from artist to social worker

that’s Laurie Parsons.

Reflection and associations through a bulleted list.

  • emerged in the 80s
  • doesn’t make anything
  • walks in natural and urban areas where she collects found objects
  • lives with the objects in her studio
  • exhibits those objects
  • do objects have a presence?
  • Field of Rubble, 1988: covers the floor of the gallery with rubble from the Hudson River
  • the outside inside, a gesture towards conflation, real/unreal, art/life
  • 1989: someone buys everything from one of her shows intending to keep the installation together
  • someone buys a pink bathroom sink collected from the street
  • new rule: nothing is for sale
  • how can people buy something that previously lived on the streets?
  • has a show consisting of freshly painted walls and modified lighting
  • no name, no opening, no closing dates on the exhibition card
  • at some point, the show is gone from her bio
  • it just felt right
  • has an idea for a live stream from her bedroom/studio, projected into the gallery
  • continues to conflate the gallery and the real blurring the boundaries between art and life, this time with people
  • 1991, Germany: moves into the exhibition space with some belongings and works in a local psychiatric hospital
  • who is this person living in the gallery? even general folks walk into the gallery for the first time
  • talks to anyone who comes in, doesn’t speak much German
  • closing party, the people of Rottweil turn up in large numbers, after all, she names herself, the curator and Rottweiler Bürger (the people of Bürger) on the event card
  • authorship, social engagement, audience collaboration, the artist is present, but not performance like Marina Abramovi?
  • displays a stack of bills and people take it, the security guards do nothing, it’s a group show and it’s called The Big Nothing (1992), I’m guessing hers was the most successful piece given that it dematerialized
  • the audience—central to the work, the dematerialization of the art object (read Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 by Lucy Lippard, 1973)
  • Félix González-Torres, Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, 175lb of candies
  • Torres invites the audience to take a candy, a conceptual representation of a life disappearing (AIDS), 175lbs, the average weight of an adult male; Parsons is mischievous, tempting the audience, implicating the audience in the work, is it a statement about art as object? what else? let’s get a coffee and discuss
  • 1992: proposes that the security guards and admission staff at The New Museum talk about the work to visitors, a no-no prior to this
  • develops a program enabling security and admission staff to meet the artists, do studio visits
  • social engagement, role reversal, disruption of the gallery system
  • 1994: invited to submit a proposal for a sculpture park in Germany, rejected for being too fantastical, abstract, and insubstantial, it would have been a work of the imagination
  • 1994: leaves the art world, continues personal writing (collects works and phrases), performs social work (as in, she actually works in the field, it’s not a performance piece)
  • done
  • except that in 2010, apparently the pink bathroom sink is displayed at Zwirner’s in New York, I say apparently because it is mentioned in Herbert’s book Tell Them I Said No, but Zwirner’s website displays no record of the show; is this Parsons at work? one of her rules?
  • the art world won’t leave her be
  • 2017: one of her pieces (Troubled) is shown in the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva
  • if she returns it probably won’t be by choice

P.S. Laurie Parsons does not have a Wikipedia entry. According to Google, she was born in 1959 in Mount Kisco, New York and is listed as being a social worker.

The bulleted list above was drawn from these sources:

Nickas, Bob, 2021. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO: LAURIE PARSONS. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 July 2021]. This online article cited above first appeared in the 2013 print version of Artforum.

Herbert, Martin. Tell Them i Said No. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016.