• Welcome
    Welcome to the Oliver Herring | Task blog for the June 28, 2008 Task performance at The Seattle Public Library.

    Feel free to leave comments by clicking on the comment link at the end of any post.

    Task participants: to receive access to post images, video, or your thoughts about the Task performance, email info@fryemuseum.org.

  • Task Photos - Submitted by B Strand

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Oliver Herring | Task

Oliver Herring | Task
The Seattle Public Library
Saturday, June 28

Artist Oliver Herring’s improvisational performance Task brings together a group of thirty-five strangers of diverse ages (14-82), professions (house-cleaner, retired judge, stay-at-home mom, barista…), and backgrounds to explore and experiment for one working day at The Seattle Public Central Library in downtown Seattle. The audience for this version of Task, if it is a usual summer day at the library, will be 7,000 people, making this performance as dynamic for the public as for the participants.

Task’s participatory focus creates opportunities for the diverse group of participants to interact with one another and express aspects of their individual personalities that might otherwise be hidden. The event begins with the participants choosing and acting out simple tasks provided by Herring. When these first artist-assigned actions are completed, participants invent their own tasks, placing them in a “task pool” for selection by their fellow performers.

Task’s open-ended, participatory structure creates almost unlimited opportunities for this group of people to interact with one another and their environment. After outlining some basic ground rules, Herring opens Task to improvisation and does not interfere with the activities on stage. Therefore, the performance’s flow depends on the kinds of tasks created by the participants, and how they decide to utilize seemingly mundane props such as markers, toilet paper, blankets, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, ladders, chairs and tables.

Oliver Herring | Task is presented in Seattle by the Frye Art Museum, The Seattle Public Library, On the Boards, and Tacoma Art Museum.

Responses from SHFT program students at the Frye

Moved from the forum:

SHFT – Student Response
Posted in Forum

jaredf1 week, 2 days ago
This is a thread to collect the opinions and ideas from the SHFT students that attended Task today.

1 week, 2 days ago

I was unfortunately disappointed in the rather half-hearted interactive attempts by the performers and staff of Task. I thought that what WAS already interactive there was a rather mediocre attempt at pleasing the crowd, not actual real performance or integration on the part of the Task performers. In essence the whole spectacle felt like it was trying to be interactive only in the sense that it had the interactive feel to it, not necessarily that it was really open art. Tasks were displayed on a large screen in between the table and the coffee shop. I asked whether or not they were for performers or just for everyone, and was given the answer “sorry, just for the performers,” and this was a real turn-off. It almost seems like the performers were in a sense taunting the audience by even having observers in the first place, and not a project where everyone in the Library was involved. After a while of this I began to get bored, indeed wondering what I was even doing there anymore, and everything felt sort of half-hearted or even TOO open. I don’t have any doubt that the project was supposed to be part-open part-closed, but it felt like it could use far more interactivity to the point of a completely open public project, otherwise as art it feels almost like it is lying about its form. I hope that in the future, the whole thing may be open to the public. That screen could be used for the public, not just to almost taunt the observing public. And please, no lame attempts at public integration such as “write this down, then make someone else write it down,” that’s sort of insulting. I mean, spam in the real world can be art on its own, but as a crowd-pleasing tool it is exceedingly dull. Everyone does it, of course, that’s how the public works, but there’s more to it than that. I’m sure a cool project like this is deserving of an adoring crowd, and that’s what will come with interactivity. No more akwardness or sort of dodgy “hey, you’re an observer and so you merit less creative tasks than we do” vibes that I’m getting.

On a different note, interactivity aside, I thought the whole thing had a lot of great ideas. Certainly there’s room to grow, but it’s good improvisational art (I mean, it IS art, don’t get me wrong). The concept is fantastic, whether the actual product is or not. I would love to have an improv space like this for a longer period of time, perhaps going so far as a landmark, like an improv building where there aren’t any restrictive observers and performers are people who can just wander in off the street (with some structure to make it fun for everyone, of course). Love the idea, disappointed by the outcome. A little tweaking and you have a great project on your hands. Feel proud of yourselves for that much. I mean, you gave a fantastic, fun effort. It just felt like it needed a little something. See what you can do about that, and I’ll gladly come and take part.

1 week, 2 days ago

The idea of having a bunch of artists from all over the world meet together to share their ideas to the public, seemed like a nice and interesting one, but the execusion was horrible. A lot of it was just watching the artists play around as if they had no audience. It was totally unproffesional. If they expect the public to take their work seriously and be engaged in their work, then it’s their job to engage them. I felt as though I was watching others have fun from the side lines. It would have been great if it was actually interactive, and it seemed like it would be simple enough to get the public engaged in the festivities. I enjoyed observing the artists work for about five minutes before I got bored of seeing people mess around and pretty much ignore the fact that anyone was watching. In short I would suggest not going to see this exhibit next time it comes around. It might be a nice stop if you’re stopping by to check out a book, but it’s nothing big that you’ll want to go out of your way to see.

1 week, 2 days ago

I thought that TASK was extremely interesting in how the tasks all seemed so random, but they were actually just fun!! I also noticed that the volunteers were all visibly having fun, but they were still in a work mode. The only thing I didn’t like was when I kept getting the “copy this 5 times and give it to five people…” over and over and over… I think it should have been to give it to five people that were walking through the front door, so new people would get it. The person I watched most often was a perfect example of how most of the performers acted. She was serious about her job, but still having fun. She courteously explained the whole project to those who asked, and some who didn’t! Overall, I thought TASK was a really cool and also creative project.

1 week, 2 days ago

great times, its pretty much wat i said

1 week, 2 days ago

I thought that “task” was a really good idea and there was a lot to see and a lot going on. it was really cool that everyone could join in and do the tasks too. it was cool how different all the tasks were and there were a bunch of really random things going on at the same time. the only thing i didn’t like was the “copy this 5 times and give to 5 different people” thing because it got REALLY annoying after a while. it was a good idea, but it kept going on and on and you would get a bunch of the same papers that you had to give to everyone. the person that i watched the most was really into the tasks and seemed like he was really interested in what was going on. when people asked him questions, he answered them really directly and he definatly knew what he was talking about. overall, i think it was a really good idea and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

1 week, 2 days ago

you are the coolioest!!!!!!!!

1 week, 2 days ago

you go pigfrog!!!!!!! i totally agree!!!!!!!!!!

1 week, 2 days ago

I thought this was a wonderful idea and it was really interesting to watch and participate in. I like the drama feel to it, how you could take your task and twist it to fit your look at whatever you were doing. The one thing that I thought got just a little annoying was the “this” because you could give them to anyone and more than one to a person, so I ended up having way more than just one and it got annoying to do all of them. I really liked the idea of having pretty much no idea of what you were doing, and making it what you thought you should be doing. I think it would be a cool idea to do this again and involve the regular people more, the people that are just walking around. But I loved the feel of the whole thing and having something to do all the time, I thought it was really cool to watch happen.

1 week, 2 days ago

hi abbee you’re awsome!

1 week, 2 days ago

I thought that this idea was very interesting, and fun. What I didn’t like was that the spectaters were not allowed to take tasks from the task box. We should have been able to do tasks strait from the Task box, not just from the Task participants. I wanted to do some good tasks, not just other peoples’. I watched Betsy in a fashon show, building a cardboard racecar track, and playing beach ball at a beach party. She is very clownish!

1 week, 2 days ago

When i went to the library today i did not expect to see a man dressed up in cardboard and acting like a monster, at first i was a little confused but eventually i understood it was not about acting weird or preforming incredibly hard tasks, its about having fun and tricking your friends

1 week, 2 days ago

At one point i was asked to copy a message five times which realy pissed me off but after that it was all good fun. Like being the top of a human peiramid and getting into a toilet paper fight, so it was fun.

1 week, 1 day ago

I agree that “This”, the virus-task, was a self-propagating flop. One of the teens-Enatai-said it best “a chain-mail idea COULD be art, but in this instance it was just irritating.” Overall I appreciated the experience. Although not because I was impressed by what the participants were doing necessarily, but rather because of the awkwardness and confusion I felt as a spectator. There was a messiness and inconsistency with understanding the role of interactiveness and audience participation. As an observer who was curious and inquired about inclusion you were denied, but then at times a participant would pull you into the performance; somehow you felt obliged to “play”, as if you were wrong to deny them back. This tension, plus my trying to resolve what I truly felt about the performers’ actions (stupid, funny, lame, poetic, boring) was the thought-provoking moment for me.

Flickr images posted by B Strand

B Strand, on July 1st, 2008 at 6:03 pm Said:

I took about a hundred photos near the end of the day. They can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/strand/tags/task/

Videos from University of Maryland Task

Here are some videos of recent Task performance at the University of Maryland this year.