Hot Art Wet City proves determined not to bore exhibition-goers: they could not see wordy artwork descriptions there even if they wanted to. At the 12th annual Hot One Inch Action last weekend, organizers Chris Bentzen and Jim Hoehnle proved yet again that art can be interactive, fun, and “buttonized”.
The show took place on a busy night full of events spread all over the city. The gallery’s iconic pink furry draw box stood in a corner of the main room, containing mysterious plastic bags of buttons. Inside each bag were five buttons—each printed with work by one of fifty local artists—ready to be mingled and adored.
I got to the event at its end. The smokers sat outside on the bench, while just under a dozen people remained inside the gallery—the last ones standing at what must have been a bustling party. The buttons hung on the walls, single-file: paintings and illustrations hemmed in tiny, circular borders. The curators had not attempted to make the works appear larger or more sophisticated than what they were, and this unconventional setup encouraged artists to fully express their creativity. The gallery looked comically empty by then, a stark contrast to the typical grandiose aesthetic of larger art exhibitions. I often put my face close to paintings at other galleries, to get a closer look at the details, the brush strokes, or the texture of the paint. This time, however, I did so simply to look at the illustrations printed on the buttons at face value. By reducing the physical distance between art and viewer, Hot One Inch Action made me question traditional art practices of display and possession.
When I came across Chelsea O’Byrne’s piece, I regretted not having purchased any buttons, or attending the show earlier when the trading happened. Her emphasis on eyes, so present in her illustrations, transferred powerfully onto this white button: above thin black outlines of a nose and a mouth, without a frame of a face, a pair of hands covered the spaces where two eyes would have been. Instead, two circles of iridescence shone through the hands, the celebrated focal point of the minuscule presentation.
I felt even more remorse in not having obtained a set of buttons when I discovered that this might be the last Hot One Inch Action. Thankfully, some remaining buttons may be sold at the gallery in the weeks to come. And, if we’re lucky, there may even be another round of hot action next year.