On a recent visit to Gagosian
’s West 21st Street outpost, an unusual choreography was underway. In the expanse of the central gallery space, brightly colored chairs swiveled and swirled, apparently of their own volition. This gentle spectacle, using office-appropriate furniture, is the latest project from
—a hard-to-categorize artist perhaps best known for his giant, candle-like wax sculptures, occasionally depicting his friends and peers (and, in at least one instance, himself).
“PLAY,” as the show is called, requires extensive computer programming and a series of sensors. The movements of its nine chairs were scripted in collaboration with the choreographer Madeline Hollander. They respond to visitors—zooming around or away from anyone who gets close—and to one another, swarming in carefully coordinated packs from one side of the gallery to another. “If they interact with humans, then you become the choreographer,” Fischer told Artsy. The seats all swivel and the wheels all roll, but the chairs have subtly different personalities. Some have arm rests or headrests, and their hues (magenta, red, aqua) distinguish them, as well. Fischer has transformed mundane objects into uncanny, mobile characters, an apt metaphor for a frenzied art world clattering back to life after a sleepy summer.
The artist, however, isn’t geeking out over the nuts and bolts of his own installation. “The only reason why we need all this technology is because I want [the chairs] to move like this,” Fischer said. “It’s not ‘oh cool, technology.’ I don’t care. It’s like our phone. I don’t care how it’s made, I just want to use it.” When a chair’s battery runs low, it’s programmed to head into a massive machine in the gallery’s alcove, which automatically replaces the seat (where the hardware is located). All of this coordination, of course, requires extensive and ongoing troubleshooting, coding, and engineering—and, likely, a massive amount of financial support. Yet the bulk of the hardware runs behind closed doors; Fischer would like to preserve some of the artwork’s mystery and apparent magic.