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STLPR | Please touch this art - Pulitzer Arts Foundation exhibition seeks audience participation

St. Louis Public Radio | By Jeremy D. Goodwin

It’s common for museumgoers to encounter signs that say, “Please don’t touch the art.”

An exhibition now on view at Pulitzer Arts Foundation turns that instruction on its head. Visitors to “Assembly Required” are encouraged to pick up, fold, walk into or even wrap the artworks around themselves.

The show features work by nine artists who wished to involve their audiences directly in creating the work.

“They invited members of the public in, to directly engage with the artworks and conscripted them as co-authors — almost co-conspirators,” Pulitzer Arts Foundation Curator Stephanie Weissberg said.

“Assembly Required” includes works by Francis Alÿs, Rasheed Araeen, Siah Armajani, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, Yoko Ono, Lygia Pape and Franz Erhard Walther. Tania Bruguera and her collective INSTAR will be in residence later in the run of the show, which is on view through July 31.

Here’s a guide to some of the artwork visitors will encounter in the show.


Rasheed Araeen

In the late 1960s, Pakistani British artist Rasheed Araeen came to believe the artistic school of Minimalism, with its focus on geometric shapes and patterns, had become esoteric and disconnected from average people’s experience of the world.

“Once people can confront the rigidity of social structures and re-create these structures themselves, as part of their own productivity,” Araeen said in an interview with art writer Jens Hoffman, “it can lead to an equitable and egalitarian society.”

Araeen’s “Zero to Infinity” takes a common building block of Minimalist art — the cube — and presents it in a way that directly engages its viewers. The piece at the Pulitzer includes 36 cubes made from painted wood, which viewers are invited to stack into different formations outside in the courtyard.

“At the end of the day, depending on who's been through here, you might find all kinds of interesting shapes,” Smith said. “We can leave these when we've gone and somebody else can take up our project after we've left. It’s just such a delight to see what kinds of things people come up with.”