Museum of Non-Participation
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  • What comprises a boundary?

    In the Tate Modern catalogue for Open Systems: Rethinking art circa 1970 exhibition, Mark Godfrey describes how in 1967 the artist Mel Bochner taped up two pieces of paper on the wall of his studio, and measured the distance between them, noting the measurement of 25 inches. After removing the paper, only a rather perplexing measurement was left. Without the paper as a boundary, what did the 25 inches measurement mean?

    Bochner has recently called it a signifier with nothing to signify. Curator Brenda Richardson noted that the situation opened up all sorts of questions where were the edges of the piece? What comprises a boundary? What is inside and what outside a given measure? What can or cannot be measured? By what criterion is any unit of measurement determined? How verifiable is a measurement? Does a measurements verifiability depend on the action and /or perception of the measurer? Or the viewer? These are not just esoteric questions; they are also pragmatically evident as categorical terms frequently used in maintaining hostile geo-political borders. This language can thinly disguise perceptual questions as to where safe borders and autonomy can be drawn. Many studies have been made of this subject, but in our context of The Museum of Non Participation we can utilise these questions in a different manner.

    Our proposition is that the border between The Museum and Non Participation is the length of Bochners measurement between two pieces of paper - a measurement of 25 inches. What does this mean? The idea is to view the gap between the museum and non participation as an artwork. In Bochner's artwork the process of spatialisation is both given and taken away. The historical moment in which Bochner created this measurement is gone [the paper was set and removed in 1967]. Yet we can access both the thinking behind the measurement, and also get a ruler and visualise this measurement of 25 inches for ourselves. We have the strategy, the thought and the measurement - though not the original object or moment of observation and creation [which exists now only in text]. In the absence of the actual artwork, we meet the artwork through the concept. With this in mind, we propose now to reconstitute Bochner's measurement by replacing his pieces of paper with The Museum on one side and Non Participation on the other. On their own, the two ideas are provocative, personal and ideological with implications for Art and the everyday.

    But here they are not on their own - they are being positioned 25 inches apart and it is the gap between that we view as the art work. Having spatialised these debates we can now interrogate where meaning is situated in The Museum of Non Participation. It is our conclusion that Bochners measurement and The Museum of Non Participation share principles. The 25 inch measurement is equivalent to the non, that which problematises the processes by which knowledge comes to appear meaningful.

    Our process situates the museum at the limits of language. It is able to meet the viewer as a text, a paradox, a question, a thought, an archive, a protest, an object, a process, a site of resistance, an ephemeral event, a conversation in a different language with no subtitles. In The Museum of non Participation, multi platform ideas are multi layered, open-ended, abstract, perceptual and interpretative, reflecting our need for a new museum model that contests the systemic inequalities of the contemporary modern.