On November 21, 2009, My Barbarian performed The Fourth Wall for the members’ opening of Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years. This event coincided with the week-long celebration of the museum’s 30th anniversary and the largest-ever installation of MOCA’s permanent collection. The Fourth Wall was a collaboration between the three members of My Barbarian (J. Gordon, M. Gaines, A. Segade), artist Pearl C. Hsiung, choreographer Hana Van Der Kolk, and a cast of Los Angeles–based actors, dancers, and DJs. The performance comprised a constellation of events occurring inside and outside of the MOCA Grand Avenue galleries, which housed artwork from the collection made between 1940 and 1980.
Predicated on the idea of “transparency” as an entryway into thinking about the art and its institutions, The Fourth Wall reconfigured the members’ opening festivities within the logic of Invisible Theater. The artists created site-responsive videos, speeches, scenes, routines, songs, and DJ sets that confronted both the internal workings of the museum and the process of mounting the exhibition in hopes of making transparent the mechanisms that underlie the construction of a public art collection.
Prior to the performance, My Barbarian filmed the installation of Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years at MOCA Grand Avenue. They also interviewed selected MOCA staff about what it’s like to work at the museum. The Fourth Wall begins with actors taking up positions among the crowd in order to draw partygoers into conversations about their own experiences of MOCA and their thoughts about its future. Meanwhile, other actors perform subtle interventions by mimicking the movements of those around them. The staff interviews were excerpted and transformed into series of scripted dialogs to be enacted by My Barbarian in the museum’s auditorium; the live readings are simultaneously broadcast on the MOCA Grand Avenue Sculpture Plaza, interspersed with footage of the exhibition’s installation. All of these elements culminate in a final performance, which can be seen at the end of this video, that directly articulates the questions at the core of their investigations, including “What is the museum’s responsibility to the public?” and “What does this collection say about art history?”
Video by My Barbarian and Alex MacInnis.