Museum Home Past Exhibitions Please Be Seated: A Video Installation by Nicole Cohen

September 18, 2007–January 11, 2009 at the Getty Center

Nicole Cohen's installation allows visitors to interact with the Getty's collection of chairs.
Cohen's installation merges images of historic locations and chairs with live video of visitors
© Nicole Cohen

Please Be Seated is a video installation by contemporary artist Nicole Cohen that allows you to interact with the Getty Museum's 18th-century French chairs.

The installation blends footage from decorative arts galleries in the Getty Museum and three French museums with live video captured by a surveillance camera. As you sit in reproductions of the original chairs, you become part of the installation, virtually entering historic recreations of 18th-century French spaces. With this installation Cohen compresses time and space to create a metaphorical game of musical chairs.

Visitors interact with Cohen's installation.
Cohen's installation invites you to sit in reproductions of 18th-century chairs and see yourself transported into the chairs' historic settings on the video monitors.

The Getty Museum commissioned this installation to bring new perspectives to its collection of French decorative arts. Galleries designed to display historical architecture, decorative arts, and furniture evoke the original interiors and lifestyles of a particular era. Within these museum installations, visitors are invited to travel through space and time to imagine the daily rituals, social interactions, and personal narratives that might have taken place in such domestic settings.

Through her installation at the Getty, Nicole Cohen pushes the boundaries of this experience into the realm of active participation and fantasy. The intersection of contemporary popular culture with historical and social environments has been a theme in Nicole Cohen's work, which often juxtaposes real and ideal people and settings to provocative and dreamlike effect.

Nicole Cohen shoots video footage in the Getty's galleries
Cohen works in one of the Getty Museum's galleries. Video footage shot at the Getty and in France become the backdrop for visitors' interaction with her installation.

Cohen selected six 18th-century French chairs from the Getty Museum's collection as the subject of her installation. Then, editing together footage shot on location in France and at the Getty Center, she created six 10-minute videos. Cohen placed the Getty's chairs into the video of these settings using digital technology. In some cases she virtually transported the chairs back into their original settings in France. For example, Cohen digitally placed one of Marie Antoinette's chairs in the Getty collection into its original context in a room at Versailles.

Nicole Cohen's reinterpretation of one of the Getty's 18th-century French chairs.
Modern reinterpretation of one of the Getty's 18th-century French chairs.
learn_more See the chairs in the Getty Museum's collection that inspired Cohen.

Cohen collaborated with local furniture maker, Mike Fair, to create white versions of the Getty's chairs that mimic the shape and function of the originals. In the installation, video monitors above each chair display the footage shot in France and at the Getty. The videos are activated and completed when the visitor takes a seat in the chairs, stepping into both the installation and the footage itself.

The rooms of museums, historic houses, and palaces themselves represent fantasies of sorts, either through the whimsy of the original owner or reinterpretation by a curator. In Please Be Seated, Cohen adds a level of manipulation and artistic vision by filming, fragmenting, and recombining these interiors. The viewer, seated in Cohen's abstraction of an 18th-century chair and projected into footage of historical and museum settings, interjects personal, individual responses to complete the work of art.