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Please Be Seated: A Video Installation by Nicole Cohen
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, Opening September 18, 2007

June 11, 2007

LOS ANGELES—Home décor magazines tantalize readers with fantasies of ideal modern living. Museum period rooms do the same, encouraging visitors’ capacity to imagine lifestyles from groupings of objects and interiors that evoke an authentic historical time and place. In each scenario, the viewer remains an outsider, the ramifications of belonging and owning untested.

By inviting visitors to step into the picture in Please Be Seated: A Video Installation by Nicole Cohen, the artist provides the audience with the opportunity to move beyond the role of voyeur and become an active participant in the work.

Commissioned by the J. Paul Getty Museum to bring new perspectives and contemporary strategies to its illustrious collection of French decorative arts, Cohen’s project will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in a special gallery on the Plaza Level of the South Pavilion beginning September 18, 2007.

For Please Be Seated, Cohen selected six 18th -century chairs from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, each representing a different style, form, function or history of ownership.  The artist created a unique video for each chair by intercutting footage filmed at the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre Museum and the Nissim de Camondo Museum in Paris with footage of the Getty Museum’s own period rooms.  The work is completed each time visitors take a physical seat in one of six abstracted white reproductions of Getty chairs, and their image is projected by surveillance camera into the video footage playing on a television screen above.  Thus past and present, contemporary and historical are layered and juxtaposed to create the final work of art.

Please Be Seated is more than a straightforward historical fantasy.  Cohen plays with carefully crafted images in which day turns to night, chairs travel from room to room between Paris and Los Angeles, and actors dressed in contemporary fashions pose among Rococo ornaments.  In accepting the invitation to this metaphorical game of musical chairs, Cohen and her audience trade the comfort of control, context and reality for shifting expectations, uncertainty and fantasy.

“There is an increasingly great interest within the field of contemporary art to incorporate viewers and their responses, and we are tremendously excited to invite the public to take an active role in this new video installation project by Nicole Cohen,” says Dr. Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.  “Cohen’s works also provide us an opportunity to take a fresh look at our permanent collection, to draw links between historical and current artistic practice, and demonstrate our commitment to promote and present the work of contemporary artists.”

Please be Seated: A Video Installation by Nicole Cohen is curated by Peggy Fogelman, currently assistant director for education and interpretive programs at the J. Paul Getty Museum until mid-2007, when she will move to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, to take up the position of director of education and interpretation.

Nicole Cohen

Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1970, Nicole Cohen received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California.  She has exhibited at the Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, MA), the Fabric Workshop and Museum (Philadelphia, PA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library.  She has also shown internationally in Berlin, Germany; Bergen, Norway; Paris, France; Harajaku, Osaka, Kobe, and Tokyo, Japan; and Shanghai, China.  

Cohen’s work is positioned at the intersection of contemporary reality, personal fantasy, and culturally constructed space.  She consistently explores her interest in engaging the audience and challenging notions of lifestyle, domesticity, celebrity, and social behavior. Although trained in painting and drawing, Cohen most frequently uses video as her medium, playing upon its intrinsic capacities to manipulate time, distort scale and environment, and overlay imagery.

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Beth Laski
Getty Communications

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