Gabriel Sierra, installation view, 2015
  • Courtesy of Tom Van Eynde
  • Gabriel Sierra, installation view, 2015

Gabriel Sierra’s first solo show in the United States, currently at the Renaissance Society, is a site-specific installation that comprises 14 pieces with corresponding instructions that encourage audience interaction. The exhibition, which holds no static title, changes names each hour of the day that it is open. This constant change gives the audience a chance to view the exhibition through several different lenses and stay with the work longer than the typical ten-minute glance over. The instructions are a little strange, but I decided to spend the day in the minimalistic exhibition following them as accurately as possible, despite inquiring glances from fellow patrons. The list of instructions for the exhibition were written by the artist himself, and the full brochure with corresponding cartoons can be found here.

10:00 AM “Monday Impressions.”

I missed this hour of the exhibition due to a CTA mistransfer to Hyde Park. I figured I had a case of the Mondays (on a Friday).

11:00 AM “How the Outside Leaks Into the Room.”

The exhibit reminds me of minimalist workout centers found in public parks and along short hikes.

The simplistic nature of the white structures draws my eye to the architecture of the Renaissance Society. Why are the outlets placed so high on the gallery’s walls?

Instruction 4. Drink a bottle of water and feel that you are drinking the cosmos. Abruptly leave the area when done. I feel like each individual bubble of my Topo Chico is a star, my stomach a black hole swallowing each.

NOON “Smells Like 100 Years Old.”

I see one set of footprints amongst the shoe prints. Someone was barefoot in here. Were they barefoot in the piece that specifies only old shoes should be worn? (Checked—they were not.)

What instructions did Sierra give the Ren Society staff?

First observation of patrons in gallery, a pair of women, one appearing to be in her 20s, the other in her 40s. Each woman samples the work by spending a little time in each area and constantly looking at the directions.

There are a lot of potential good social media moments within this space. (I hate myself for just thinking that). I imagine a Vine of shoes clomping through the raised gravel (I restrain myself), a Tweet each time the exhibition’s title changes (I actually do this), an Instagram from the pile of hay (I later do this).

  • courtesy Renaissance Society
  • A map of the installation

1 PM “The Room is in My Eye. The Space Under My Body.”

I’m hungry.

2 PM “In the Meantime, (This Place Will be Empty After 5:00 PM).”

10. Walk for ten minutes thinking of the outdoors while you are indoors. When inside, the sound of gravel crunching below the feet is relaxing, not grating like it sounds when outside beneath a tire or foot.
I’ve been walking for eight minutes, I wonder if I walk long enough if I can made sand.

I keep glancing down, attempting to find something unique in the gravel. Why can’t I find something unique?

Two patrons have been watching me walk this entire time. I wonder if they think I’m committed or just crazy?

3 PM “An Actual Location for This Moment.”

9. Spend 12 minutes, eight minutes, and six minutes in each platform area while pretending to be in the past, present, and future. I’m currently trapped in the past section. I glance back to the pieces I inhabited prior to this. I try not to look at the current patrons because I think they are the present which isn’t until the next eight minutes.

I glance back to instruction number four. I had placed my water bottle on the outside of the work and someone has moved it back within the parameters of the piece. There is a water bottle on a ledge at the other end of the gallery that has not been touched.

I text someone I forgot to previously because I consider that an element from the past.

I look down and again notice all the shoe prints of those who have stood on the panel before me. I try to think about what kind of person was in those shoes. I also think back to every CSI episode I’ve seen where they try to analyze these prints. Immediately I get the CSI: Miami intro stuck in my head.

4 PM “Few Will Leave Their Place to Come Here for Some Minutes.”

I notice the platform I’m on is perfectly lined up with the floor tiles. I see myself in the tiles. I wave.

I wonder how many will leave their place to come here for some seconds.

I plan what I’m going to do after I leave here, post-5 PM, postclosing.

6. [Go to] area for a 15-minute indoor nap in a 15th century fashion and area for a 20-minute outdoor nap in a 20th century fashion. I thought I would be comfortable resting in the hay, but I start thinking about bugs. I do not cease thinking about bugs.

I’ve spent so much time here, I’m getting weirdly territorial about the space.

I feel like I’m in time out.

5 PM “Did You Know Who Built Your House?”

1. Walk between the lines as slowly as possible while smiling softly. Stop smiling while outside the lines. I decide to save the first set of instructions as my exit strategy. Smiling, smiling, smiling, smiling, smiling, smiling, straight face. I exit the gallery at exactly 5 PM. The gallery is now draped within the title “Did You Know Who Built Your House” until the next day at 10 AM, the longest time period which the fewest patrons will experience.