Artist takes up residence at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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Marcus Young meditates in the MAEP Gallery of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The area where the wall appears distorted on the left is actually a curtain leading to the video room where Young has slept the past several nights.

(C) 2011 Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Amanda Hankerson

When I walked into the lobby of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts earlier this week, a young man was quietly washing the glass doors, dressed in blue jeans and a pale blue work shirt. A woman with a camera stopped to ask him a question, in response to which he just nodded and smiled. She asked again – more nods, and more smiles. Slightly befuddled, she walked away.

The man in question was Marcus Young, and he is not on staff at the MIA; he’s a performance artist, and for the last ten days he’s taken the term “artist in residence” quite seriously.

As part of the museum’s latest Minnesota Artist exhibition, titled “Semblances,” Young decided to put himself on display.

“With nothing to give, I give myself,” he explained in an artist statement. “I faced the stark realization that I can make no object worthy of the galleries of the Institute, so I decided to give myself. It will be a temporary loan of my life.”

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Young engages in “slow walking” each day at the museum, dressed in flowing blue robes.

(C) 2011 Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Amanda Hankerson

Young took the stipend offered to him by the MIA and divided it by minimum wage; the result was the number of hours he would spend in the museum – ten full days.

Curator Christopher Atkins says the performance art has challenged museum security. How do you allow Young to spend the night, and not trip the alarm system? Where and when will he bathe? What and where will he eat?

But those issues were resolved, and on November 8 Young took up residence in the MAEP gallery, sleeping in the adjoining video room.

Young divides his day between meditating, washing windows and “slow walking,” a meditative practice for which he dons flowing blue robes. While Young is “on display,” he says he does not want to become a spectacle.

I will be in a corner of a gallery most of the time. I will not talk, use the phone, or use the computer. Each morning, I will practice slow-walking and smiling. I will help clean the museum each afternoon. There is not much to see if you look for me, but seeing the world around me may be interesting. I will try to slow down and simplify life, not to aspire to much other than experiencing living in its most basic forms.

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One MIA staffer remarked “our doors have never been cleaner.”

(C) 2011 Minneapolis Institute of Arts/Amanda Hankerson

Young’s residency culminates tonight in an artist talk – along with the other artists features in “Semblances” – at 7pm. There he will finally talk again after ten days of silence, and he’ll share with the audience some of what learned from the experience.

Young is perhaps best known for his work as the Artist in Residence for the city of Saint Paul, where he created the Sidewalk Poetry Project. But he’s also organized sing-a-longs at the State Fair, serenaded sleepers at the Walker Art Center for Northern Spark, and convinced people (Minnesotans!) to dance spontaneously in public.

  • Jane Spaulding

    The art of living expressed in action, devotion to simplicity, mindfulness and service is an aesthetic principle engaging the viewer in a transformative experience with the creator and lifting all who open to it.