Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Oppenheimer: Perez Art Museum

Magazine article Artforum International

Sarah Oppenheimer: Perez Art Museum

Article excerpt

"Would you like to interact with the sculpture?" A guard greeted me with this question immediately after I entered the room at the Perez Art Museum in which Sarah Oppenheimer's new work S-281913, 2016, is installed. The invitation at first struck me as oddly redundant. All of the artist's works that I had encountered previously were interactive by default, consisting of razor-sharp transformations of gallery architecture--usually a series of cuts through floors, walls, or ceilings in combination with planes of reflective glass--that collectively effected a complex and continuous reshuffling of viewers' experience of the space they inhabit. The fundamental theme of this work is the feedback between architecture, movement, and perception; it can be understood only through wholesale haptic engagement.

But as the guard began to issue a stream of orders, apparently having taken my confused silence as a form of consent, I realized that she was referring to interaction of a much more literal kind: She wanted me to touch the sculpture, which consisted of two massive glass boxes suspended in midair between thick steel tubes anchored to the gallery's floor and ceiling. At her insistence, I pushed on the edge of one box and found that it could gently spin in place. In the meantime, the guard had recruited other visitors and, choreographing our movements as though she were the ringmaster of a circus, she proceeded to show us how the sculpture worked. As each box rotated in space, a sequence of dramatically displaced views appeared in its reflective surface. In the climactic moment of this performance, the guard coordinated my efforts with those of a fellow visitor manning the second box. We pushed and pulled according to her direction until both boxes were oriented just so. Suddenly the two boxes aligned to create a periscope effect: The vista of Biscayne Bay offered by the gallery's lone window was bounced back and forth across some seventy feet of space to suddenly become visible from the doorway in the opposite corner, eliciting appreciative oohs and aahs from the audience gathering around the gallery entrance.

"Aha" moments like these have an obvious appeal, but they can be troubling, too. Standing in the gallery with Oppenheimer's piece, I could hear the distant clamor of some of the more obnoxious gadgetry installed in the Julio Le Parc retrospective on the same floor of the museum--a portentous reminder of kinetic art's checkered history. …

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