Interview, 2005

Roman Ondak
Vinyl letters applied to the wall, print on paper
120 x 100 cm (47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in)
Edition of 25 plus 10 artist's proofs
Inventive yet executed with restraint, Interview exemplifies the way in which Roman Ondak’s work skillfully subverts expectations and challenges the audience’s preconceptions. Realized for an exhibition in 2005, the work adopts the form of an interview, printed in vinyl and shown on the wall close to the entrance. Though the visual presentation of the interview encourages the viewer to believe that it is authentic, the content of the text is not in fact of a real conversation. The text is lifted directly from an English language textbook for beginners, and the names have been swapped with “Roman” and the gallery owner’s first name. Once purchased, the gallery's owner's name will be changed to the first name of the work’s owner.

This quietly humorous act of appropriation is intimately connected with Ondak’s interest in transferring contexts and roles in order for the situation to be evaluated afresh. With this work, he has created a subtly similar world, in which the audience is led to seek meaning and understanding from something that is deliberately evasive. We are led to query the value of the normal conventions of an exhibition space: is such an interview necessary? What effect will it have on our understanding of the work?

Over his career, Ondak has continually drawn attention to patterns of behavior and rituals in an art institution. In Museum/Storage (1999), for instance, items taken from staff offices of various departments of a museum - such as a water cooler, installation materials and an oil painting - were divided into whether or not they related to the art owned by the museum directly, and accordingly placed inside or on top of a simple, table-like construction. In 2005 he made an installation for Tate Modern that presented the gallery’s famous Turbine Hall as a greatly scaled-down version that visitors could walk into, thus reversing the belittling experience of walking into the actual space. Presenting an unusual perspective on the physical and social spaces of a generic art museum, these works signify Ondak’s detached, almost anthropological approach to his art practice.