Alejandro Cesarco, whose work often explores the relationship between words and images, took part in Don't Talk to Strangers by publishing a booklet that retraces a dialogue he held with the collector Christoph Schifferli. The two exchanged stories (contributed by Cesarco) and images (taken from Schifferli’s collection of film stills), which were compiled for the occasion of the exhibition.
Everything starts with an idea that leads to a dialogue.
During the Don't Talk to Strangers exhibition in Zurich, the publication was placed in Christoph Schifferli’s extensive library on a shelf where Alejandro Cesarco’s previous books were usually stored. Those same books were put on display in the art space.
Cesarco dedicated the booklet to John Baldessari and Raymond Roussel.
The publication is kindly supported by Stadt Zürich and Ernst and Olga Gubler-Hablützel Stiftung.
Images: Selected film stills from the collection of Christoph Schifferli.
Texts: Excerpted from the bookshelves of Alejandro Cesarco.
Artists present artworks in strangers' homes in Zurich. In each household, an installation area will be designated, while existing items (furniture, books, and personal objects) will be reinstalled in the art space.
With the artworks thus displaced, visitors must directly contact the private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings at Réunion.
The art world disrupts the private sphere and vice versa
Visiting another’s home leaves a lasting impression. From the authors on the bookshelves to the contents of the refrigerator, a personal dwelling offers almost imperceptible information about one’s life. Much the same, the artistic qualities of memories made in such a home correlate to the environment in which they occurred. This is a pivotal facet of Don’t Talk to Strangers, which atomizes preconceived notions of the gallery proper by casting a peculiar hue on the entrancing properties of that which we cannot live without: art.
Overlap of Public and Private Space
In this reappropriation of an exhibition, artists present installations in the households of participating Zurich residents, rather than in the Réunion art space. Curators work closely with each dwelling’s artist to designate an installation area from which all existing items are relocated and installed at the gallery space.
Once the exchange is complete, viewers are invited to contact private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings, to ascertain operation hours of their newly appropriated “home gallery.”
A Far More Personal Experience
By design, Don’t Talk to Strangers challenges viewers’ expectations and impishly suggests an alternative experience that is far more intimate than typical art viewings in gallery settings. While visitors of Réunion are initially denied access to the work they desire, they find reciprocity in elite-access at the cost of their time.
This inventive model encourages a deeper level of participation by diverting the impulse to passively consume. If the viewer takes full advantage, each visit to the art space offers another phone number, another unique experience, and another opportunity for adventure.
The heightened sense of participation, contacting hosts and making appointments, results in a heightened sense of investment. In this way, Don’t Talk to Strangers’ reaches beyond an exhibition. Viewers searching for a contemporary art fix will be challenged to pursue a pilgrimage in the name of art, allowing exploration to play a role in their eventual experience of the work.
Consequently, the initial disappointment from lack of artwork becomes a chance to discover far more than the artwork itself.
Polyphonic Roles of Host and Viewers
Meanwhile, the host wears many hats—fellow man, homeowner, art expert, guide, and institution. By welcoming viewers into their home, they also welcome the possibility of new perspectives and interpretations of the artwork at hand.
Though the newly-formed relationship between host and viewer may end post-viewing, while together, both parties are of one ambition: to let art happen outside of the institutionalized art world, as well as to rediscover their autonomy as art viewers and enthusiasts.
Such a circumstance, however, also forces the host into a position of influence, just as any art institution influences its patrons. As a result, the host’s life story is on display like the art in their home. This creates a more personal system for viewing contemporary works: an intimate environment that will no doubt lend itself to a fond and vivid memory in the archive of the viewer’s life.
Random Institute entreats its audience to bask in the unknown and to reap the reward of memories, knowledge, and experience. The home of a stranger offers the perfect setting, the grand stage from which a narrative will naturally emerge amongst the trio of host, viewer, and artwork. This narrative becomes both a tale closely linked to the home and, quite possibly, an inseparable part of the artwork displayed in Don’t Talk to Strangers.
ARTISTS Alejandro Cesarco / Alois Godinat / Cory Arcangel / Federico Herrero / Karin Lehmann / Peles Empire / Richard Long / San Keller / Selina Grüter & Michèle Graf / Slavs and Tatars
The exhibition took place from February 6th–17th at Réunion in Zurich. Art works could be visited at the apartments of the hosts, independently of Réunion’s hours of operation. → Facebook Event
The first edition of the show took place in New York.
The project is kindly supported by Stadt Zürich and Ernst + Olga Gubler-Hablützel Stiftung. We would like to thank all hosts, as well as Ringer Collection (Zurich) and Galerie Tschudi (Zuoz) for their collaboration.
Juliette Chrétien (Project Plan) & Matthew Cianfrani (Installation Views)