No museum security guard pounces when you place your hands on the colorful neon tubes set in Alejandro and Moira Siña’s Touch Plane. In fact, if you don’t touch the art, it won’t light up. Rather than push keys on a piano, you can light up neon tubes in Touch Plane, with hues varying in intensity based on how long your fingers linger. Touch Plane is not the only piece you can touch at the “Glass in All Senses” exhibition at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in Vermont. You can also taste, smell and listen to the artwork. Curated by Museum of Arts and Design associate curator Jennifer Scanlan, “Glass in All Senses” pushes against the dominating visual component of most art, stretching the medium to include pieces that incorporate other senses, invite audience participation, and dialogue with other contemporary art media.
While most museums and galleries forbid touching the artwork (the Art Institute of Chicago’s website includes a brief section called “Why We Don’t Touch”), many of the pieces in “Glass in All Senses” require it. Visitors can don plastic gloves and manipulate Anjali Srinivasan’s Quiver Vessel, malleable white-and-gold eggshells made of blown mirrorized glass and silicone that you can fold and manipulate like fabric. You can watch Unpacking the glass vessel, a one-minute video of a woman unpacking two large examples of the piece, on the artist’s website.
A wall of Robert DuGrenier‘s handblown flowers let visitors smell the art, as each contains a fragrance important to the artist. Large flowers of varying sizes and color combinations emit fragrances chosen by the artist based on personal memories. A designer of fragrance bottles for over three decades, DuGrenier notes on his blog that he “selected fragrances here that suggest to him memories of childhood summers at the beach, walking through lavender fields in the south of France, perfumes that loved ones have worn, and the myriad aromas of a wildflower garden in Vermont.”
Yuka Otani contributes “Edible Glass,” arguably the exhibition’s most extreme work. Otani collaborated with candy company papabubble to fill almost 1,500 small plastic bags with glass snacks made from isomalt (a natural sugar derived from beets), water, citric acid, and natural flavor. The viewer is transformed into a taster, eating the artwork contained within each small plastic bag.
“It’s sugary. I thought it might go nicely with tea,” said Exhibitions Manager Margaret Shipman.
Despite the warning on each bag that its sharp contents may constitute a choking hazard, visitors have proven eager to sample glass; less than a month into the exhibition, BMAC is down to their last 50 bags. Otani is already at work creating more “Edible Glass” for museumgoers to savor.
“Glass in All Senses” runs until October 23, 2011. Other featured artists include Graham Caldwell, Buhm Hong, Sally Prasch, Jocelyne Prince, Debra Ruzinsky, and Bohyun Yoon. “Glass in All Senses” is one of six exhibits currently on view as part of “ARTCraft,” an exploration of what BMAC calls “the boundaries between fine art and fine craft.” The exhibitions cover a wide spectrum of “craft” media and includes glass baskets made by Josh Bernbaum in conversation with Jackie Abrams.
— Grace Duggan
IF YOU GO:
“Glass in All Senses”
Through October 23, 2011
Brattleboro Museum & Center
10 Vernon Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301