In 2012, when Rapoport was asked to exhibit her Fabric Paintings at Fresno Art Museum, she “decided to add an interactive social fabric” by creating a new piece, ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS?
This series of collages on pages from The New York Times featured marketing phrases from advertisements–often featuring or targeted at women–and photographs of her Fabric Paintings that she’d rediscovered in her personal archives.
At this time, Rapoport was reading about the Market Design and Matching Theory of Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley, awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics, which explores how matches are made in situations like job searches and finding a mate. To this end, ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS? involved setting up a “data gathering event” where she asked viewers to match advertising phrases with her collages.
Rapoport recorded participants’ responses, and created a video in which she analyzed their responses in terms of an idiosyncratic rubric based on Market Design and Matching Theory.
Rapoport had been creating computer-mediated “audience participation performances” since 1979, gathering and analyzing data about her viewers. At a time when computers were mostly used for business and scientific purposes, Rapoport had an interest in what she called “soft material” – data about viewers’ personal feelings, experiences, and domestic situations – something we take for granted in today’s age of panoptic social media. ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS? is a continuation of this interest in the relationship between our private desires, how we participate in the economy, and “big data.”
The ImPOSSIBLE CONVERSATIONS? collages and video were exhibited at Fresno Museum of Art in 2013, along with a selection of Rapoport’s Fabric Paintings. Curator Linda Kano facilitated an “audience participation performance” in which visitors placed stickers with one of Sonya’s marketing phrases onto computer printout paper.
This was the first of three projects that took the form of collaged archival materials on pages from the The New York Times, including Yes or No? (2014), an autobiographical piece documented in a catalog by Terri Cohn and Alla Efimova, and The Transitive Property of Equality (2015), the final phase of Rapoport’s masterwork Objects On My Dresser (1979-1983, 2015), which was completed posthumously according to Rapoport’s instructions, and exhibited at Krowswork in Oakland.