“Play With Art” is a Slam Dunk @ Monumenta Leipzig 2018

“I don’t know shit about art,” says the provocative Denis Leo Hegic as he tours you through the Monumenta show in the vast former metalwork-manufacturing factory of Pittlerwerkes here in Leipzig. Partially speaking for his enfant terrible alter ego and for the shock effect of a tour guide telling you this, the exhibition co-curator is also demonstrating a facetious ideal. It’s meant to be a liberating statement that allows those who know little about formal art history or modern art practice to forego the pretentious gatekeepers and their classism and to feel free to interact with the art and form opinions about it nonetheless.

This is one aspect of many that we have always appreciated and valued about graffiti, Street Art – all manner of art in the streets; there is a truly democratic access to persons on the street who come from all walks of life. Through the act of putting work truly out in public to be ignored, accepted, revered, or reviled by anyone who passes, one recognizes that the experience of the art will be received and processed via the filters of each individual regardless of their life path.

One may argue as well that the public art practice possibly merits greater respect for those implied true democratic ideals of accessibility than the art which is selectively chosen after its maker has conformed and legitimized itself to the gatekeeper – one who successfully run the gauntlets of the class system, its taste makers, its money makers, and its assumed academic rigor. Notably for the convenience store clerk or factory worker, they don’t need to cough up 3 hours of their weekly wages for the privilege.

Play With Art. Monumenta Leipzig 2018. Leipzig, Germany. 09-2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Monumenta marries this philosophy of access with the “intelligence of many” at a few power junctures throughout this peeling and vast factory, but none are more interactive and auditorially bombastic as the basketball courts. A large area caged on three sides, a comical mulitiplication that looks like the repetitive output from digitally malfunctioning software – plopping hoops and backboards in doubles and triples up, down, and across the cage – some nearly overlapping one another. They call the installation “Play With Art”.

Play With Art. Monumenta Leipzig 2018. Leipzig, Germany. 09-2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

On some backboards there are pieces of flat art of unspecified origin, each now transformed into a target for ballers of all backgrounds to bounce off to get in the bucket. The wooden floors may recall a school gymnasium for many, especially when they hear the pounding, thumping, semi-rhythmic dribbling. As players pick up balls and begin to ‘play’ with the art installation and the artworks they are shooting for, it is a loud and entertaining full-court press for chaos that reverberates across the walls and across the hand-taped patterns that reflect and refract the traditional diagrammatic guidelines of the game across the floor by artist Guillermo S. Quintana.

Play With Art. Monumenta Leipzig 2018. Leipzig, Germany. 09-2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It is actually about playing with art, not making it so precious,” says Hegic as he yells above the raucous discord. How you interpret the works is up to you, but in this case the viewer is encouraged to think less seriously about the structures that typically deliver the hallowed artworks, and even possibly express athletic aggression toward them. The chaos may not be an end in itself, but these courts may be a means to a less class-based description about art’s merits.

Also you can practice your layup – which is good for basketball players and graffiti writers alike.