“Onto Objects” is a one-night exhibition featuring new performance artworks by Patty Chang and Jeffrey Gibson. In their performances, each artist engages with objects they selected from the MFA’s encyclopedic collection. They project their personal experiences and associations onto art historical research and dialogues they shared with curators. Together, these performances emphasize individual narrative over institutional voice, the fluidity of history over singular interpretations, and the animation of objects over static presentations. By layering their own readings and relationships onto the Museum context, Chang and Gibson recast objects and images as receptacles for individuals’ stories.
In Timeline 1.29.14, 2014, Gibson choreographs a conversation between himself, a bowl, a painting by Jackson Pollock, and an ancient bowl from the ancestral Pueblo culture. He invites an art critic/cultural theorist to play the role of a therapist who moderates the session. Gibson approaches these works as personified objects that serve as lenses for history, confronting his complex relationship to Pollock as a pervasive figure in Western art. The performance draws from research on spiritualism and struggle in Pollock’s life, and from Gibson’s personal experience as a Native American artist. Their dialogue contrasts Pollock’s legacy of unbound expression with Gibson’s navigation of tradition and experimentation in his own art.
In Flash Burn in Uzbekistan, 2014, Chang builds a story using images, language, objects, and her body—set within a period room that evokes a home from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Her narrative lives somewhere between personal memories, archival research, and the present moment, fusing the ancient and the contemporary through her presence. To create this work, Chang collaborated with curators to research and reflect on objects in the MFA’s vast Asian holdings. Their conversations highlight emotional attachments, individual associations, scholarship, conservation, and other modes of representation that are layered onto objects. From this mix, Chang employs the body as another archive for information that reactivates Museum space, making it feel “lived in.”
Funded by the generous support of members of the Contemporary Visiting Committee.
This event took place January 29, 2014.
Photo by Eduardo Restrepo
Video by Liza Voll Photography