The Will to Power As Art, claim that art is the most perspicuous and familiar configuration of the will to power. The art I was fortunate enough to see compels viewers to think more about social objectivity rather than a more con- ventional Freudian question of the unconscious and its engage- ment with art. The hope is that social media and its connectedness catch the attention of the masses via Twitter and Facebook and all of the world’s smart phones.
While visiting Gholar’s exhibit, I had a chance to speak with Floyd Webb, the tech-savvy headmaster of the hunt who seemed like he could nonchalantly write code at any moment. He shaped the design of an augmented reality app called Junaio that works by recognizing imagery, not unlike a QR code. Although the smart phone app is not necessary to participate, it seems to have required the most development. As Webb and I spoke about the obsolete Internet Explorer web browser and technological competition in general, it occurred to me that the Junaio application limits a viewer’s consciousness to only the pattern or imagery. Does a viewer’s relationship to the art somehow become rehearsed?
In the end, the Exquisite Corpse will have contributions from twelve different artists. Once all twelve pieces are collected, the first person will be awarded the collaborated artwork, or the Exquisite Corpse. This body of work is absolutely worth the hunt, the clues, and the month-long commitment. One artist, Jon Lowenstein, has even been honored as a Guggenheim Fellow for photography. However, I am skeptical about the utilization of social media and phone apps in experiencing art: Tweets and Facebook posts from gallery-goers have been sluggish. However, this shouldn’t deter art enthusiasts, old and new, from considering the Exquisite Corpse as an artistic feat. Some of the City Art Hunt participant galleries will be open for visual pleasure and participation until mid- November. Updates for the next clues will continue in the coming weeks until clues are accessible for all six locations.
Who will have the Will to Power to excavate the Exquisite Corpse?
City Art Hunt, (630) 660-4391. chicagoartistsmonth.org