ICA Hosts The World as a Stage

From February 1st through April 27th, Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art will host The World as a Stage, a media- and genre-spanning exhibition first designed for the Tate Modern museum in London, England and displayed there from October to January. It joins Momentum 9: Kader Attia, Bourgeois in Boston, and Accumulations: More Than the Sum of Their Parts in the current rotation of temporary exhibitions at the ICA.

Taken from one of William Shakespeare’s best-known plays (As You Like It), The World as a Stage aspires—as the exhibition’s coordinating curator in Boston, Carole Anne Meehan, explains—to examine “how a sense of theatre or spectacle has had an impact on the museum experience, redefining the roles of spectator and participant.” The exhibition’s scope—which has been reproduced for its Boston iteration—surveys sculpture, installation, performance, and participatory works and events designed for specific integration within The World as a Stage.

Preceding the public opening, Meehan will host a gallery talk on Thursday, January 31st. Joining her for the presentation will be artist Mario Ybarra, Jr., and Arthur Nauzyciel, artistic director of the Centre Dramatique National in Orléans, France, and director of the American Repertory Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. According to the ICA’s programming information, the discussion will cover the principal organizing ideas behind the exhibit, and includes a preview of the installed exhibition.

In their catalogue essay, Tate curators Jessica Morgan and Catherine Wood emphasize how themes surrounding the negotiations between space, object, and viewer are central to the exhibition experience, suggesting that “The World as a Stage will examine recent attempts to eliminate the art object entirely by turning the institutional space into a changeable and constantly performed or staged arena in which the audience is central as player or performer.” They go on to describe how many works overtly participate in the exhibition’s spectator-centrism, including Jeppe Hein’s moving mirrors sculpture Rotating Labyrinth, Rita McBride’s installation of hemispheric theatre seating Arena, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s environmental piece Séance de Shadows II, which incorporates viewer shadows into the work—a gallery space flooded with ambient blue light.

Morgan and Wood organized the original exhibition for its London debut, and chose to include both new and existing works in presenting “the first exhibition at Tate Modern to bring the realm of performance into dialogue with gallery-based work.” They further describe how—within its mission to breach genre boundaries—the exhibition takes up a central thrust of cultural diversity, featuring sixteen artists from eight nations on three continents whom they hope will “reinvigorate the rich historical relationship between visual art and theatre.”

The World as a Stage represents the first joint venture undertaken by the ICA and the Tate Modern, and will feature several family-oriented Saturday programs produced within the ICA’s Play Date series. Events include There/Not There, featuring choreography by Robert Battle and a dance performance from the students of the Boston Arts Academy, and Good Theater Cheap, during which visitors will be invited to construct their own props to join the Rough and Tumble theatre group for a series of guerilla performances throughout the day.