At Frieze Projects, Toss a Ball, See Tumbleweeds

The ring toss.
The tent within which the piece is set, and outside of which you can hear the strains of an eerie lullaby-type song that lures you in.
Enter the space of this mini circus tent and you come upon a haunting musical performance that's a cross between a 19th-century Parisian shadow play and a cabaret number. Sung in German, the song (the translations are on a white card), opens with the line, "To understand and not to be understood, that is the question."
You might do a double take walking out of the main tent when you see what looks like a patch of tumbleweeds that seem to belong in the Southwest. But all it is is another one of artist Latifa Echakhch's exploration of the globalization of culture.
Inspired by the hospitals and shelters that Randall's Island has been home to throughout the centuries, artist Uri Aran transformed a little blue and white ticket booth into a quasi-examination room with faux doctors and patients to explore cultural representations of doctors. Every two hours, starting at noon, this little shack gets activated by some men and women in scrubs and lab coats. But one man carries a saxophone, while a woman carefully fingers a pile of dog biscuits at the ticket window and jazz blares from two large speakers at either side. Then a child comes out and yells, "I'm a nurse. I'm an engineer," before going back inside and massaging the head of a doctor. If you're lazy, or can't catch this odd bedside practice live, the performances are filmed and projected on screens in the main fair tent.
These carefully folded mirrored objects are placed so discreetly within the trees that you might miss them were you not looking out for them. But within the surprisingly well manicured landscaping surrounding the fair tent, dotted with Japanese maples, lush shade plants and small colorful blossoms there are several. Once you notice one of these hidden reflective surfaces, you'll be looking out for more. These mirrors are a looking glass for an island often overlooked.
Though we arrived outdoors too late to catch the action, at this table, which gets activated between 2-5 p.m., Tim Rollins and the Kids of Survival lead a workshop for youth at which participants are involved in choral painting inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream., using watercolors and ink on Thai mulberry paper to create a large painting collage. The presence of kids at this art fair seems unsuitably warm-and-fuzzy. But that might be a good thing for the harried hordes exiting the fair en masse and barreling towards the ferry.

“At the fair,” said artist Joel Kyack who was wearing yellow overalls, “you acquire things through money and connections, often times or status. And here, it’s just a game of luck.” The winner at his game, “Most Games Are Lost, Not Won,” gets a full-length mirror that’s been transformed by Mr. Kyack with paintings you might see in a biology book. “The respiratory system,” he said pointing to one mirror on the side of the truck with a brown pair of lungs, “the lymphatic system.”

Mr. Kyack was standing in front of a truck that operates like a game truck at a state fair, which is one of eight projects commissioned by Frieze New York in which artists were invited to respond to the environment of Randall’s Island. But unlike the wheeling and dealing going on inside the art fair tent, out here on the banks of the East River, the only way you can get an artwork by Mr. Kyak is by winning one of the games he has set up—a ball drop and a ring toss. And this truck represents the internal workings of the body.

“This is the mouth,” he said pointing to a target with a small black hole, that looked like a game of ski-ball with the target set within a flesh-toned sculpture with a pink orifice.

Ohhh,” someone yelled. We looked over and a man was standing by the side of the truck tossing a small ring that fell into what looked like a big cauldron of blood. “This is a rib-cage splayed open. And then there’s a private lounge in the back that’s like the rectum.” We walked around the truck and there were two small chairs set up in the quasi-darkness with little else.

Mr. Kyack’s work is often centered around the concepts of performance, control, the line between the individual and the community and often involve artful bloody simulations of bodily functions. Full disclosure, The Observer met Mr. Kyack at an art residency program in 2009 where the artist was at the time working on an installation called The Knife Shop. He taught us how to throw knives.

“Running a game is a really unique performative space,” he said. He would know. Growing up, Mr. Kyack’s family had a booth at a country fair. He liked performing at an art fair, where people “aren’t here to play games” and the tone is often serious. The point is to invite people “to enter another dialogue.”

“They become very different,” he said. “The first ball gets thrown and they get excited. Especially if they get close, they’re worked up.” A man in a suit and trenchcoat threw the ball toward the gaping orifice and smiled. “Nice try,” Mr. Kyack said walking over.

Forget about angling for artwork in the throngs in the tent and try your hand at a game of chance on the grass.

Click through for a sampling of some other Frieze Projects commissions.

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