relational aesthetics

The Art of Cab Sharing

Are you still wary about the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s new “group rides” program that starts tomorrow? Then take Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg’s advice and think of it as one big art project. At a party for the 2010 Whitney Biennial at the Tommy Hilfiger store on Wednesday, Weinberg explained that cab sharing could easily fall into the field of relational aesthetics, in which artists have been experimenting with making private space public for at least ten years. In 1998, Lee Mingwei created an eating booth in the Whitney’s lobby in which each night he’d have dinner with a random person whose name he’d picked out of a hat. “He would make dinner and sit with you in the museum alone at night and have a conversation and tape record it, and people would come in the next day to hear the tape recording of the conversation that happened in the dining room,” said Weinberg.

The Buenos Aires–born Thai conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija has also cooked for baffled museumgoers, and has set up performance spaces with instruments where anyone could jam.

Weinberg, who says he hopes cab sharing will create a new subculture of share-ride addicts, or at least a marriage or two, pointed out that those ten-year-old art projects have already been actualized in our lives in the form of communal tables at Le Pain Quotidien. “It’s just about a different way of being in the world. Being in a cab alone, or being in the cab with some random person,” he said. “It all exists. It’s all been anticipated. The city of New York is way behind the curve.”

Artist Fred Wilson said that while it was nice to imagine cab sharing as performance art, he couldn’t shake the idea that he’d be sitting in a cab and someone would stick his or her head in and “be like, ‘No, I’m not taking that cab.’ It might be really degrading and mean. Sharing is a very un–New York thing. But New Yorkers are very resilient. They’ll probably sit there and not say a word.”

The Art of Cab Sharing