Phew! Our friend Scott certainly knows how to keep us on our toes

January 15th, 2009  | Categories: Bidder vs. Ledia Carroll

First, he inundated us with a long list of images and told us all about situation rooms, crisis-representation, interregnum and climate collapse, and then he embellishes our homepage with a flood of comments (see: And now he’s walking the talk: on Wednesday, he installed his so-called “Situation Room” in the Public White Cube.

On the walls, for example, he has hung a series of clocks, a board of maps, and two chart boards, one white and the other black. On this one, MacLeod has permitted himself a small play on the homophony of “board” and “bored”: “black, bored”. Written by a disappointed Obama fan, perhaps? Or a highly political statement on the black, downtrodden lower class? The only person who knows is the artist. Beside this he has spread out all manner of equipment – an old ghetto-blaster or loudspeaker, a small slide viewer, and his heralded mini sculpture made of asthma inhalers. One of his tables appears to have a blood stain on it. Did some sort of fight take place here? The dummy wearing jeans and training shoes, half-buried under Ledia Carroll’s sand dune, seems to confirm that possibility.

But if so, against who or what has MacLeod been fighting a mortal battle? The sand? That is unlikely, since he has ignored Carroll’s contribution for the most part and simply realised his own exhibition instead. Against pretensions to museum quality? Perhaps this is nearer the truth – after all, he commented with some irritation that there were complications when he wanted to fix up a plaque identifying and explaining his work. For this is someone who will use any means in order to be perceived as an exalted artist. Scott M. MacLeod would probably be happiest if it was not the 1st Public White Cube that was an official part of the exhibition “The Art of Participation”, but he himself – without the double framework of a public white cube within the separate museum. When we compared his installation to a “news room”, he responded with closed-off commando headquarters, and he is now publicising internal communications on our homepage as a counteraction. But in the end we welcome that – as it sheds light on the entire project’s structures of communication and representation. And is that not all a participatory art project can ever hope for? What about a comment on that, Scott? You have time until Sunday, when the final auction of our project begins at 12 noon Californian, and 9 pm Central European Time. That means there is only one more chance – time to make your bid!

  1. Scott MacLeod
    January 16th, 2009 at 06:30

    Corrections: They are thermometers, not clocks. And the white board has written on it also “white, bored.” It’s just a little hard to see things clearly from such distances: camera to wall, camera to Europe etc. Such a small window. Not “heralded,” just mentioned. Not blood, just ink. Not against sand or pretensions, I think. Not against anything, really. Just looking specifically at one component of your project, the commercial perspective, and deciding that in spite of my current poverty, it would be worth a few hundred dollars to have a chance to realize a version of this installation in a setting which is close to that for which is designed – meaning that it was designed for gallery associated with local government more than for art setting, but this is “official” enough so that audience might be an appropriate one. Maybe. It’s an experiment, to buy a chance to make this work in such a setting. Instead of, for instance, working ten-fifteen more years (on top of already 28 years) to have such a chance. And it is also an experiment with that part of your project, the commercial aspect, and sure, maybe it would be “better” of me to make a better relationship to “participation” or to Ledia’s sand et, but well it’s just not to be. Ledia’s sand becomes part of my scenario instead of mine being an addition to hers. Anyway it is all a kind of feeling-around in the dark here, a kind of experiment for me & for you & I guess for Rudolf too. And I do think I mean to bump around a little, why not? The other iterations have been kind of soft core, except for initial two-pound ape merle haggard sex shack, okay, but not too many roads leading out from that shack really. I don’t like being made fun of or having my words twisted around, but I guess I have paid my money so I must take my chances, as you also are taking some chances. We have both crossed the line between public & private emails, which has maybe made something simple become complicated. I’d prefer not to have a macho arm-wrestle, I’m pretty tired from working etc & I kind of enjoy having some work hanging in museum & want to keep enjoying it rather than feeling the need to defend myself. Anyway, it’s your game so I have to play along to some extent. it would be easier to explain to visitors if it was my show only & not within Ledia // Cube // Participation // Moma. But what could I expect from bargain-basement price of $108.02? And yes I am interested in transparency & yes I hope you do see all this as “participation.” And I am curious to see how the next successful bidder will handle this.

  2. pwc
    January 16th, 2009 at 15:15

    First of all: Sorry for mistaking the thermometers for clocks. Indeed,
    it was really hard to tell from the pictures. Secondly, this confusion
    is a pity to some extend – a close observation of the thermometers
    would have shown much more correctly what was going on in the public
    white cube during the last days. The air quickly heated – all the
    little disputes, the quarrels, the discussion and especially your
    decision to go public with all that on the website really brought the
    project to a new level. Because from that point on we were really
    talking about “participation” For what is at stake now is nothing less
    then the question of power in terms of our monopoly of interpretation.
    You challenged us, we responded – and the other way around. Our fights
    teased out the hidden rules, which to a certain extend are built into
    the art-system: the whole set of desires and destinctions, the borders
    existing between in and out, the rules of crediting and the roles to
    be played. In the end, your participation made a really remarkable
    contribution, Scott. Thank you for that.

  3. Scott MacLeod
    January 16th, 2009 at 17:32

    It certainly wasn’t my intention to get involved in a ruckus; I just wanted to take advantage of the cheap rental rate for a room in the museum. But I do have a low tolerance for certain things & I tend to respond without too much forethought. But it’s probably healthy exercise for both of us, exercising certain muscles without overdoing it. So I’m glad you understand that, yes, I am somewhat protective of my work but I have not meant here to denigrate yours. Your work here is, I think, complicated, ambitious & perhaps only beginning. Your project’s taglines are “working with the public’s involvement” and “economic influence on artistic projects,” but I don’t see that there has been too much connection here at sfmoma to those two concepts. Really, how has the public been involved? Tim Roseborough & Annette Halm seem to be quite professional artists, Jeanne Henzel Shwartz I can’t tell, but if she is the public my guess is she is very informed public. Arthur Basile I don’t know. But I think in general here the involvement of the “public” is minimal. The iterations in Germany look more interesting, more sustained, I think it might be due to the nature of that space, perhaps to the cross connections socially (I’m assuming it’s more local to you) – but this is only conjecture & I cannot extrapolate as much information from the documentation photos & notes as I can here, having the benefit of direct observation etc. And as to the “economic influence,” it’s a good concept but I’m not sure I’m too interested so far in what I, as an informed public & participant, have been able to observe or understand from the results. It’s to the highest bidder, with attendant consequences: it’s cute, it’s frustrating, it’s excellent, depending on one’s success or failure within a very simple financial interaction. But I don;t know if I have any insight into anything like “economic influence etc.” Maybe it’s enough, as an experiment, to just act out the financial transaction, just as my experiment is simply to put some objects arranged in a space so that I can observe and analyze how they interact with each other. Do the things that I think are happening happen? Is this line of inquiry worth pursuing? I’ll make my own determination & my hope is that (with a building stuffed with people whose business it is to have opinions & knowledge about art) maybe some few people in the museum will give me also some feedback about this. I hope my “conversation” with you will be understood as part of your project, not as something outside of or counter to it.

    Anyway, I think this project of yours has many many possibilities and I wish you all the best with any future versions you produce. I just don’t think too many of the possibilities that were articulated here at SFMOMA were very interesting ones. Tant pis. In my opinion, museums usually make things less interesting, not more. They are more like supermarkets than like farmers’ markets. So for you & I, as farmers AND as people who need certain kinds of sustenance, well, even if we prefer the seasonal & local, we do go to the supermarket for some things, because the supermarket is an arrangement of economic relationships & assets that is able to provide for instance cucumbers from Chile, tangerines in July & art projects from Berlin. Maybe we can have a coffee next time I’m in Berlin.

  4. Scott MacLeod
    January 17th, 2009 at 19:43

    Dear Karl Heinz

    Here’s an update for you, concerning the “hidden rules” you mentioned above.

    Yesterday, at 4:30pm on a Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend, the SFMOMA Curatorial department decided to enforce a a rule that had been to that point invisible to me. They insisted on closing the large double doors which are the main entrance into the space of the Public White Cube, leaving a much smaller, unmarked, partially-blocked & almost-hidden doorway as the only means of entry & and exit. The SFMOMA Curatorial department did not inform me directly about this before they attempted to implement it, they simply called for a technician to close the doors. It is only because of the coincidence that I also work at SFMOMA that I was there to overhear that radio communication.

    I designed & installed my work in that room taking into consideration certain things like sightlines, especially what one would see when one first enters, also how one might physically navigate through the room (constrained as it is by Ledia’s sand piles), etc. These types of considerations are normal & critical for artists like myself making site-determined work.

    When I went to ask Mellisa Pellico, who is representing the SFMOMA Curatorial department in this project, why she wanted to close the doors, she said that it was a curatorial decision, that it was not open to debate, and that it had been a rule all along that the doors had to be closed for Public White Cube.

    So I asked her why my exhibit had been allowed to be open for the last two days with the doors open? Why did it have to change now? Why didn’t she order the closure sooner? She said that she hadn’t noticed the open doors until now, and that now the rule was going to be enforced.

    I told her I hadn’t heard anything about that rule, that I had designed my installation with respect to have those doors open, and could she change this decision. She refused. I asked her to show me where the rule was stated anywhere online having to do with the eBay auction or PWC etc and she could not or would not. So I asked he why she hadn’t told me about this otherwise invisible rule earlier, when we met to discuss my proposal etc, and she said “I don’t have to tell you every little detail.” I said that the status of the doors wasn’t a little detail, that it had an impact on how my installation would be viewed.

    She said that the “doors are insignificant.” I said no they are significant because if they are open then the public will see a particular view when they enter through them [meaning for me specifically that they will see one particular piece, the thermometers, before anything else – if they enter through the man doors, which they are much more likely to do if they are open].

    In response to this, Melissa Pellico said “It doesn’t matter. People can just turn their head to the left when they enter the room.”

    In the end, she said she would consult with someone else & get back to me, so I left. But I don’t expect any different decision; even if they did to agree with me about the doors, nothing would happen until Tuesday, when the exhibition will be over. I have lots of friends, and a local art writer etc coming this weekend & unfortunately I won’t be able to show them the installation the way I designed it. At least I will sometimes be there to explain to them the situation.

    So maybe it’s clearer now, who has jurisdiction. Not you, because someone can always put a bag over your camera & send you a photoshop image. Not the bidder/buyer, because even though I myself sniped the victory at the auction, I was in turn sniped by an invisible rule. Not the public, because now they can’t see it the way I made it, instead they have to squeeze through a small door that is semi-blocked by a table with a film-projector on it. No, the power is, as always, in the hands of the institution. Silly to think otherwise. Caveat Emptor!

    Anyway, in the end, I’m really grateful to Melissa. Now that a representative of the curatorial department of SFMOMA, a major museum, has told me that the way an artwork can be approached & viewed “doesn’t matter” because “people can turn their head to the left,” well, now my life is made much easier, because from now on when I hang my paintings, I don’t have to hang them straight, I can hang them crooked as I please, because really it doesn’t matter, the public can always just tilt their head to the left. – That’s “participation”!

  5. Scott MacLeod
    January 18th, 2009 at 22:21

    So Karl Heinz you were prescient about the “hidden rules” you mentioned above. On Friday the Curatorial Department of SFMOMA surprised me by enforcing a previously invisible rule that they had made (possibly in agreement with you? – I’m not clear about it) – they ordered the main doors to my installation closed. When I went to find out why, they just said “it’s a curatorial decision” and that the doors were “insignificant.” I argued that in fact the doors were important, that I had designed the installation partially in relation to the doors being open – as the logical entry point for the majority of visitors – and the sightlines, ie the sequence in which the viewer would see the various components was in fact important to me. In response to my argument, SFMOMA’s Curatorial Department representative xxxxx 1 said “It doesn’t matter. People can just turn their head to the left when they enter the room.” So, in the end, I had no recourse, it was obvious she had not the capacity or authority to change the decision. So now you & I know the answer to one of the questions we have been thinking about this week, that jurisdiction belongs not to the artist behind the webcam nor to the artist on site, but to the institution with real space. I think we suspected as much. Anyway caveat emptor, as always. In any case it was a great experience and a great bargain (though not as great as this week’s!) and also now my life is much easier: now I know that when I hang my paintings, I don’t need to bother to hang them straight, because the viewer can always just tilt their head to the left. – That’s “participation” !
    1 name deleted on request