Senior Curator, WIELS, centre for contemporary art, Brussels
Photo: Manuel Versaen
As Duchamp famously said, it is the viewer who makes the work of art. Our role as viewer is therefore of equal importance to the role of the artist. All works of art are thus participative, whether they require physical interaction or mental engagement. We have never been simply viewers. Koki Tanaka’s approach to participation is both open and generous. We can divide his recent work into two main tendencies: setting a group of people a common task and filming their way of working together; or proposing an open-ended, shared activity in which Tanaka also participates. Walking with Dogs (Rennes, 2014) is one of these latter works and was aimed at dog-owners and their dogs, but was also open to those of us without canine companions. The artist told the gathered walkers and hounds where we were going, and then we set off. When we arrived at our end point, there was no concluding statement by the artist and for all the participants our impressions differed as to what had just happened. For some of us, it was an artwork, for others it was simply a pleasant walk. For the artist, what was important was the moment we had shared, where the usually individual act of walking one’s dog became a collective march through the city, where a solitary action became an act of solidarity.