Light Show for Unesco, 2008—2009

Light show for UNESCO
A special project for the Howard House Project Room
by Matthew Offenbacher
November 6, 2008 - January 3, 2009

Light Show for UNESCO illuminates the project room at Howard House with care and attention usually accorded important architectural landmarks (exemplified by UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites such as the Giza pyramid complex in Egypt). The grotto-like room at the far back of Howard Howard is a powerful manifestation of the fragility of the artist-dealer-collector complex, the opportunity and risk inherent in operating a small family business, and the delicate margins of marginal activities. Light Show tries to evoke wonder that such a place exists at all.

Since the 1960s, artists such as Marcel Broodthers, Michael Asher, and Andrea Fraser have turned the methods and systems of art institutions back on themselves to reveal hidden power structures. This important work of “institutional critique” has identified many of the fundamental contradictions and hypocrisies of sites which present and distribute art. Light Show asks: what if this dialectical practice was inverted? The opposite of critique is not sincerity (as many seem to think) but praise. This exhibition proposes UNESCO’s rhetoric of securing unique and special places is a model that can be applied to the small and transitory just as well as to the mighty and permanent.

The artist-curated table-top exhibition which accompanies Light Show furthers this theme, focusing on the site of production. It applies the broad goals of the UNESCO mandate (1. to promote diversity, 2. to mobilize active forces, and 3. to fertilize) to a small slice of the local artist community: Gretchen Bennett, Claudia Fitch, Jenny Heishman, Heide Hinrichs, Jeffry Mitchell and Matthew Offenbacher.

Installation view

Howard House, Seattle, Washington