Presenting visual and performance art in unexpected public spaces.

AiOP 2014 FREE Looking Back: Ienke Kastelein “Have a seat on the sidewalk / walking with chairs”

Under the theme of FREE, Art in Odd Places (AiOP) celebrated their 10th year engaging with works that celebrated ideas of openness, autonomy, and independence. As we prepare for AiOP 2015: RECALL and our exciting 11th year, we’re taking time to look back at some of the works that embodied last year’s theme and see what the artists learned by producing their pieces, and how working on 14th Street impacted their practices.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

Can you describe your contribution to AiOP: FREE?

project title

Have a seat on the sidewalk / walking with chairs

Ienke Kastelein, AiOP FREE! 2014

project description

For this participatory performance on the sidewalk of 14th street, 12 white plastic chairs are put together like a small community, allowing people to sit down.  During the performing time we moved the chairs up and down 14th street.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

looking back on the project

On Thursday we started at the corner of Avenue C on the north side of 14th Street and moved to Union Square; on Friday we started by crossing Union Square and continued all the way to the Highline. On Saturday we started on the Campos Plaza, on the Southside of the Street, and got as far as Union Square, then continued on the final day on the Southside and reached the Highline at the end of the afternoon.

We put the chairs in different spots and made a constellation depending on the situation. Sometimes it was orderly; sometimes we put them in more informal way. We went with the urban structure and the flow. Passersby responded in many different ways. Some of them just passed us with a smile, others ignored us completely, and many times people actually had a seat, watched the street, started conversations, and talked to one another. On occasion they found a new spot for the chair they had been sitting on. So we walked the chairs up and down the sidewalk.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

We worked as a team: assistant Cindy Luong from NY and Hans van Lunteren joining as my personal assistants, and helped move the chairs, inviting people to sit down with us and taking photos. On occasion there were other assistants from AiOP as welI. It was very nice that Ed helped me purchase my chairs and made the connection with the place where I stored them for the night (14th Street Y).


Working in public space, one is often to forced to deal with the unexpected. What surprising turns did your work take during AiOP: FREE?

AiOP festival dag 4 P1020354

Photo courtesy of the artist.

I did not anticipate putting up the chairs as an informal audience to other projects that we encountered during our walk, which was surprisingly nice (for instance the sound piece by Jen Reimer & Max Stein and the Street Drawing by Kevin Townsend)


How has the experience of making work for AiOP changed or influenced your practice?  Has it added any elements or led to any changes in your method, technique, or medium?

Actually it was a kind of natural next step – and an amazing one – in a series of works, coming from an ongoing fascination for sitting and walking, that I have been working ever since 2004-5. Someone made the remark that I might have preferred to show my work in MOMA, but actually I could not imagine a better place for this particular work than 14th Street.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

14th Street became the Studio, the Stage as well as a Museum. It was really embedded in 14th Street.


Fourteenth Street is comprised of many different “publics.” There are the shoppers at Union Square, the commuters, the residents, the shop owners and merchants… How did your work interact with these publics, and what were the outcomes? 


Photo courtesy of the artist.

As I mentioned before people responded in various ways. On Union Square and East of Union Square people seemed to be more open to actually have a seat and time to talk, and the closer we got to the Highline the more people took the chairs for granted. We did very well in front of the Apple Store though. It was part of the project to cover all these different parts of 14th Street. I consider places with little response as interesting as parts with a lot of response.


What advice do you have for artists who are making their first foray into working in the public realm?

Ask yourself what kind of connection you are trying to establish with the Street and the audiences in it. Embed your work in the context of the street. Ask yourself why it matters that you show or perform your work in this particular context. Make it part of your research and of the work.


 Photo courtesy of the artist.

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