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To mark Inauguration Day, the Outsider Art Fair (OAF) in New York City will initiate a weekend-long series of readings of the words of President Barack Obama on January 20.
Titled “The Barack Obama Readings,” the project will consist of three sessions at which fair attendees, invited guests, and members of the public can recite selected quotes from the outgoing President’s speeches, interviews, and other appearances. Fifty-six passages of varying lengths have been chosen by the fair’s owner, gallerist Andrew Edlin, and are posted online at the OAF’s website. People are also welcome to choose their own lines by Obama and submit them to email@example.com to schedule a reading.
“We knew a year in advance that OAF would be during Inauguration Day, but we couldn’t have foreseen this scenario in a million years!” Edlin told Hyperallergic. “We felt that as a leading cultural event, we had to acknowledge how surreal and odd this has all been. Celebrating President Obama as a phenomenal leader by using only his words seemed like a proactive, positive, and even patriotic note to hit.”
The readings will take place in two-hour sessions, from 3 to 5pm on each day that the OAF is open to the public. Anyone interested in participating may email the fair to sign up; their time slot also gives them free entry to the otherwise ticketed ($20 for one day) event. Asked why he decided to hold a project like this in the midst of an art fair, Edlin replied, “Doing something performative is in keeping with the fair’s spirit and is also a nod to other trailblazers who have reacted to controversial political times. ‘The Barack Obama Readings’ will give people an outlet to express themselves, sort of like in an old-style, public square kind of way.”
Inauguration Day is shaping up to be highly charged across the country. Using the abbreviation #J20, some organizers have called for a general strike, while #DisruptJ20 is planning more specific resistance efforts to President-elect Donald Trump. The art community has become involved, too, with a group of artists, critics, curators, and dealers proposing a #J20 art strike. (Hyperallergic is commissioning a series of essays about the strike, the first of which was written by Coco Fusco and published yesterday.)
“The Barack Obama Readings” make clear that the OAF will not be closing on Inauguration Day. Edlin referred to this decision in his comments to Hyperallergic, saying, “While there are art world insiders leading the charge to close on Friday, we thought better to show up than shut down.”
“The Barack Obama Readings” will take place at the Outsider Art Fair (Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) on January 20, 21, and 22, from 3 to 5pm.