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If you are attending the Hirshhorn 80s gala party this weekend (which we feel is a pretty strong weekend plan) here is a few things you need to know:

  • Jennifer Rubell will want you to play with your art, no matter how fancy this situation supposedly is
  • Jennifer Rubell will want Erasure playing at some point (if not several points) of the night

Over here at BYT, we are looking forward to it all.

It has been a decade or so since Rubell brought one of her immersive, food based installations to DC. While she has shown some of her other work in the city recently (most notably/recently the much-talked-about nutcracker in the No Man’s Land exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts) these big performance projects, in her own words “need time”. “These are always such a massive undertaking”, she notes, “You have to wait for the right moment, the right museum, the right occasion”. The 2018 Hirshhorn gala is a perfect alignment of all three, not only because she “loves the Hirshhorn as a museum AND a space” but also because she got to build on her existing friendship with Jeff Koons, this year’s honoree, who is the inspiration for her dessert based piece.

When we ask what does it feel like to make art inspired by someone else, she says, in this case, it was easy. “I used to work for Jeff, and he is the single most influential artist in my life. I am directly and explicitly always inspired by him”. Their relationship which started in the early 90s, during his “Made in Heaven” period, has always made her understand that “Jeff’s work comes from a place of tremendous pleasure and joy“, making it perfect for celebratory occasions such as this one.

Rubell’s past installations have invited guests to smash and eat Jeff Koons-inspired chocolate bunnies, pluck dripping walls of glazed donuts, throw pie into her face in order to explore consent, and eat their way through a padded cell of cotton candy. This weekend’s occasion calls for 30 performers, and a take-over of Hirshhorn’s entire second floor. Scale, especially at this level, is its own medium. And she wants things to get messy. “I have been doing a deep dive into the circus for the last four years”, says Rubell, “and the performers come from that world. These are not actors, they are not scripted, they are being MOST THEMSELVES”

Why food?

To Rubell, food is the most natural medium for achieving greater intimacy and for altering the viewer’s relationship with art. Over the course of her career, she has work in “pretty much all the mediums, but she keeps coming back to food”.

Part of the reason why is the interactivity. She wants to “blur the line between the art and the viewer” and “eliminate the passive appreciation”, which she is quick to add ‘ has no place in what I am doing”. You can’t help BUT touch the food. Humans are programmed to touch the food as much as they are programmed to NOT touch the art. When the two become one, something interesting happens. And that’s what Rubell is here for. And frankly, you should be as well.

Photo courtesy of Jason Schmidt

 Hirshhorn’s Gala 80s afterparty is this Saturday, May 12th. Details and tickets here.