The People’s Choice: Transcultural Collectivity and the Art of Shared Knowledge Production
This article analyses the exhibition The People’s Choice (Arroz con Mango), which was curated by the artistic collective Group Material and on view in New York City in 1981. The project is of peculiar relevance with regard to questions of transcultural knowledge production, because the artists asked the predominantly Spanish-speaking residents of the neighborhood where the exhibition space was located to participate by selecting their own personal objects or artworks for the show. However, this inclusion of personal objects created tension as well, mainly because the artistic collective defined the concept of the exhibition in advance by suggesting a specific choice of objects, and also because the idea of a democratic empowerment of the public ultimately remains problematic. This further raises the question of how the shift from personal object to something viewed in an exhibition also leads to a transformation of the agency of the displayed objects as well. The article contextualizes the exhibition The People’s Choice (Arroz con Mango), exploring notions of collectivity and participatory art in an alternative space that seems to creatively oppose the mainstream of larger established institutional spaces in New York. Finally, it shows how the circulation and transformation of the exhibited objects bear the intrinsic possibility to shape forms of transcultural collectivity when they act as mediators in processes of transcultural knowledge production.
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