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You’re the Show

Searching for an outlet for your inner performance artist? Oliver Herring is looking for you. As part of his current survey exhibition Me Us Them at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Herring will need 35 people to participate in a Task event, and one of those people could be you. To be considered you will need to apply at cms.skidmore.edu/tang/task.cfm or pick up an application by visiting the museum or by calling Megan Hyde at 580-5066. The short application is due by Feb. 27, so don’t delay. In addition to contact information, you must provide your age (the minimum age for participation is 14), your occupation, and why you want to participate in Task. This information is necessary because the artist wants as diverse a group as possible. And by the way, he prefers that participants are not artists.

This improvisational community art project will take place on Sunday, March 22 from 10 AM-5 PM at Universal Preservation Hall at 25 Washington St., Saratoga Springs. Past Task events have taken place in several locations including the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Seattle Public Library. For an idea of what might happen go to oliverherringtask.wordpress.com. There you can link to previous Tasks and to videos and photographs of the Tang Task party that took place at Skidmore last November.

Participants are asked to bring three meaningful pieces of writing and sound or music along with two additional sets of clothing. The event will unfold over seven hours in three acts with participants getting breaks in between. To begin the process there is a “task pool” made up of 35 tasks. Each participant picks one and interprets it however they like. They can act it out or merely contemplate it, but once they decide it has been completed the participant then writes a new task and adds it to the “task pool” and picks up a new one. A task might be “Find five people to walk with you around the stage as you walk for three minutes,” or “Build a wall,” or “Do a little dance.”

Herring explains that Task is “an improvisational event with a simple structure and very few rules.” A stage is often designated in the space by laying down construction paper. Certain materials and props are provided such as cardboard, plastic wrap, scissors, markers, string, tape, and clothes pins. As the participants get to know one another and feel more comfortable with themselves and the space, tasks often become more complex. Throughout the seven hours, Herring films the event. Anything is allowed so long as it does not cause harm or is destructive to property. Task becomes, according to Herring, “a little utopian micro-society with its own logic, rules, and momentum.” It functions as an expressive outlet for people who don’t always have one in their everyday lives. Task evolved from the artist’s interest in making connections between people and in giving people a positive way to interact. Even if you aren’t selected to participate, the event is sure to be entertaining. If it’s anything like past Task events, spectators and participants will experience just how much creativity can happen when people are given the opportunity to collaborate and be adventurous in an unusual circumstance.

—Nadine Wasserman

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