We are humbled and honored to announce the Walker Art Center’s acquisition of RO/LU’s piece “New, New Orleans, LA (after Alec Soth)” which was created for our Open Field Residency. It’s our first time in a museum collection and we’re deeply grateful to everyone involved… Alec Soth, Olga Viso, Sarah Schultz, Eric Crosby, Ashley Duffalo… and everyone who participated with the piece too.
In 2012 RO/LU was the Open Field Artist-In-Residence at the Walker. For a few weeks we did our best to take over the whole museum with five different but related projects: Making As Thinking, Attention As Place, Doing As Seeing, Participation As Performance and Learning As Sculpture.
The Attention As Place element attempted, in part, to explore the evolution of our relationships because of the internet, Instagram and the way we increasingly depend on photography to tell us stories. It involved contributions from friends of ours, who we mostly communicate with digitally, as well as a few pieces by us.
Originally, we’d wanted to create a life size version of “New Orleans, LA” (2002) an Alec Soth photograph in the Walker’s Permanent Collection. We wondered about creating a work you could enter rather than just remaking the photograph. We didn’t have the time or resources so we settled for making a diorama of the photo. RO/LU’s Sammie Warren experimented with it in many different ways and we finally arrived at a scene that, when viewed by a camera, looks extremely similar to the original photo.
We asked the Walker to display the original photograph, with an open expanse of wall next to it, so participants could hang their version next to his. With the help of our friend Cameron Wittig, we set up the diorama with a laptop, a printer, a camera and a copy of the Walker’s collection catalog Bits and Pieces, open to the entry about New Orleans, LA.
We wanted the piece to go a bit like this: a participant would look into the diorama with their eye, then an attendant would ask if they were familiar with Soth or his photo, they’d be invited to snap a pic, the image would be printed and then an attendant would walk them about 200 ft away upstairs and around a corner to the wall where they’d hang their image. During the walk, the attendant would ask them about the experience they’d just had and suggest they might think about Instagram, Facebook, etc differently.
We were overjoyed with the amount of exchange the piece created. There were a few weird ones, like the guy who swore we were playing a trick on him: that the photo he took wasn’t the one that was printed. And there were a few people who took selfies instead of taking a pic of the diorama scene…which was actually really interesting in a way. We’re excited about the “becoming” that’s inherent to this piece. That the participant photo collection will get bigger each time it’s displayed. I could go on and on about the layers of meaning and ideas that emerged through the work and interaction.
Alec was totally supportive and, maybe this shouldn’t be surprising but, of all the participants, his photo of the diorama looked the most like the original.
Please enjoy the time and space.