James Lee Byars & The Hudson Institute

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ARC is currently developing a project that will aim to reassess collaborative projects of the past under a new framework. One of the projects that we are interested in seeing a reassessment of is James Lee Byars residency at the Hudson Institute, a think-tank in New York state, for the Art and Technology exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Byars began working at the Hudson Institute in May 1969 up until the end of the year. He would often speak with the Director and co-founder of the Institute Herman Kahn. Those conversations and being in residence  led Byars to four ambiguous points – 1)”The exultation of being in the proximity of extraordinary people. “ 2) “The one hundred most interesting questions in America at this time.”3) “The next step after E=MC2.” 4)”One hundred superlatives about the Hudson Institute.”  Of the four points Byars reduced his project aims to the one hundred most important questions at this moment saying that “there is a terrific prejudice against asking questions.” The artist then wanted Gallup to do a nationwide poll for him determining what those questions might be but the costs proved prohibative. What eventually became one of the outcomes of this line of thinking was a television program called The World Question Center in Belgium where Byars asked viewers to send in their important questions. For ARC one of the most important outcomes was a small work where Byars has teletext tape repeating the mantra “Putting Byars in the Hudson Institute is the artistic product”.  Here the artist exclaims the importance of his engagement with non-artists and reveals that no other outcome is neccesary. This is not to say that product is not important but that the focus on product over communication is often counter intuitive to the collaborative process. Thank you Mr. Byars and the Hudson Institute.

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