“The Room Where It Happened”
Exhibition Dates: 11 September—11 October, 2020
According to William James, America’s pragmatist philosopher, Truth “happens” to an idea. Ideas are made true by agreement. Truth is a cultural product, a construction.
So then, is the construction of truth a democratic process, the result of popular consent? Or is it the work of experts, scientists, wise people? Or is truth being fabricated by people with power and agendas? Is it being imposed on us like a marketing campaign? Is truth just the object of a conspiracy? Is it just a brand?
Thoughtful people are now claiming that Truth has died, but we know there is no alternative to belief in things.
We must have truth, you say. Confused and with a sense of dread, you feel you are slipping into the twilight zone: You are awake in a world of sleepers, and you are walking. You approach a window of a small building and peer through.
You have found The Room Where It Happened. The Office of Special Plans. The Truth Workshop, where the strings are pulled.
—Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson, 2020
Pierogi is delighted to present a new installation by Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson. The Room Where It Happened is a large-scale, mind-bending diorama depicting a deserted office as the scene of the crime, in which all the evidence has been left out in plain sight. It all unfolds episodically: each layer of cardboard illusion is replaced by yet another propped-up falsehood, alternative fact, or devious conspiracy. For every cultural disaster, political outrage, or mystifying historical wrong turn some evidence of tampering or influence can be found. It’s the paranoid’s vindication. And it’s all true.
Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson have collaborated on installations with text and performance since 2003. This newest work combines their archive (boxes) and library motifs in a forced-perspective stage set they experimented with at Spaces in Cleveland two years ago. The exhibition begins outside the gallery, where it is viewable from the sidewalk through the gallery window, and unfolds in great detail inside the gallery. The gallery and full installation may be viewed by a limited number of visitors at a time and by appointment. We will be observing all CDC health guidelines, including limiting the number of visitors to the gallery at any one time to observe distancing, mask wearing, etc.
This will be Ward Shelley’s eighth exhibition at Pierogi and The Boiler. His performance, installation, and timeline works have been shown widely in Europe and the US. His work was included in Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture at The Museum of Modern Art (NY, NY). His kinetic and interactive sculptural collaborations with Alex Schweder, including: ReActor at OMI International Arts Center (Ghent, NY), In Orbit at The Boiler (Brooklyn, NY), and Your Turn at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, CT) received wide critical praise. Shelley is the recipient of numerous prizes and residency fellowships including the Rome Prize and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, among others. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NY, NY), Whitney Museum of American Art (NY, NY), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna, Austria), and the Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY). (b.1950, Auburn, NY)
Douglas Paulson is an artist whose practice is expansive, weaving together sprawling social projects in public space, to intimate drawings, books, and sound experiments. Collaboration is at the heart of his practice. His work has come to life across NYC and abroad, bringing together people from disparate backgrounds into conversation with each other. Paulson has collaborated with Shelley on a number of previous exhibitions and installations, including: The Felicific Calculus (Pierogi) and The Last Library (SPACES, Cleveland, OH), among others. He and Heidi Neilson developed the inflated interactive installation Menu For Mars Kitchen to prototype food for the Red Planet (The Boiler, Brooklyn, NY). Paulson partnered kids with artists and urban planners to design and build Kitty City, a city for kittens (Flux Factory, NY). He has collaborated with refugees from the Middle East and Africa who have relocated to Germany, Norway, and Israel. He is currently at Socrates Sculpture Park, hosting “Let’s Talk: A Socially Distant Community Conversation,” inviting art viewers, dog walkers, kids and grandparents to weigh in on current events and to pose a question to their neighbors. (b. 1980, Queens, NY)