Roman Ondák 2014

Measuring the UniversePresented by Kaldor Public Art Projects for the 2014 Sydney Festival, highly acclaimed Slovakian artist Roman Ondák presents a trio of participatory works at the historic Parramatta Town Hall. Swap (2011), the riveting interactive chain of barter and exchange that delighted 13 Rooms audiences, and Measuring the Universe (2007), previously presented to great acclaim at MoMA, New York, and Tate St Ives, United Kingdom. The third work, Terrace (2014) has been created especially for Kaldor Public Art Project 28.

Roman Ondák takes the familiar elements of everyday life and reframes them to surprise our expectations and perspectives. He investigates social codes, conventions, rituals and forms of exchange by discreetly dislocating objects, ideas and actions from their usual settings.

His installations, performances and interventions are sometimes scarcely distinguishable from the context in which they are presented. Often humorous, they provoke a double take by viewers, making them question their preconceptions and modes of interaction.

Ondák’s celebrated work Measuring the Universe (2007) begins with an empty gallery space. Equipped with a black felt tip marker, gallery attendants mark the height, name and date of each visitor who enters the space. As the blank walls transform into a universe of marks, a dense, dark mass congregates at the average height of participants, transforming a common family tradition into a portrait of Parramatta.

An undeniable favourite from Project 27: 13 Rooms, Swap (2011) merges art with everyday life. Ondák selects a performer to sit behind a table akin to a vendor in a marketplace. Setting in motion an endless chain of barter and exchange, the performer invites each visitor to swap an object for the one on his table. Finally, at the close of the exhibition, the last performer takes with him/her the final object of the day.

Adding a personal element to the project, and evoking the presence of the Slovakian artist in Parramatta is Terrace (2014), a work created especially for Project 28. An exact replica of the artist’s own terrace in his post-war Central European apartment, this work provides a shift in perspective for viewers as they navigate the exhibition.

Measuring the Universe, Swap and Terrace – Roman Ondák
Parramatta Town Hall, 182 Church St, Parramatta
Exhibition: 10 – 24 January 2014
Free entry

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Image: Roman Ondák Measuring the Universe, 2007 Performance at MoMA, New York, 2009 Courtesy the artist and Collection MoMA, New York. Photo © Profzucker