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Art by the masses: B’wick gallery gives world the keys, paint roller

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Bushwick art gallery is taking the do-it-yourself ethos to new extremes by inviting the world inside to do whatever, whenever.

Where, a gallery housed in a shipping container in a Myrtle Avenue flea market, began the monthlong free-for-all on Sept. 12 by posting instructions online detailing how to get inside. “Where is opening its doors to anyone for anything,” the gallery’s owners wrote. It is bold on its face, but the curators’ decision to subject their space to the whims of the hordes came down to putting off their jobs for a while, one said.

“It is a small act of deferral that has structured everything that has happened since,” Lucy Hunter said. “We said we are going to defer the responsibility of curating the space by sending out a message across the internet that you can do something in there if you want, but we are out.”

The only barrier to entry for would-be featured artists is the pass code to the lockbox containing the key. Hunter and her art partner R. Lyon posted the instructions on Facebook and Craigslist and others have disseminated the message through other forums.

One anonymous evangelist for the project added in the suggestion that readers should bring a handful of sand or dirt each until the room is full to the ceiling. The gallery owners don’t know for certain who the source of the dirt manifesto is, but say only a few people have come packing dirt.

“I think I know who put those messages out there,” she said. “But I do not want to say, because I am not sure.”

The only art supplies the gallery owners left in the space are a bucket of white paint and a roller brush.

People have made all kinds of art in the space so far. A topless woman wrapped in Saran wrap danced around with a guy wearing a cake mask, a naked man played a bicycle wheel with a violin bow while a guy in a beekeeper mask banged away on a piano, and someone made a shrine featuring an image of Jesus and a banana.

The shenanigans were being broadcast on a webcam, but the feed is down now that the gallery has exceeded its monthly allotted bandwidth, according to its website.

The germ of the open-door policy idea came when Hunter and Lyon asked their friend Tyler Coburn to write a hypothetical press release announcing a show at their gallery. They promised him they would actually arrange whatever he came up with. Coburn wrote that the gallery was working on its “interpassi­vity.” Hunter and Lyon went with it.

Even the most amateur of artists say they have had a great time marking up the place.

“I did something like this on in an abandoned military building once, but never in an official space,” said Peter Gault, who went with a group of his friends and covered the gallery walls with graffiti. “It felt like such a cool community. We invited random people to come in and make stuff with us.”

While the hoi polloi is busy making art in Where, Hunter and Lyon have been busy running on an online auction to keep the lights on. The fund-raiser is a Herculean undertaking given how unorganized they are, Hunter said.

“We are really bad gallerists who never sell anything and really bad non-profiters who never apply for grants,” she said. “We have a really tiny budget — $15,000 — but we need to raise that money somehow.”

As for the question of whether something terrible — or just plain gross — might happen in the space, the owners say they know it is possible, but the art that happens makes it worth the risk.

“It is all within the purview of the experiment,” Hunter said. “If you are going to turn over control, you have to do it all the way or you are not really doing it at all.”

Free-for-all at Where gallery (1397 Myrtle Ave., Unit 4, lockbox code: 0824, between Himrod and Harman streets in Bushwick, www.1397myrtleavenueunit4brooklynny11237.com). Through Oct. 12. Free.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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