When was the last time you went to a tailor? It was probably the same week you made an appointment to get a professional shoeshine, right? For those of us who are guilty of neglecting damaged clothing, New York based artist Lee Mingwei has a very tempting solution. In his participatory installation, The Mending Project, audience members are invited to bring material wares in need of repair to the artist, conversing with him as he patiently stitches and mends.
Currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Mingwei’s work is one of the more intriguing installations of this year’s Biennale of Sydney program. In order to directly engage with the work, viewers must pre-plan. They must pause, take a seat and interact in a curiously intimate setting with a man who is (most likely) a complete stranger.
This, of course, is the point of the open-ended situations Mingwei constructs. The element of uncertainty prevails throughout each session, from the conversations that abound across his long wooden table, to the spools of coloured thread he painstakingly repairs each item with (guaranteed to be a different hue than your clothes).
One tip: don’t be in too great a rush to get your altered garment back – each will be kept until the Biennale’s close. Stacking up upon the gallery table, they remain as layers of memory and momentary connection.
Mingwei himself is no stranger to notions of chance – it forms a key theme across his masterful body of work. The Moving Garden, recently staged at the Brooklyn Museum, saw 150 roses replenished each morning and placed atop a granite table. Throughout the day, visitors were asked to take a flower and give it to a stranger. Participating in The Mending Project means more than a free tailor job – it’s a chance to be involved in an inimitable piece of art.
The Mending Project is showing at the MCA until September 16.