Wishing Upon an Art Exhibit at New Museum

What would you ask for, if you could have just one wish come true?

It’s a word we tend to toss around rather casually: “I wish it wasn’t so hot out,” “I wish I had a cheeseburger,”  “I wish Jersey Shore was on already.”

Maybe it’s because we don’t often take the time to think about what we really want — or maybe what you really want is more Jersey Shore. Either way, Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander is asking New Yorkers to tell her what they're wishing for.

And those wishes are part of her exhibition at the New Museum on the Bowery in lower Manhattan.  The collection, entitled “A Day Like Any Other,” includes an installation called “I Wish Your Wish.”

Situated on the ground floor, the installation is visible from the street: a white-walled room bedecked with thin, vividly colored ribbons.

When you get closer -- which is easy to do since “I Wish Your Wish” is open free of charge -- you can make out the words neatly printed on the ribbons.

Some are cheerful and even funny: “I wish for magical powers.”  “I wish I was drinking a margarita in my favorite bar in Mexico.”  Some are classic: “I wish for world peace.”

In other cases, the ribbons’ bright colors belie their sobering words: “I wish I could get rid of guilt.” “I wish I had the courage to divorce my husband.” “I wish my pains wouldn’t limit my actions.”

Hundreds of visitors have looked over the wishes hung on the walls, fingering the ribbons and reading the wishes.  Their reactions range from amused chuckles to solemn empathy.  And if you find a ribbon that resonates particularly strongly with you, take it off the wall and tie it to your wrist. 

Then you can write a wish of your own onto a piece of paper and slip it one of the ten thousand holes in the wall from which the ribbons hang. Neuenschwander collects viewers’ wishes, condenses them, and prints them on new ribbons, to be hung in future installations of “I Wish Your Wish.”

“People come in, they find things that they feel are suitable for them or things that they really want, things they’re amused by,” explains museum director Richard Flood.  “Then you tie it on and you knot it three times, and legend has it that when it erodes off your wrist or your ankle…your wish will come true.”

It’s based on a tradition at the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Salvador da Bahia, in Neuenschwander’s native Brazil, where people tie ribbons with wishes onto their wrists and to the church gates, hoping and trusting that their wishes will come true when the ribbon wears away.

Neuenschwander’s “I Wish Your Wish” has been traveling across the globe since 2003.  Through this exhibit, people who have never met have been wishing each other’s wishes.  It has been traveling the globe since 2003.  “We’re working with wishes primarily from Pittsburg,” said Flood.

“[Neuenschwander] is somebody who I’ve been watching and completely engaged in the kind of social interaction that she brings to the work," said Flood.

“It just seemed logical,” he continued, “to bring a new kind of talent, somebody who is changing the traditional notions of what art can be -- an artist who also believes that we’re all capable of making art.”

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