Jonathan Gitelson, Adams, MA, 2015, pigmented inkjet print, 32 x 40 inches, Courtesy of the Artist.
Jonathan Gitelson, Fort Ann, NY, 2015, pigmented inkjet print, 32 x 40 inches, Courtesy of the Artist.
Vermont-based artist Jonathan Gitelson’s project Are You Here? consists of a 10 x 20 foot billboard that poses the simple but provoking question “Are You Here?” to visitors as they enter the grounds of deCordova. Installed on the front lawn of the Sculpture Park, the prompt is a reference to the phrase “You Are Here,” a wayfinding tool often found on highway maps at rest areas. By recasting the definitive statement as an inquiry, Are You Here? alludes to physical geography as well as metaphysical notions of presence and location in our digital age. Gitelson created Are You Here? for the eighteenth iteration of deCordova’s PLATFORM series, which invites site-specific installations by emerging and mid-career artists from New England and across the United States that engage with deCordova’s unique landscape.
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. In a culture defined by an excess of information and media procured through digital devices, the phrase “Are You Here?” is a reminder to engage with our immediate surroundings. The billboard encourages awareness and serves to reorient the viewer in both physical and mental space and time. 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.’”
Born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1975, Jonathan Gitelson lives 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 establishes 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 Associate Professor of Art at Keene State College, 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.
Are You Here? with Artist Jonathan Gitelson
Saturday, October 8, 12–3 pm