“Work in Progress: Considering Utopia,” currently on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco is a small exhibition in which Oded Hirsch, Ohad Meromi, and Elisheva Biernoff offer their considerations on utopian myth. There is a tactile, field trip-ish quality to the show, where many of the works engage their audience, or outright require input, to become fully functional art works.
Ohad Meromi’s sculptural installations and Elisheva Biernoff’s mural and magnets installation offer a playful Montessori style presentation of utopian ideals. Fitting, as childhood is the natural match to Utopia ideals, when all situations are simultaneously plausible and imaginary when engaged in at playtime, and fairness feels like the natural order of things. Meromi’s central installation has a Jim Henson meets Greek Amphitheater vibe with costumes and staging used during different activations.
Biernoff’s mural has similar leanings, which magnetic iconography viewers must use to fill in the landscape of imagined Utopia. The result is a jumbled Whole Foods style pastoral scene, with many rabbits. The issue seems to be the decidedly anti-utopian inequality of talent, which Biernoff has plenty of, but is lost when her piece farmed out for completion. If the goal of Utopia is for everyone to be involved, then the piece does a great job of showing how messy that can be.
Oded Hirsch’s two videos and five photographs seem to be the only non viewer activated pieces in the show, though their mechanics and underlying themes of cooperation and teamwork, inherently give the viewer an implicit sense of “pitching in” just by watching. The stunning, cinematic production of the images, matched by the utilitarian, seemingly pointless tasks depicted are able to capture both the shining beacon of cooperative, utopian ideals along with the mechanized de-humanization that often results from their implementation.
This exhibition is on view through January 20th, 2014.
-Contributed by Kathryn McKinney