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Where this year's Biennial goes out on a limb is in the decision to devote a separate venue to shared social experiences defined as artworks. These include a 24-hour dance marathon, a Gypsy-themed feast and a slumber party. Momin and Huldisch say this kind of evanescent "event art" is another manifestation of the recoil from the market, and that it's so widespread across the U.S. that no survey show can ignore it. To accommodate this, for its first three weeks, the Biennial is spilling over to the Park Avenue Armory, a Victorian brick pile a few blocks from the museum that offers room after room of wood-paneled chambers with brass chandeliers and mounted moose heads. In other words, it's a party space. In one of the oaky rooms, the Los Angeles artist Eduardo Sarabia has opened a tequila bar. He made the blue-and-white-ceramic bar stand. He made the bottles. He even made the tequila. The press materials explain that it's not just a bar but an installation that "celebrates collaborative dialogue and community." In other words, a bar. You provide the hangover, your very own contribution to the "social performance" artwork.
Even evanescent events have a kind of art-history pedigree. Dada, the anti-art phenomenon that grew out of disgust with World War I, was as much a café phenomenon as it was an art movement. And more recently there has been Rirkrit Tiravanija, the Thai artist best known for cooking and serving meals for visitors at his gallery shows, at which the art was the shared experience of the meal. To serve and nourish, and to reflect on it while you are doing it, in a world that's gotten used to performance art--maybe that can be art too. But to party? We'll see. I've practiced that art myself. I had a great time, but I doubt that I did anything memorable. Or if I did, I can't remember it.
Steady Art Beat Check out a video view of the Whitney Biennial hosted by Richard Lacayo at time.com