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P.S. 71 student moonlights at Guggenheim

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Modern art, meet paper mache. Upper East Side, meet Pelham Bay. Tino Sehgal, meet Hannah Ludemann.

The Guggenheim Museum selected Ludemann, a Pelham Bay resident and sixth grader at the P.S. 71 Preparatory Academy, to serve as a volunteer “interpreter” for its Tino Sehgal exhibition, which opened on Friday, January 29.

Not every Bronx student lands a gig at the iconic Guggenheim. The exhibition is “kinda cool,” Ludemann, 11, said.

Sehgal, 34, a London-born artist raised and trained in Germany, is known for “experience art.” Sehgal often paints nothing, builds nothing, sculpts nothing. Instead, he uses real people to construct “situations” to be observed and experienced.

At the Guggenheim, the artist chose to explore the idea of “progress.” He has youngsters like Ludemann greet museumgoers and ask, “What’s progress?” Ludemann and her peers listen carefully, lead the museumgoers to teen interpreters and explain to the teen interpreters what they’ve been told.

The teens lead the museumgoers to middle aged interpreters and so on until an elderly interpreter has his or her turn and the exhibition ends.

“The exhibition is sort of strange,” Ludemann’s mother Mary said. “But the artist is famous and nice. We got to meet him.”

Hannah and Mary read about the exhibition in the magazine InsideSchools. Hannah enjoys art, music and drama; she thought it would be fun to try for a spot. When mother and daughter got to the Guggenheim and encountered pushy parents, Mary balked.

“They were stage moms,” she said. “So I was proud when the museum called the next day and told Hannah that she’d been selected.”

Hannah, a champion speller who competed at Bronx Science on January 29, was one of roughly 100 young interpreters chosen. She has made friends with kids from all around the city. Although she takes the gig seriously, it reminds her of a “memorization game.”

“Hannah is such a tremendous student,” P.S. 71 teacher Marybeth Gallagher said. “Her consistent effort each day continues to set such a great example for all her classmates. I’m sure this is just the beginning of many successful years ahead for Hannah.”

When the museum had a dress rehearsal for the exhibition, Hannah ended up as interpreter for Japanese, then French and then Italian tourists.

“I told them, ‘I don’t understand!’ she laughed.

Hannah encouraged her Pelham Bay friends and neighbors to visit the exhibition, schedule through Wednesday, March 10.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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