Francis Palazzolo shifts the power of representation to the gallery-goer in a participatory art exhibit titled “SelfOthering.” He organizes mirrors & markers into user-friendly objects that invite others into a process of defacing and restoring reflections. By collectively altering Palazzolo’s work, visitors see themselves in the narrative of others and influence an art historical discourse. Hence, public programming is the motivating character throughout the show.
Palazzolo’s work bends the genealogy of art towards active ways of relating to self, other, and image-making. Visitors may shape a cultural narrative that references cave painting to contemporary artists and beyond. Mirrors in each piece provide a means to see yourself on the surface. Markers are also tethered to these pieces with pliable materials for participants to create drawings on his work and the surrounding walls. Palazzolo offers Mylar fig leaf stickers to restore the loss of reflective properties. In an odd twist, the fig leaf covers up in an act of revealing the mirrored self. Work Sample # 9 is a video for a visual explanation of this process. The still images show the artwork prior to audience activation (the pre- engagement stage, the moment before the doors open to the public for the first time). This fun rebellious accessible process engages gallery-goers of all ages in public programming.
Palazzolo views talks as participatory art as well; hence there is a dialogical base to SelfOthering. His talks during the exhibit elaborate on the cultural references and biographical stories that criss-cross his work. Yet it’s the input from the participants about their experiences, and the dialog between people that fleshes out the vision. Several lines of inquiry motivate these conversations: How does it feel to see yourself in what you made? What is it like to see yourself in another? How does it feel to alter someone else’s work? Do you see a role, a path or a means to impact the dominate narratives in contemporary culture? What connects you to others? And, did you learn something new about expressing your opinion?
As dialog turns to physical art-making, Palazzolo takes this opportunity to collaborate and connect with visitors. To increase the liveliness throughout the duration of the show a schedule of his attendance is added to the invitations and announcements. During Palazzolo’s attendance at the galley he will interact with the gallery-goers.