The Eunice and Julian Galleria is not a white box gallery. There is no soundproofing, the lighting varies depending on the time of day, and the shape of the space can’t be described as any of the quadrilaterals we remember from high school geometry. It’s here in this nook of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art where Conversation Piece makes its a home. High concept and small in size — a micro exhibition when you compare the seven pieces with the 170-piece collection of Goya: Order and Disorder, which also opened this past weekend — Conversation Piece aims to do exactly what the name suggests: get people talking.
Featuring installation, sculpture, video, and an iPhone app — you heard us — each work references everyday objects, such as chairs, curtains, and coffee tables. Though referential of commonplace artifacts, the works are not typical of what you might expect to stumble upon in a museum. It’s the dichotomy of common/uncommon that has curator Liz Munsell hoping the program will “jolt” viewers and spark discussion.
The iPhone app by artist, writer, and filmmaker Miranda July, “Somebody,” is sure to get some conversation flowing — if for no other reason besides it being the first mobile application to be featured as artwork at the MFA. But the nature of the work also demands interaction between strangers, as “the app sends a message not to its intended recipient but to the closest user nearby, who will than deliver it verbally to that person.”
For those of us — myself included — who can’t seem to remember our Apple password when the occasion demands, the other six pieces by contemporary North, Central, and South American artists, are every bit as buzz-worthy as the tech-stallation … if not more so (sorry, Miranda).
As they should, the MFA boasts, “Since opening the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art in 2011, the MFA has become one of the first encyclopedic museums in the US to fully integrate performance into its collection, exhibitions and programs.” In Conversation Piece, we see the continued inclusion of performative art. Every third Wednesday — yes, during hours when the museum is FREE — Boston Ballet II dancers will “activate” Sarah Crowner’s “Curtains (Vidas perfectas),” a hand painted linen drape, by using the fabric as a backdrop for performance for contemporary dance. In effect, Crowner fuels an interdisciplinary conversation, “linking craft and high art, dance and design.”
Additionally, Pedro Reyes’ remarkable marble sculpture, “Colloqium,” will serve as a roundtable for a duo of gallery conversations, with former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus — a man who reduced traffic accidents using performance art — up first on October 22. It’s an apt piece to get your gab going, as the interlocking panels all resemble speech bubbles you’d find in comic books. And with natural noise from folks mingling at the nearby cafe and the post-film banter chirping up the stairwell as people channel out of the auditorium, the gallery invites and welcomes conversation.
CONVERSATION PIECE. MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, 465 HUNTINGTON AVE., BOSTON. ON VIEW THROUGH MARCH 15, 2015. FOR PERFORMANCE TIMES AND MUSEUM HOURS, VISIT MFA.ORG