This past Friday, the MFA, Boston hosted Urban Play: Playing Data, a four-part outdoor performance led by artists Tita Salina (b.1973) and Irwan Ahmett (b. 1975) on the surrounding areas of the Museum’s campus. These happenings were the creation of a month-long artists’ residency in Boston. Originally from Jakarta, Salina and Ahmett are interested in social issues and public intervention. Their work asks and transforms the viewers’ understanding and awareness of the cities and environments they exist in. With projects in Asia and Europe, this is Salina and Ahmett’s first work created for a U.S. city.
Each happening of the interactive outdoor performance was based on data garnered from a poll of questions answered by the surrounding community; then, the artists created visual representations of this data with the public’s help.
Eat the Wish focused around the question asking what you wished for on your birthday. They turned the data collected into a pie chart that was recreated in multicolored frosting on a birthday cake, which was eaten by all the participants of the performance. The cake represented the wishes and hopes of the community and by taking a part of these wishes, the audience becomes a participant in these different asks.
The Mile Pole asked 30 participants to measure, in miles, how far they traveled to the museum and by what mode of transportation (walking, bike, public transportation or private car) based on a map. Then you were asked to pick up a colored ribbon, corresponding to your mode of transport. For example, if you traveled by public transportation, you choose an orange ribbon. The ribbons were all rolled up around the large Native American statue at the Huntington entrance of the MFA. Then, when the artists signaled you to begin, you’d take 2 steps to each mile you traveled. Once you hit your mark, the ribbon was pinned down and created a “starburst-like” design, showcasing the different ways and distances museum visitors traveled to get there that day. The Mile Pole visually displayed the geographic access of the museum’s audiences and represents it in an interactive way.
Salina & Ahmett included the community’s response and interaction in all four-performance pieces and then translated them into a visual performance. By engaging the community’s input, each work is unique to the city, which creates them. It also supports new audiences and participates in local issues by visually representing them.
The performance corresponded with the Megacities Asia exhibition at the MFA. As citizens of Jakarta, which hosts 10.1 million people and 1/5 of Indonesia’s urban population, Salina and Ahmett focused on themes echoed in the exhibition, which closes July 17. Look out for the other iterations of this series, Urban Play, which addresses local spaces, group and issues that are neglected or taken for granted.