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New Museum Exhibition, "Project Series 44: The Bureau Of Experimental Speech And Holy Theses," Opens Nov. 1

BESHT poster

“Project Series 44: The Bureau Of Experimental Speech And Holy Theses” will be on view from November 1 through December 16, 2012, at the Pomona College Museum of Art, in Claremont. The opening events will take place on Thursday, November 1, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and will include a lecture by Adam Overton, a performance by G. Douglas Barrett, and a Diction-for-Dollars Open-Mic. Additional events occur weekly, please visit for more information.

Adam Overton’s newest consortium, The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses (BESHT), is an experiment in public address, exploring the commingling of speech, authority and performance. Visitors will witness the artists, writers, performers and designer of BESHT engaging in various forms of rhetorical play, ranging from dictation to meditation to proclamation. The exhibition and related projects will feature a series of weekly events that temporarily convert the Pomona College Museum of Art’s project space into an experimental public speaking hall. During the rest of the week, BESHT will serve as a reading room and Free Speech Auditorium with an open-mic and podium for adventurous students, faculty and visitors. All BESHT proceedings will be broadcast online, and a weekly newspaper publication, conceptualized with and designed by Tanya Rubbak, will accompany the exhibition.

“Project Series 44” complements the exhibition “John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures” (also on view until December 16, 2012) in its unique focus on collaborative practices and experimental strategies. John Cage was well-known for performing his lectures, many of which were composed using chance procedures. The BESHT project is also working closely with several departments on campus, including the Pomona College Art Department and Pitzer College’s Intercollegiate Media Studies.

About the Free Speech Auditorium and the Diction-for-Dollars Open Mic

The BESHT Free Speech Auditorium will be available for the Claremont Colleges community to use throughout regular gallery hours (Tuesday through Sunday, 12–5 p.m.) starting November 1st. Students, professors, classes, clubs, student groups and gallery visitors are invited to use the space during this time for their public speaking needs: lectures, artist talks, class presentations, soliloquies, poetry readings, debates, rants, he-said/she-saids, and more. All proceedings within the museum’s project space will be broadcast live via the Museum website for the duration of BESHT. 

As an additional component, Art After Hours at the Pomona College Museum of Art (Thursdays, 5-11 p.m.) will institute an experimental Diction-for-Dollars Open-Mic shortly before and after the evening’s official BESHT proceedings. During this Open-Mic, students, faculty and others will have the opportunity to earn $1-per-minute if they dare to stand up and be heard.

About BESHT and Adam Overton

Since graduating in 2005 with an M.F.A. from the California Institute for the Arts, Overton has organized projects that have ranged from the artist collective Signify, Sanctify, Believe (formed with fellow artists Tanya Rubbak and Claire Cronin) to the experimental meditation center of los angeles (a group dedicated to playful artist-led meditation).These kinds of projects are often referred to as “social practice,” a term describing trans-disciplinary art practices that focus on social interaction as a means of community involvement and public engagement.

Despite his role as primary organizer of BESHT, Overton will frequently turn over the spotlight to fellow artists and museum visitors. In extending an invitation to participate to more than a dozen other artists—G. Douglas Barrett, Carol Cheh, The Eternal Telethon, Johnnie JungleGuts, Elana Mann, Anna Mayer, The People’s Microphony Camerata, Hannah Rachel Pivo, Tanya Rubbak, Mathew Timmons, and UNFO (The Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization), among others, Overton is providing them with what he describes as a “platform” for their own artistic concerns, while simultaneously guiding them to explore the issues BESHT will address—primarily speech, power and performance.

Overton frames elements of BESHT—especially the Open-Mic—in connection to the Cageian idea of indeterminacy, in which composers leave aspects of their scores open to the determination of individual performers. In practicing indeterminacy, Overton embraces risks associated with the unknown, and with the potentially irreverent or undisciplined performer, a subject of much Post-Cageian debate. In light of this, he poses the questions, “Are we going to fully embrace indeterminacy or not? What are the pitfalls of that?” His conclusion, that “Post-Cageian [thought] suggests you have to take that chance,” is taken out of the realm of the conceptual and into the reality of the Pomona College community through BESHT.

About Pomona College Museum of Art

The Project Series, organized by Museum Senior Curator Rebecca McGrew, presents Southern California artists in focused exhibitions. A catalogue accompanies each exhibition. The Project Series is supported in part by the Pasadena Art Alliance. The exhibition of The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses is the 44th in the Pomona College Museum of Art’s Project Series.

The Pomona College Museum of Art is located at 330 N. College Avenue, Claremont. The Museum is open to the public free of charge Tuesday through Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursday, from noon to 11 p.m. For more information, call (909) 621-8283 or visit the Museum’s website.