NORTH ADAMS — The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has announces Shaun Leonardo’s "You walk…" as the inaugural exhibition in its newly established community engagement space.
Located within the Hunter Mezzanine, the project space was established with two-year funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and will serve as a convening area for individual visitors, groups, staff and artists. "You walk…," on view May 29 through Spring 2023, applies the Brooklyn-based artist’s renowned performative social practice to the space through the use of visual cues, written prompts and facilitated programming that encourage self-reflection and cross-cultural dialogue.
"You walk…" marks Leonardo’s first time transposing his “physical embodiment” practice onto a functional space. Using visual elements like two-way mirrors and mock windowscapes, Leonardo creates a space that both reflects a shared physical present but also alludes to the singular differences that can affect one’s perspective.
Text prompts throughout the space encourage visitors to relive memories of simple movements and gestures — walking down the street, averting one’s gaze from a stranger, holding someone’s hand. These deliberate reflections are aimed at drawing awareness to experiences that can’t be articulated as much as felt. In unlocking those physical narratives, Leonardo offers an opportunity to reflect on the ways we perceive ourselves and engage with others.
“What I want to communicate is how something as simple as a walk, or the gesture of a hand, or a gaze, or breathing, can be highly personal and embodied,” said Leonardo in a press release. “In the simplest of gestures, there’s also familiarity that someone else can identify with. Whether it’s freedom or fear or curiosity — whatever that emotional core is — there is something universal to be found. At the heart of our disparate personal narratives is something we can all locate ourselves within.”
Leonardo collaborated on site with community members, artists and staff to create the prompts, implementing a collective ownership of the space and the ways in which it will be activated. After a year of the global pandemic and heightened civic unrest, "You walk…" offers a space to reflect and re-engage. Public submissions to the prompts will be added and displayed throughout the exhibition, and Leonardo will co-curate performative gallery tours, artist interventions and hands-on workshops over the next two years. QR codes located throughout the museum will produce additional prompts that relate to social themes found within other exhibitions and performance work.
Leonardo’s "The Breath of Empty Space" was on view at Mass MoCA from Aug. 26 through Dec. 22, 2020. He will also be a featured artist along with Bruno Miguel in the museum’s Kidspace "Defining Moments" exhibition in 2022.
To learn more about the exhibit, visit massmoca.org/event/shaun-leonardo.