Joe Scanlan
Three Works

Wallspace, New York, 2011

This show at Wallspace took the form of a “round robin.” The idea was to take the three basic parameters that comprised the exhibition — where it took place, how long it lasted, and the number of works that were on view — and see how they might be stretched and overlapped.

A small arena was carved out of the main space in which single works were shown for brief periods of time before another work took its place. Part audition, part slide show, part lot sale, the works processed through the arena on whatever cadence we saw fit.

In most instances, the works were also visible in the background, in various states of casualness, before and after they were officially on view. Not only did this pose the question of when a work of art becomes a work of art, it also made the evolving stagecraft of the entire gallery a work in itself. It also proposed that a work of art is like content on a media device, meaning that, regardless of what it’s made of or whether those materials are sitting right in front of us, a work of art only becomes visible—exists—when it is turned on.

Although I gave no conscious thought to it at the time, afterwards I thought Three Works functioned very much like Trajal Harrell’s Small/Medium/Large/Extra Large performances. In these snapshot-inspired choreographies, garments that are visible on stage throughout the performance do not become part of the show until Harrell puts them on and strikes the appropriate pose.

In the end, there was no counting how many works were in Three Works. But I counted thirteen.