There are a few tall cans on the table at SE Hawthorne's Watertrough, and Michael Reinsch is telling me about his TBA 2011 performance, Gallery Walk.
The bare details are deceptively simple. Inside a mobile exhibition space—a wearable arrangement of art-filled cubbies—Reinsch will amble the city for all to see. Traveling with the artist is a gallery assistant who'll handle general inquiries and sales. Grape juice will replace the traditional wine, accompanying standard mini-vittles. The artwork represented is carefully curated, and each walk features a new show. Dialing in the title's punchline, Reinsch's white box makes its maiden stroll in September for the First Thursday art walk, and after, at various locations during the festival.
Of course, if someone was just walking around selling art, that wouldn't be the most compelling performance choice.
What leavens Reinsch's overall sentiment is his twist: The artists showing in Gallery Walk will submit statements about their work, and Reinsch will scramble these written intentions into a possessed oral performance. Using snippets from the various explanations of artwork—while adding bits of art language he encounters online—a rhetorically meaningless but functionally focused art-world punditry is struck (reminiscent of online artist statement generators and folks who comedically translate these academic explanations into casual English).
Whether or not Reinsch is using his words to comment on conventions like artists' statements, the twist is part of what he describes as a loose recipe for his work—performance, sculpture, and oration—the signature ingredient being a brand of flarfist poetry that he builds by searching popular blogging platforms for various themes, and compiling the thoughts of strangers into long, associative bursts. In past performances, it's worked to great effect.
Present Tense at galleryHOMELAND used blog posts with emotionally apocalyptic themes for a long-form poem, recited while Reinsch opened a seemingly endless mound of empty presents, one by one. Ripping through black wrapping paper for 40 solid minutes, Reinsch read his poem while a found-audio mash-up of children opening much-anticipated gifts added off-kilter screams and shrieks.
It's the unsettling quality of Reinsch's recipe that differentiates Gallery Walk from other projects questioning the rigid style manual used to talk about art. He's throwing the book in your face, the babbling brook of art talk that can often lead to visibility, commerce, and status—a lexicon teetering on the brink of insincerity. It's the art world's double-edged sword and, aware of the potential cuts, Reinsch seems to be walking its blade with feet of a heavier metal.
Gallery Walk, Washington High School, 531 SE 14th, Twitter location updates @GalleryWalk11, Mon Sept 12 & Wed Sept 14, 6-9 pm, free