John Updike wrote, “What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” Nice thought, but how often does this supposed sacred space feel anything but spacious? Be it the buzz from a flurry of visitors, restless children anxious to escape, or socialites crashing an opening party: somehow I never feel alone with an artwork. But, as always, you can count on KW Institute for Contemporary Art to invert contemporary art paradigms, and its latest exhibition, "One to One," is no different. By presenting seventeen works in self-enclosed spaces made for a single viewer, the exhibition provides unimaginable and unparalleled intimacy with art. The result: somtimes pleasant, other times uncomfortable, but always firsthand and inescapable interaction with art.
One to One
This article was initially conceived as an exhibition review, but I realized during my visit that such a review simply is not fair to you the reader. Instead, this article will take the form of an exhibition outlook, as it is truly something that must be experienced by you in person and one-to-one.
At the opening of “One to One,” not only was I afforded the chance to see a work entirely alone, but I was also given a private room in which do so. Now that’s what I call ultimate luxury. Finally, I was able to participate in this singular experience, this direct communicative process that is often espoused in theoretical writings. Like a spoiled child, I was able to have the whole space to myself – no time limit, no rules, no gallery attendants breathing down my back. “One to One” leaves you entirely alone with a work, or in some cases live artists, in each of the variously sized and oriented spaces filling five floors at KW.
An artist works directly in front of only you in Joe Coleman’s space at KW. Photo: Chris Phillips
Even looking beyond the art, the exhibition is an experience worth the six euro entry –waiting for your turn to take ownership of the space, feeling a pseudo “Let’s Make a Deal” anticipation about “what is behind door number 1?”. Furthermore, although you are not allowed to enter the room with another guest, you are essentially forced to interact with the fellow viewers as you both wait, sharing a state of bewilderment as to what awaits each of you. A fellow attendee told me the exhibition reminded him of an amusement part – “you wait in line forever and in the end the ride only takes a few minutes. You never know what to expect in those minutes.”