Piece of Work
Organizers of Three Recent Arts Festivals Pass on Lessons Learned
K WalkMixed media by Mowry Baden
"Walk Ways" at Arthouse, through Nov. 2
Two rows of steel bars jut up from the floor, angled toward each other with just enough space to walk between them. The piece looks like a flimsily built, bent-metal bridge railing with the handrail ripped off. I quickly pass by, thinking it's a spiny minimalist sculpture, meant to be viewed from a distance. Then I come to the card on the wall that describes the purpose of K Walk.
Artist Mowry Baden created the piece specifically for his wife. The metal tines are spaced to outline her own unique, natural gait, so that she can walk easily through K Walk without touching any of the metal bars. According to Baden, "Others thought they could do the same but were disappointed. They hit nearly every one."
Baden isn't interested in creating work that's to be observed from a distance. He deals in the kinesthetic realm, hoping to draw his viewers into a physical interaction with his pieces that will, in turn, trigger a "neuromuscular" experience. Walking through the bars of K Walk, finding it impossible to avoid collision with the metal spikes that delineate the specific human stride of Baden's wife, I am faced with a physical reality: Each person on this planet has a claim to his or her own singular pattern of movement through space. This discovery is offered in the form of a personal physical experience, not presented as an artist's lofty idea. Baden's genius lies not in the creation of an arresting structure, but in the transformation of that structure into a tool for creating an individual bodily experience.