What is art? Can an electrical outlet or a window or a mirror be art? Does art need a frame? A label? These are the kind of questions that Tyler Barton and Erin Dorney – curators of the Hidden Museum – are hoping visitors to the free one-day conceptual art installation will ask themselves.
The Hidden Museum, a collaboration between Barton and Dorney’s Fear No Lit literary organization and Modern Art, is open noon to 8 p.m. Friday at the Pop-Up Shop, 354 N. Queen St.
The installation consists of written placards. Once hung, Barton says they transform everyday objects into art and spaces into museums.
“It’s a practice of imagining everyday objects as works of contemporary art,” says Barton. “Each ‘work’ is described through the text of the label. It’s up to the viewers to decide what, if anything, in the room is actually art.”
The Hidden Museum at the Pop-Up Shop is part of an ongoing collaboration between Barton and Dorney – founders of Fear No Lit and former Lancaster County residents now living in upstate New York. An earlier iteration of the project was installed at the Susquehanna Museum of Art in the summer of 2018.
Barton and Dorney, both published authors – along with some other local writers, crafted a loose COVID-era narrative about two artists living together in a small studio and never leaving the house for two years. When the artists finally move on, what’s left behind is the Hidden Museum. The story is told through the prose poem-like descriptions of objects on the labels.
“The pieces in the show tell the story of those two years, in a way,” says Barton. “We don’t expect everyone to pick up on every nuance, but that narrative is there if they want to put the pieces together. We think each wall text sign stands alone.”
Libby Modern, owner of Modern Art was on the artists who collaborated with Barton and Dorney on the installation
“My object was a light switch,” says Modern. “I love when, as an artist or creative, you can make the unfamiliar known and the familiar unknown. It was a great opportunity to explore how we look at things we don’t notice in our everyday lives and how technology has changed what we notice and how we can reclaim our imaginations.”
The Hidden Museum tells the unseen stories behind the things we don’t pay attention to or may take for granted.
“It’s really important that as humans we’re constantly using our brain and putting it in different situations where something becomes almost magical,” says Modern. “Like a light switch really is almost magical, you flip it on and light goes on. In order to make that light switch happen there had to be this really innovative, imaginative idea. That’s my favorite kind of art where it invites participants to think about something in an almost magic way.”