On the opening night of Pigeonhole, DAC’s current exhibition by Reina Kubota and Hang Xu, an unidentified graffitist placed a box of white chalk inside the artists' maze, with a message written above that invited visitors to “take this chalk.” Within half an hour, dozens of visitors had passed through the installation, and most surfaces had been covered in chalk drawings and inscriptions. Most acted in good faith; they believed this to be part of the artists’ plan and enthusiastically contributed to the collaborative graffiti project.
Due to the nature of the installation (mostly hidden from view from the front of the gallery), by the time the drawing was discovered, the chalk additions numbered in the hundreds. Though DAC staff and the two artists who created Pigeonhole were surprised and somewhat upset, the artists made a decision that night not to erase the marks.*
The original piece was intended to inspire introspection and encourage visitors to investigate the ways in which they self-identify. In some ways, the personal notes and descriptors, as well as several self-portraits, that visitors scrawled inside the maze are evidence of this investigation. Each amateur contributor, when faced with blank walls, made decisions about how to best represent themselves through chalk. The resulting glyphs, ranging from the inevitable rude anatomical sketches to sincere personal anecdotes or questions for future visitors, are an interesting representation of DAC’s public.
However, the marks themselves are distracting for future visitors, and certainly detract from the mysterious and sometimes frightening quality of the original piece. Entering the installation in its current state, a viewer is less able to project their own impressions and interpretations on the forms and spaces of the maze.
The artists may well choose to remove the remaining chalk marks. For the time being, the comments and drawings remain but the discussion continues.
Images of the installation (pre-chalk) here.
*Some obscenities and the front face of the installation were later erased.
-Maya Taylor, Gallery Manager