By Henry Murphy
As the fellow for public programs at MoMA, part of my focus is working with artists to develop experimental programs that position the Museum as a resource for the public, artists, and “non-artists” alike. This season, I worked with artist Wafaa Bilal to develop a two-day public workshop, Dynamic Encounters: Experiments in Engagement to develop, execute, and present what Bilal calls an “open-ended performance” workshop that became a space for experimentation not only for participants but for Bilal and the Museum as well.
After the workshop, I had the opportunity to speak with Bilal about his experience of the workshop and its intersection with his practice as an artist and an educator. He was “pleasantly surprised” by participants’ responses to what he admits was a challenge. “We ended up luckily with really creative people,” Bilal said. Most participants ended up executing their performances on the second day of the workshop. “So within one day they were able to go to the public, perform it, document it, and come back to talk about it. That was a lot of ask people for what was really a period of one day.”
For the program, he led participants through a process to develop and execute their own experiments in “open ended performance.” Using MoMA’s Archives as source material, Bilal presented a historical narrative of performance, drawing from the massive Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives. This is a history that Bilal became deeply interested in himself after his own engagement with what he calls “dynamic encounters” or in his words “a platform, a physical or virtual platform” for engagement in performance. “The hierarchy of artist and participant changes to become more democratic. And the artist’s role becomes the initiator of that platform.”
Though the goal of the workshop was to allow participants to experiment as initiators of this platform, I somewhat jokingly suggested to Bilal that the workshop was not unlike a dynamic encounter itself. Bilal considered this comparison a legitimate one, saying that the open-endedness of teaching “falls right into