PLATFORM 18: Jonathan Gitelson, Are You Here?; that is the question at deCordova


Lincoln, MA, August 24, 2016DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is pleased to present PLATFORM 18: Jonathan Gitelson, in which the Vermont-based artist brings his ongoing public art project to the front lawn of the Sculpture Park. Opening in August 2016, Are You Here? represents the newest installation in the PLATFORM series. The work consists of a 10 x 20 foot billboard that poses the simple but provocative question “Are You Here?” to visitors as they enter the grounds of deCordova. The prompt is a reference to the phrase “You Are Here,” a wayfinding tool often seen on highway maps at rest areas. In turning the familiar statement into a question, Are You Here? alludes to physical geography as well as more abstract notions of presence, location, and attention in our digital age.

Since 2015, Gitelson has installed a series of similar billboards on highways and country roads throughout New England and upstate New York. Printed in bold typeface on a white background, the signs present a curious interruption to the landscape, whether appearing unexpectedly in an open meadow or surrounded by roadside overgrowth. “Highway driving is often a time when we use distractions,” notes Gitelson. “We listen to the radio or another audio device or attend to our own thoughts and worries, paying little attention to the changing sights and sensations whizzing by.”  

In a culture defined by an excess of information and media delivered through digital devices, the phrase “Are You Here?” reminds the viewer to engage with his or her immediate surroundings. The billboard encourages awareness and serves to reorient the viewer in both physical and mental space and time, offering a gentle, yet mindful, nudge. According to Gitelson, “My hope is that the extreme simplicity of these billboards, and the unexpected and unexplained question they pose, will startle viewers into at least a fleeting moment of ‘being here.’”

About the Artist

Born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1975, Jonathan Gitelson lives and works in Brattleboro, Vermont. He earned his MFA in Photography from Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois, in 2004 and his BA from Marlboro College, Marlboro, Vermont in 1997. Trained as a photographer, Gitelson’s artistic practice includes installation, video, and artist books. His work often creates joyful and unanticipated moments that upend the banal and repetitive elements of everyday life. He has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as MASS MoCA, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Galerie f5,6 in Munich. Gitelson’s work is included in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He is an Associate Professor of Art at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His photographic series Items of Clothing Secretly Hidden By My Girlfriend (So I Wouldn’t Wear Them Anymore) was shown in The 2012 deCordova Biennial.

About the Exhibition

PLATFORM is an ongoing series of one-person commissioned projects by early- and mid-career artists from New England and around the world that respond to deCordova's unique landscape. The PLATFORM series supports creativity and new ideas, and encourages dialogue about contemporary art.

Related Public Programming

Are You Here? With artist Jonathan Gitelson
Drop in for conversation and poster-making
Saturday, October 8, 12–3pm
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, MA 01773

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