Oliver Herring: TASK oriented

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One of Oliver Herring’s “photo sculptures”

Oliver Herring has no end of creativity. His works range from life-sized sculptures of people made out of hundreds of photographs, to abstract object knit

from mylar, to portraits of strangers spitting up food coloring on their face in a spray, until their eyes peer out from what looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.

But for the last several years Herring’s art has taken a back seat while he travels the United States, teaching other people to be more creative.

This week Herring is in the Twin Cities for a collaboration between Bethel University and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. As part of his stay, he’s helping lead a “TASK party.”

Herring describes “TASK” as a sort of creative platform that’s unusually open ended, positive and inviting. It involves a space, lots of different materials, and a group of people who commit themselves to very simple rules

1. Write a task, depost it in a box.

2. Pull another task out of the box, and complete it.

3. Repeat step one (and so forth).

Herring, who created this “game” in response to a desire he saw in people to participate in his art projects, says it releases untapped creativity.

You experience a level of freedom that you probably abandoned when you were a kid. There’s just a really unselfconscious playfulness that permeates everything during TASK. Everything becomes possible, it’s very hopeful. You let yourself go and you play again. And I think a lot of people have stopped doing that since they were kids.

Herring says one of the most freeing factors is that there’s no expectation of failure or success, and there’s no judging the quality of your work. He says the written task becomes a sort of “permission slip” that lets you go places you otherwise wouldn’t.

There have been thousands and thousands of tasks, from as mundane as “stand on your leg” to “start a revolution” or “marry the person on your right.” “Call your mother and tell her what you did today,” “build a fortress,” or “write a letter about something really important in your life and post it.” Actually at the end when we collect the tasks it presents a real window into the needs and hopes and wants of the community.

TASK has taken off on campus universities over the past few years. It’s being used as a creative tool as well as a way for new students to get to know each other. And Herring says TASK is not just for artistic novices; he finds it can be helpful tool for artists, including himself.

I fall into patterns, and do simply what I need to do. From what I’ve observed, TASK is extremely helpful and useful for artists. It allows you to experiment with new materials in a much less self-conscious way.

Herring admits the name “TASK” might be a bit of a put-off, because it sounds so much like work, but if it’s a success, people come away feeling as though they’ve been playing, and have also been productive. Herring says you might think there are plenty of creative outlets already out there, but there really aren’t.

Even if you go to a museum or gallery, you’re actually following a linear path, how the exhibition was created. It’s a pretty limited experience. I mean I love museums don’t get me wrong, but there has to be more. And while there’s a lot of work out there that’s interactive I think there’s also a perception out there that’s fed by the art world, that art is an elitist kind of thing for a small group of people, when in fact it shouldn’t be. And so I think these open-ended, idiosyncratic, non-linear experiences are really unusual, helpful and necessary. At the very least it’s a ton of fun.

Tomorrow MCAD will be hosting a TASK party from 7-10pm. Meanwhile Bethel University is showing an exhibition of Herring’s work in its Olson Gallery through May 30. There’s an opening reception for the exhibition tonight, starting at 5pm, and featuring live performance art.

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