Who has the freedom to move, and why? Who has never been free to move at all? In her participatory artwork Embodied Sensations, artist Amanda Williams considers these questions—and the transformation of both public and virtual space during the global pandemic. At a moment when COVID-19 has reshaped how we move, and how we relate to one another, Williams examines the stark inequities and systemic injustices that underlie such shifts. She asks us to reflect on control and freedom, isolation and community, prejudice and violence, love and fear.
The installation in the Marron Atrium is composed of furniture that was removed from around the Museum to facilitate social distancing. By bringing these items back into the Museum’s center, Williams points to the ways in which everyday objects that once seemed welcoming are now forbidden to touch—and imbued with a sense of risk.
Anyone can interact with the installation, through in-person performances or digital participation. An online survey invites audiences to think about four keywords—care, knowledge, access, and power—and their responses will, in turn, generate instructions for physical movement. These instructions are then projected on the walls of the Atrium for participants to carry out, creating an exchange between online and on-site, virtual and physical.
As each visitor interprets the movements differently, navigating the stacks of furniture and social distancing protocols, their participation—their physical sensations—becomes part of the artwork itself. Through this exchange, the work forces us to confront a society in which some have never had to experience isolation and immobility, while others have had to endure these constraints their entire lives, due to disability, housing insecurity, gender, sexuality, race, or mental health.
Take an anonymous survey—and your responses will be used to create new participatory performances at MoMA each week.
Register to be part of a performance at MoMA. Performances are free and take place every Thursday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Performing involves reading and following simple, accessible movement instructions in a socially distanced environment. All are welcome; registration is limited.
Amanda Williams: Embodied Sensations is organized by a team of collaborators:
Amanda Williams Studio
Performance consultant: Anna Martine Whitehead; Workshop participants: Julian Glover, Damon Locks, Martin Majkrak, Katherine Simóne Reynolds, Tara Willis; Project manager: Sophie Lipman
The Museum of Modern Art
Alethea Rockwell, Associate Educator, Studio and Artist Programs; Sarah Kennedy, Assistant Director, Learning Programs and Partnerships; Ana Janevski, Curator, Department of Media and Performance; Michelle Kuo, The Marlene Hess Curator of Painting and Sculpture; Esther Adler, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; Sean Anderson, Associate Curator, Department of Architecture and Design; Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture; Pablo Helguera, former Director, Adult and Academic Programs; Calder Zwicky, former Assistant Director, Teen and Community Partnerships
Special thanks to our colleagues in Audio Visual; Creative Team; Digital Media; Education; Exhibition Design and Production; Exhibition Planning and Administration; Graphic Design; Institutional Giving; Operations; Security; Visitor Engagement; and Cesarin Rosario and Hector Salcedo