On Wednesday, July 27 I conducted another iteration of my Foolish Journeys project at El Museo del Barrio, as part of the museum’s ongoing biennial, The (S) Files 2011. The intervention was developed in collaboration with my friend Juan Betancurth, a New York-based performance and installation artist whose work is featured in the biennial. (Juan and I met when he received a tarot reading as a participant in my first performance of Foolish Journeys). Juan’s installation at El Museo, entitled Chamber of Delights, is a re-creation, from childhood memories, of his aunt’s living room in Colombia composed using elements of his studio space in New York.
Appearing to be a lived-in space, filled with used personal objects, family photos, and well-worn furniture made of smooth dark woods, and augmented with soft animal skins and lace doilies, the piece defines an almost oppositional place within the museum’s crisp and colorful modern interior. The Chamber of Delights works neither for nor against the spatial structure of El Museo. Instead, it demands a different form of engagement. The visitor is asked to enter, sit down and touch, and they do–initially with hesitation and eventually with delight.
To add to the interactivity of the space, Juan is inviting various friends to perform in the space, creating situations to engage viewers. In this capacity, we worked together to re-create Foolish Journeys for the space of El Museo.
Visitors to the museum were invited to enter the Chamber of Delights and receive a three-card reading. As part of the reading, each visitor was asked to select a destination within East Harlem (El Barrio), towards which to take a stroll, immediately after the reading. Each destination was a former site of El Museo del Barrio (see map). Each visitor was asked to return from the trip with an “offering”–an object found along the walk–to leave in the installation, as part of the ongoing exhibit. He or she then marked a master map with the location of encounter with the offering. This location, at which the participant is struck by the significance of a discarded object, marks a moment of becoming strange in the city.