An Invitation for Intimacy

One of the two greatest pleasures in life is having an intimate conversation with a close person

This sentence is taken from “The Last Interview” – a book by the Israeli author Eshkol Nevo I’ve read lately. Many words can be written on the other greatest pleasure in life. In fact, I am not even sure there’s a consensus on what the second great pleasure actually is, but here I would like to focus on the last part of this statement (I promise to write a special post about the other one soon…). I find myself thinking a lot these-days about friendship, about relationships, about what is meaningful in life. In our busy days of text messages, emails and social media, the quality of personal encounters may sometimes be forgotten.

Though I haven’t checked statistically, it seems that in most theories and approaches dealing with happiness and fulfillment in life, the significance of having authentic, deep relationships is quite consistent. It reminds me of a sentence someone once told me – happiness is other people.

Personal encounters, intimacy and contemplation are some of the ideas which the artist Lee Mingwei deal with in his work. Born in 1964 in Taiwan and now living in Paris and New York City, Lee creates participatory installations, where strangers can explore issues of trust, intimacy and self awareness and one-on-one events where visitors contemplate these issues with the artist through eating, sleeping, walking and conversation. From the 27th of March till the 7th of June 2020, the Gropius Bau will present a solo exhibition by Lee Mingwei, showing his installations and performances from the last thirty years (Curated by the Director of the Gropius Bau, Stephanie Rosenthal and Clare Molloy). Central to the exhibition is an exploration of art’s potential to be a transformative gift.

And why am I telling you about this exhibition now, you probably ask yourselves? That is because you (or items which belong to you) will have an opportunity to be a part of this unique exhibition, which seems like an incredible experience to me. The artist is putting out open calls inviting people from the local community to take part in three of his participatory projects.

The project I personally find as most intriguing is The Mending Project, which was already shown in various museums as well as at the Venice Biennale in 2017. It is an interactive conceptual installation where simple elements such as thread, colours, sewing – serve as the point of departure for conversations between strangers. Lee Mingwei invites visitors to bring clothes in need of attention to the museum. Either the artist himself or chosen menders then sew these articles. The sewn clothes are then attached by threads to spools on the wall, forming an ever-growing installation. For this project the artist is seeking hosts to engage in conversation with the visitors while mending their textile items. While the mender sit with threads and needles, repairing pieces of clothing, the owners of the items will be asked to share a personal story about why this piece of clothing is special for them.

Mixed media interactive installation
Table, chairs, threads, fabric items
Installation view Lee Mingwei and His Relations, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2015
Courtesy: Taipei Fine Arts Museum

The second project is The fabric of memory, which reveals how personal histories can be archived in objects. Ahead of the exhibition the artist invites the local community to submit personal clothing and other fabric items that were made for them. These items will then be displayed in wooden boxes. When a museum visitor opens one of the wooden boxes, they find not only the fabric object, but a very personal story which reveals the intimate relationship between the object’s receiver and its maker.

The third project is The Living Room, in which the artist transforms a museum gallery into a living room, allowing volunteers to act as hosts. These individual hosts are invited to bring in their own collections of objects that have a personal or aesthetic significance to them, and to engage visitors in dialogue about their objects.

The volunteers will be needed for around two hours. The deadline to apply for all three open calls is Tuesday, 3rd of December at 17:00 (>>>Update: The application deadline has been extended and is now until the 17th of December). In order to apply you simply have to follow the links I attached to each project – it is quick, simple and written both in English and German.

Good luck and please let me know if you are planning to apply!

… And in case you still haven’t been to the exhibition “Garden of Earthly Delights” at the Gropius Bau, go see it! It is on until this upcoming Sunday, 1st of December. I loved it!

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