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Professor to give final performance of 'The Artist is Present' - Feb. 19-20

Inspired by the success of his first exhibit last year, Ken Hassell from the Department of Art & Art History again welcomes the Elon community to join him in an interactive experience this week in Lakeside Dining Hall.

"The Artist is Present" exhibit in February 2013. Associate Professor Ken Hassell (right) brings back the performance this week one final time before his retirement at the end of the academic year.

By Erin Turner '15

"The Artist is Present" returns to Elon University this month as the faculty member behind the exhibit makes one final performance before his retirement.

Students, faculty and staff members are encouraged to attended the Marina Abramovic-inspired performance organized by Associate Professor Ken Hassell in the Department of Art & Art History. The exhibit takes place Feb. 19-20 from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. both days in Lakeside 214.

The performance exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Hassell at hassell@elon.edu or (336) 278-5719.

The performance consists of Hassell sitting in a chair a few feet across from another chair where  participants are invited to sit. The participant and the artist look at one another in silence, each bringing a less encumbered presence to the encounter and, in doing so, experience each other as human in a way that attempts to diminish the traditional boundaries of identity into the right to be in time and space.

“The participant becomes the artist and the artist becomes the participant dispelling hierarchy. Thus, the performance becomes a meditation on taking the time to experience others as well as ourselves in less premeditated, categorical and assumptive ways,” Hassell said. “Each participant should truly try to apply themselves and remain present during their time in the chair. What they bring to the performance and what they leave with should be an individual experience and one that is insightful in terms of assumptions of normativity and what it means to be human.”

Hassell will be retiring from Elon University at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year and said he plans to leave his mark on the community by encouraging individuals to become more open, reflective and mindful.

“The response from last year’s event was exceptional considering its unorthodox concept of what constitutes art and the fact that it required a rather intimate and sustained interaction with the artist,” he said.

More than 100 people, mostly students, participated last year with quite a few remaining in eye contact for 15-20 minutes. Hassell said that is significant in light of the many conversations surrounding contemporary culture's encouragement of short attention spans, lack of focus and unwillingness to engage in contemplation or reflection.

"After the performance, a number of students approached me during my travels across campus and remarked on the significance of their experience and that the university should support more alternative kinds of performances," Hassell said.

Watch the video below from the first performance in February 2013:

Eric Townsend,
2/17/2014 11:15 AM