I’ll be honest: much of contemporary conceptual art exhausts me. It’s as though the artist’s goal is to separate his- or herself from people in the same way that teenagers hoard obscure bands. Not so with British artist Lenka Clayton—her refreshing body of work depends on human interaction. Lenka is a magpie of experiences, often collecting materials from participants in sets of 100. When not observing gathered narratives, Lenka creates pleasantly-disruptive experiences, re-imagines everyday objects, and considers the role of the artist-mother. Here’s a few favorite pieces:
“One Brown Shoe” according to the artist:
One hundred married couples in twelve countries responded to an instruction to each make a single brown shoe using materials found around their homes. They were asked not to discuss the project with their partners and to make their shoe in secret. The shoes were revealed only once both were completed. The resulting one hundred mismatched pairs are depicted in this limited-edition boxed catalogue.
“Moons From Next Door” is a collection of dogs’ chewed toys, “re-imagined and photographed as planets”. What makes this humble little series special is the presentation: the photo slides are viewed through a Viewmaster, a perfect metaphor for child-like wonder.
“Mysterious Letters” is a collaboration between Lenka and Michael Crowe in which they intend to send a letter to each household in the world. So far they’ve sent letters to over 2,700 homes, and will often travel to the recipients’ towns in order to reference specific details.
I tend to dislike anonymous note-leaving/letter-sending because the messages are often saccharine: “you are beautiful”, etc (yes, I have a cold, dead heart). These letters are special because they are funny and irreverent, and I can imagine the recipients being both delighted and confused.
Below: “63 Objects taken from my Son’s Mouth”
For three months the sound of the distant domestic world of my home and eight week old baby was transmitted via live audio feed to an empty gallery in the Carnegie Museum of Art…
For the duration of the exhibition I was on maternity leave from my work as an artist. In exchange for the sound broadcast, the museum publicly paid me a weekly maternity allowance of around $200, exactly equivalent to the government allowance for freelance artists I would have been eligible for were I living at home in the U.K. rather than in America where there is no paid federal maternity leave.
And finally, bless the poor soul who had to help Lenka organize her groceries alphabetically by store description:
Lenka Clayton now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she was named Emerging Artist of the Year 2013. Check out Lenka’s website for a whole slew of interesting projects.