Essay by Dan Byers

Lenka Clayton makes use of people, places, and things. By counting, alphabetizing, employing the possibilities of the post office, local newspaper, and the most common domestic objects – and doing all of these things often almost to their utmost – she transforms both the world around her, and the way we see that world. It’s no surprise then that museums are often the site of her exploration, being that they purport to provide order, but often end up accumulating and displaying with the same levels of subjectivity, exaggeration, and subtly-laced playfulness and even wonder, which are the hallmarks of much of Clayton’s work. What follows is an inventory and classification of many of her projects.

Number of times Lenka counts things (and sometimes puts them in order): 12

- 1/57th of Andy Warhol
- 10,000 Pennies
- 7,000 Stones
- Accidental Haiku
- Berlin Berlin
- Hello
- Local Newspaper
- Number of People
- One Million
- People in Order
- Same Age Sculptures
- Time = Money

Number of times this counting has involved peoples’ ages: 3

- People in Order
- Same Age Sculptures
- Time = Money

Number of times the number 100 defines the set: 3

- 100 Returned Postcards
- One Brown Shoe
- People in Order

Number of times Lenka employs the number 2, mirroring, or a pair: 10

- 100 Returned Postcards
- Artist Residency in Motherhood Business Cards
- Berlin Berlin
- Berliner Zeitung
- Conversation
- James to Lenka
- One Brown Shoe
- Same Age Sculptures
- Two Collections
- Voices

Number of times Lenka puts things in ABC order: 4

- Alphabetical Shopping
- Berliner Zeitung
- Qaeda, quality, question, quickly, quickly, quiet
- The Top Deck of the Number 30 Bus

Number of times when peoples’ names matter: 9

- Artist Residency in Motherhood Business Cards
- Business Card (Adjustable)
- Business Card (Romanian)
- Hello
- James to Lenka
- Local Newspaper
- Mysterious Letters
- The Top Deck of the Number 30 Bus
- Women’s Intuition

Number of times Lenka might not finish a project because she is mortal: 2

- Mysterious Letters
- One Million

Number of times Lenka makes magic happen in cities: 10

- 10,000 Pennies
- A Walk with Erich Honecker
- Accomplice
- Hello
- Mysterious Letters
- Number of People
- Palm Tree Interviews
- Slow Magic Tricks
- Ta Da
- The Top Deck of the Number 30 Bus

Number of times Lenka makes magic happen in the country: 2

- 7,000 Stones
- Amish photographs

Number of times Lenka makes magic at home: 1

- The Baby and the Magician’s Suitcase

Number of times Lenka directly uses her son in a beautiful, non-creepy way that articulates the complexities of motherhood, and the haphazard relationships we all have – to each other and the world around us: 6

- An Artist Residency in Motherhood
- The Baby and the Magician’s Suitcase
- Maternity Leave
- Mother’s Days
- The Distance I can be from my Son
- Things Found in the Mouths of Babies

Number of times Lenka directly uses her son and the results are uncomfortable, and express the complexities of motherhood: 1

- A Nice Family Portrait

Number of times safety results in sculpture: 2

- Childproofing as a Sculptural Practice
- Dangerous Objects made Safer

Number of times Lenka cuts up a perfectly good garment to conceptually resonant effect: 2

- 1/57th of Andy Warhol
- Man, Baby, Boy, Man, and So On

Number of times Lenka uses the post: 3

- Flock
- Kite Flown 7055 Miles
- Mysterious letters

Number of times the newspaper plays an important role: 5

- 10,000 Pennies
- Berliner Zeitung
- Local Newspaper
- Mysterious Letters
- Two Collections

Number of times Lenka takes trips using a “non-traditional” guidebook or map: 5

- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
- James to Lenka
- Lost
- A Day in New York City
- The Distance I can be from my Son

Number of times Lenka gently tweaks the authority, behaviour, collections, and atmosphere of museums: 9

- Herd
- 7,000 Stones
- Childproofing as Sculptural Practice
- Coat Check Exchange
- Intact
- Iceberg
- Man Looking
- Maternity Leave
- Your Contribution to our History…

Number of times Lenka (potentially) breaks the law: 5

- Accomplice (Örebro)
- Accomplice (Vienna)
- 10,000 Pennies
- Hostile Reconnaissance
- Mysterious Letters

Number of times Lenka (might) make people mad: 6

- Accomplice (Örebro)
- Accomplice (Vienna)
- Hello
- Iceberg
- Hostile Reconnaissance
- Mysterious Letters

Number of times Lenka uses something seemingly random that she finds in the world, and makes rational meaning and function for it through new context: 8

- 7,000 Stones
- Accidental Haiku
- Man Looking
- Moons from Next Door
- A Day in New York City
- 100 Returned Postcards
- Things Found in the Mouths of Babies
- Time = Money

Number of times Lenka makes something with a rational function or meaning seemingly random or abstracted through a new context of display or organization: 9

- 1/57th of Andy Warhol
- 10,000 Pennies
- The Baby and the Magician’s Suitcase
- Berlin
- Dangerous Objects Made Safer
- Herd
- One Million
- Qaeda, quality, question, quickly, quickly, quiet
- Two Collections

Number of times Lenka makes art based on the occasion of someone conscientiously seeing something: 4

- Man Looking
- Number of People
- Slow Magic Tricks
- Typewriter Drawings

Number of times Lenka makes poetic, humorous, critical, or whimsical use of the natural world: 7

- 7,000 Stones
- A Piece of the Moon
- Flock
- Herd
- Iceberg
- Moons from Next Door
- Slow Magic Tricks

Number of times Lenka talks to or writes to strangers: 20

- 100 Returned Postcards
- A Piece of the Moon
- Accomplice (Örebro)
- Accomplice (Vienna)
- All the Art on Kopenhagener Strasse
- Amish Photographs
- Berlin Berlin
- Conversation
- Flock
- Hello
- Hostile Reconnaissance
- James to Lenka
- Local Newspaper
- Lost
- Mysterious Letters
- Palm Tree Interviews
- People in Order
- Sweden (Borrowed and Stolen)
- The Top Deck of the Number 30 Bus
- Your Contribution to our History…

Number of times Lenka has built houses without building a house: 2

- House
- Repairing Lebanon

Number of times Lenka takes things from people: 4

- Accomplice (Örebro)
- Accomplice (Vienna)
- All the Art on Kopenhagener Strasse
- Sweden (Borrowed and Stolen)

Number of times Lenka has returned something: 1

- 100 Returned Postcards

Number of times Lenka gives things to people: 3

- 7,000 Stones
- Mysterious Letters
- Your Contribution to our History…

Number of times Lenka has re-created something using a wildly different material than the original: 5

- Amish Photographs
- Dangerous Objects Made Safer
- Intact
- North Korean Pointing Stick(s)
- Repairing Lebanon

Number of times Lenka makes me feel pretty great about being alive, and generally positive about other people: 14

- 100 Returned Postcards
- A Day in New York City
- Accidental Haiku
- Accomplice (Örebro)
- Accomplice (Vienna)
- All the Art on Kopenhagener Strasse
- An Inadvertent Collaboration
- Flock
- James to Lenka
- Maternity Leave
- People in Order
- Slow Magic Tricks
- The Top Deck of the Number 30 Bus
- Typewriter Drawings

Number of times Lenka makes me feel (mostly) kind of sad, and frustrated with other people: 2

- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
- Hostile Reconnaissance

Number of times Lenka makes me feel both pretty great about being alive, and kind of sad: 4

- A Piece of the Moon
- Conversation
- Deutsche Boerse – Anders Petersen
- Repairing Lebanon

 

By Dan Byers, Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Carnegie Museum of Art & co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International. Also, mentor of An Artist Residency in Motherhood. Essay originally published by MOCA Cleveland for the exhibition Realization is Better than Anticipation, June 28–October 13, 2013.

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