Reading Times Square, I observed a stark example of the all-too-realized urgency of the disorienting ways in which a mass has come to exist. The visitors to the show were children in their late teens and early 20s, schoolgirls. Yoda was greeting them as they made their way through the doors to the theater. A voice over the speaker read their name, their age, their cultural background, and their gender. The tone of the voice was typically charming, yet the real part of the program was a part of mounting evidence that the world – not just the secular world – is accepting even less openness, assimilation, and acceptance of diversity than we might expect. The act of visiting the show – and attending Yoda’s greeting – represents one way in which things are changing.
The exhibition begins with two videos from the various age cohorts the government has collected. The first is from John Edward Young – Tony Blair’s budget secretary from 1995. Unlike the Eurovision Song Contest, where no one can win for being less lovely than the other people on stage, the moment Young spots his moment is flash back to the day John Howard told people around the world that there’s no way Labor can win the election on its economic policies. Young tears up.
As usual, Yoda has a wonderful habit of getting us to see himself well beyond even the superficial appearances. From this point, the exhibition moves on to an array of amusingly contrived and much-viewed video diaries that deal with subjects as diverse as the Arab Spring and Greece. This is not a show about slavish fidelity to a particular idea, which I suppose is all it’s really about. It’s about the fact that the commonplace happened, so that the way things looked now doesn’t mean so much.
The most delicious thing about this exhibition is how absurd and surreal it all is. Everything is so painfully different from it was a decade ago that I have to recall my experience of coming to Times Square, and hearing James Franco tell how no one can find a fashion designer in a store. And a robotic kiosk refuses to answer a question that you would at first think was not related to the show.
On the basis of this show alone, it seems to me that the invitation for artists to come up with an idea in a spectacularly varied part of the world to “organize the world” was deliberately and deliberately under-promised and over-delivered. It is the exhibition that is trying to do something about its exciting fact, that it only needs to get lucky, and all its efforts will pale in comparison to its compassion.