In their project A talking parrot, a high school drama class, a Punjabi TV show, the oldest song in the world, a museum artwork, and a congregation’s call to action circle through New York, artists Lenka Clayton and Jon Rubin gathered a diverse group of local communities in a complex system of social and material exchange. Following a period of extensive research, the artists identified six very different public sites that lie along an imaginary circle drawn through Harlem, the South Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan’s Upper East Side. These spaces served as the project’s co-creators and venues. Each venue worked with the artists to select an important aspect of their identity—referenced in the project’s full title— which rotated among the six locations over a period of six months from March 1st through August 30th, 2017.
For example, when the oldest song in the world left the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World to travel around the circle, it was sung by Guggenheim Museum staff in the galleries daily during March; performed by the choir at St. Philip’s Church in Harlem during April; played at a pitch only audible to dogs at Pet Resources in the Bronx during May; interpreted by the student band at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens during June; and broadcast on TV shows at Jus Broadcasting in Queens during July.
These were just a few of the unique collaborations created by Clayton and Rubin’s project, challenging each partner site to repeatedly accept and care for the others’ value systems, public functions, or social character within its own routines. By encouraging moments of mutual cooperation, . . . circle through New York created connections between sites that are usually separated by cultural, economic, geographic, or circumstantial boundaries. At the same time, the project aimed to engage audiences at each location, whose daily lives would be fundamentally—and playfully—altered as they encountered this work of art. Clayton and Rubin’s project forged a shifting network of social relations founded on quiet humor, empathy, and the power of art to transform reality.
. . . circle through New York was commissioned as part of Guggenheim Social Practice, an initiative made possible by a major grant from the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations.