Project Series 5: Lynne Berman and Kathy Chenoweth
Lynne Berman and Kathy Chenoweth's installation The Distratic Institute for Modu-Port Studies Presents: the Pomona College Beta Test, exhibition catalogue/ operating manual, and accompanying "work sites" at various locations around The Claremont Colleges all reflect the artists' provocative take on everyday life. Based in Los Angeles, the collaborative team of Lynne Berman and Kathy Chenoweth uses the form of an interactive installation to address issues of work, mobility, absurdity, and the processes of everyday life and art. Their project focuses on the rhythms, rituals, and routines endemic to middle-class American society. A merging of scientific process and artistic performance, their work is infused with a manic but earnest sensibility.
For much of the past decade, artists Lynne Berman and Kathy Chenoweth have been choreographing, performing, and documenting a unique series of chaotic, multimedia events. Since 1993, Berman and Chenoweth have used the forum of the "Distratic Institute" to explore the paradoxical nature of work, especially mindless, repetitive, and often futile tasks. Inspired by Buster Keaton, Rube Goldberg, among others, they invented the term "Distratic" to name their excessively orchestrated work process and the resulting breakdown that may occur through the absurd procedures. The duo's "Distratic Institute" uses the physical gestures of work as the subject for research, manifested through structures, performance, video, drawings, and interactions with the audience, designated as "guest workers."
The current installation is the latest 'version' to be manifested in a public setting. The pair created a semi-serious world, inventing their own words, mission, goals, and ultimately, world view. Tongue-in-cheek, the team lists the history of the "Distratic Institute" in the catalogue (selected excerpts follow):
"The Family of Distratic Organization, founded in 1993, is the foremost think tank for Distratic thought."
"In 1994, the Distratic Center for Budget Crapilene developed and tested the first Patenet, a Distratic factory-office- playground-computer."
"In 1997, the Distratic Center for Information Mismanagement presented a significantly upgraded Patenet to analyze the substances and fragments of the Distratic Center's entire production from 1993 to 1997."
"Now, in 2000, the Organization has rallied and coalesced its forces as the Distratic Institute for Modu-Port Studies to develop and institute this dynamic new trend in the Distratic." Once the viewer picks up the "instruction guide" and enters the space of the gallery, they enter into the world of the Distratic. In the main gallery, the viewer encounters an elegant structure composed of aluminum rods lashed together with rubber strips placed in intentionally obscure configurations on top of sheets of colored paper and vinyl. In the artists' lexicon, this room is a Work-Station, or Modu-Port, designed for worker interaction and education. Images of workers demonstrating various tasks are depicted on the wall and on the videos. A processing place, this room is where the guest workers enter the way station, and become part of the Team's test. A blue vinyl rectangle on the floor indicates the port-of-entry where workers slip into work clothes.
The second, smaller gallery contains two elements. The first encountered is a work station where the general public and the workers may read materials pertaining to the Institute's activities and where they add input into worker's files. The majority of this space consists of "Management" quarters, off-limits to both the public and the workers. This smaller Modu-Port is the site where the Berman and Chenoweth, the "Management," do research into Modu-Port studies, process the information generated by the workers, and document it in the form of a large drawing on the floor.
The artists worked in the Gallery two days a week, Thursday and Saturday afternoons. Eight off-site Work-Sites were scheduled for areas around The Claremont Colleges and the Botanic Garden for which students, faculty, and staff signed up as Guest Workers.