Take Me (I’m Yours), an exhibit that opened last weekend at The Jewish Museum, allows visitors to touch, inspect, eat and take home works of art by 42 international artists, many of whom created specifically commissioned pieces for the show. It subverts the usual look-but-don’t-touch museum experience, and watching how visitors interact with the exhibits is as fascinating as the show itself.
Take Me (I’m Yours) was originally exhibited in 1995 at the Serpentine Gallery in London, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist (who co-curated the new exhibit with Jens Hoffman nearly 20 years later) and artist Christian Boltanski. Though the scale of the exhibit was smaller then–only 12 artists were featured–the principal set of questions were the same: How do we remove the ever-present wall between art and the viewer? What can a form of ownership add to the viewer experience? What happens if the viewer walks out of an exhibit not just with a fleeting feeling or thought, but with a physical object in their hand?
The restaged show at The Jewish Museum is charged with a sense of time and place. At first, entering the four rooms of the exhibit feels like coming across an indoor flea market on Museum Mile. There are piles of clothes on the floor, posters adorning the walls, and groups of people milling around with shopping bags in tow, their hands submerged in boxes of pins and buttons and fortune cookies–all digging, all inspecting.
Visitors will surely be drawn to Carsten Höller’s PILL CLOCK (RED AND WHITE), 2015, a rather morose installation in which every few seconds, a red and white pill drops from the ceiling onto a pile on the floor. Viewers are provided with a hypothetical that they can solve with a choice: What happens if they eat it? What happens if they take a pill and put it in their pocket?
Quite a few pieces in the show are reflective of the current global-political climate. Daniel Joseph Martinez’s (AMERICA) ADOPT A REFUGEE, 2016 features plastic bags filled with an emergency blanket and a paper insert quoting The New Colossus, the Emma Lazarus sonnet engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Visitors are encouraged to take these packets and give them to someone in need. Andrea Bowers presents POLITICAL RIBBONS, 2016, a series of yellow, blue, green, and red ribbons, all adorned with statements like “Ban assault weapons now” and “Trans inclusive feminism always.”
Take Me (I’m Yours) is an interesting exhibit to navigate because it presents what feels like every facet of everyday life. As we peruse, not only are we experiencing and analyzing the work of the artists, but digesting a slew of modern philosophies. Dozens of thoughtful wall texts provoke reflection about the role of gifts in our lives, the internet and one-click shopping, on our relationship to charity and the digital age, and the significance of relics in our lives. It can get overwhelming at times, trying to sort through such a dense variety of musings and your own impressions.
Still, there is nothing stopping you from simply appreciating the exhibit in any way you wish, even if this means just filling your bag with a ton of random goodies. One visitor to the exhibit remarked that she was filling her bag with ceramic coffee lids (Uri Aran’s UNTITLED 2016) to bring home for her grandchildren to paint. Another visitor explained that she picked up a t-shirt by Rikrit Tiravanija to sleep in and was thinking of hanging one of Andrea Bowers’ “Ban assault weapons now” ribbons on the gate of a church in the Flatiron, where similar ribbons hang. An older couple pocketed a few candies from Felix-Gonzalez Torres’ iconic “Untitled” (USA Today), 1990, because they were feeling a little dizzy, having walked a fair distance to the museum. Finally, one visitor remarked that the exhibit was making her very conscious of things that she didn’t want to take, or clutter her life with.
Whichever objects you choose to take from Take Me (I’m Yours), for whatever reason, it’s endlessly compelling to picture all of these little pieces sitting in thousands of homes, strangers bound together by a piece of ceramic or plastic or paper.