The performance I Wish is the culmination of an interactive art making process begun in 2008, titled Make a Wish at a solo exhibition held at the Goodman gallery in JHB. As part of the artwork, Make a Wish, audience members were invited to write what they wished for on a piece of paper and make a paper aeroplane from this piece of paper in the gallery. The work explored a number of issues related to the role of the audience in 'completing the work of art', and also the idea of artist as 'collaborator', within situationist aesthetics. Situationist aesthetics can be thought of those artworks that incorporate the context in which the artwork is made, or the context in which the artwork is exhibited as an important part of the content of the artwork. In this artwork the context of the gallery, or exhibition space is part of the content of the work; the relationship of the viewers, who are usually silent observers when looking at art is challenged through inviting the audience to make material contributions to the work.
To complete the process, I promised to distribute the paper planes with wishes in them, as a way of literally sending those wishes out into the world, and with the quixotic notion that if the wishes were heard, or read, they may come true. So I distributed these wishes by throwing the paper planes out of a window in Newtown, close to the Museum Africa.
The site was chosen for a number of reasons: Newtown is thought of as the cultural heart of the city; the cultural history museum in Newtown, the Museum Africa is the site for this exhibition; and in distributing the planes outside the gallery and museum, the wishes written on the planes would symbolically go out into the world, and the artwork would, for an instance, become part of life outside the gallery and museum. This is important since one of the functions of art galleries and museums is to 'separate' artworks and supposedly culturally significant objects and hold them up for a special kind of looking. In doing this, objects are removed from their utilitarian or usual context and re-contextualised within the museum collection. In transforming objects within museums into objects of aesthetic value by removing them from their original contexts and functions, they are separated from everyday praxis and their original social meaning and value is lost.
When distributing the precious paper planes, I was hoping that passers-by would pick them up and read the inscriptions. Multiple dialogues are explored in this work. The artist is messenger, and each paper plane is a point of communication, creating a dialogue between the people who made the planes, and those who received them. It is a work about communicating, responding to each other, about wishful thinking, and a poignant reminder that not all wishes come true but that does not mean that all hope is lost.
Alison Kearney would like to thank the following individuals for their much appreciated help in documenting the performance: Sidney Ndhlovu, Nolan Stevens, Stella Stevens, Kiddo Stevens and Jon-Paul Goliath.