Thomas Choinacky completed two projects over the course of his residency- SomewhereElse and Magnitude – based on his discovery of a series of “Artist Boxes,” suitcases filled with project remainders and sentimental objects collected by Elsewhere artists-in-residence from approximately 2005 to 2009. Both projects utilize unconventional audience-performer relationship.

For SomewhereElse the discovery of three toys locked inside Lucinda Holmes’ 2007 artist box launched a petition of 100 signatures and a campaign to emancipate and move the toys to a new home on the 3rd floor of the museum. Choinacky solicited participation from visitors, staff, and interns during sessions of quasi-serious play by developing a narrative about the plight of the toys and seeking their support for the move. After meeting with Elsewhere officials to have the petition ratified and producing a notarized document approving the move, the toys were transported to their new township, SomewhereElse during a grand celebratory parade attended by both humans and toys. The emancipated toys can now be found on display in their new township- a repurposed cabinet- alongside other items from the artist box collection and records of their move.

Choinacky’s second performance, Magnitude, was a durational solo performance held over the course of a day at the museum (nine hours). For it, he isolated himself in a stairwell that was only viewable by one person at a time from a peephole on the street. It was based on banal movements- lifting, stacking, and opening artist boxes, as well as traversing, sitting, and standing in the stairwell, which had been mostly closed off from the outside world. These ordinary actions were made extra-ordinary through their framing as performance. The audience’s voyeuristic viewership often led to surprising responses of disbelief, trickery, and misperception.
The performance was enacted from the perspective of a toy trapped inside an artist box and explored the possibilities for and limits to knowing another person through the things they leave behind. At the museum things are constantly in flux and even the contents of the time- capsule like artist boxes have been altered as new sets of artists dissect and appropriate them for their own purposes. The boxes therefore offer an inherently faulty view of their creators and how they might have wanted to be remembered. Magnitude thus raises questions about our impulse to narrativize and seek connection to the past through its artifacts.

Time lapse of the nine hour performance:

Interview with artist about his projects: