Saturday, January 04, 2014

Fly Barf Art: Louisville Museum taken in by practical joke

If you ever end up having to puke in a museum, don't be surprised if the curator wants to put it on display.

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville is abuzz with talk of its new exhibition which includes two artists who are now undoubtedly high-fiving each other over what they convinced a reputable museum to accept as "art."

The intention of the exhibit, reports WFPL, a Louisville public radio station, was designed to examine some "big themes" in American Art and includes the work of five alleged "artists," selected by Lexington-based artist and curator Aaron Skolnik, a man who one would think should probably not quit his day job if the day job he apparently has wasn't the problem in the first place.

Here is Speed's interim chief curator Scott Erbes, explaining some of the "big themes" in the exhibit once it is hatched:
Aaron really wanted to give each work some space to breathe and to really encourage people to stop and look, rather than the habit even I get into, which is going from work to work to work when they’re lined up on a wall.
It is probably a good thing, it turns out, that the exhibits will not be so easily viewable given what the museum is going to disgorge upon the public:
John Knuth is one of the show's five artists. He's based in Los Angeles, and he uses an unusual tool to create his paintings – flies.  A video explaining Knuth's process is on display along with two paintings.  Knuth breeds the flies specifically for his project, feeds them a mixture of sugar water and pigment, and encloses them in a space that includes canvas. Their regurgitated pigmented water on canvas creates the work.
If I was a museum curator, I would probably want to give this man's work a little space too. Lots of it. I'm thinking of some of the larger landfills in the Jefferson County vicinity, for example.

Erbes, apparently unaware of the joke that has been perpetrated on him, waxes eloquent about the display of emetic art. It "sounds curious," he says:
"but he’s interested in the idea of the artists’ control over materials and giving up that control," says Erbes. "It also deals with ideas of our attempts to control other species and the idea that you really can’t do that entirely. He’s also talked about his work being almost metaphors for urban life in the 21st century, just chaos, things moving around, thousands of individuals each doing different things, and that’s playing into the work as well."
Fly barf philosophy, care of the art establishment. Someone might now want to put on an exhibit of some visual representation of the control over materials by museum curators and what happens when that control is given up.

And if fly barf art is not quite to the visitor's taste, he can avail himself of the art of Lexington-based Louis Zoellar Bickett (which he can take in without an airsickness bag ... or, maybe not). Bickett's final exhibit piece is his 1999 sculpture "Family Grave Dirt," a piece which, as it turns out, is already a part of Speed's collection. "Bickett collected dirt from the graves of family members and people of personal significance," reports WFPL, "into canning jars, which he tagged and lined up on a shelf."

The imaginative Erbes will now explain its significance:
We are all the sum of many parts, of many identities that shape each of us. With this work, you see his interest in taking an archivist’s approach to the creation of works of art. 
There are some of us, of course, who will consider the contents of Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans a little bit more appetizing.

I'm wondering: Could the act of hoodwinking a museum by luring it into accepting some completely preposterous piece purporting to be "art" itself be an example of performance art? Would it be accepted by a museum?

As of this printing,  Erbes and the Speed Museum are still unaware that they are victims of a hoax.

1 comment:

Hank Reynolds said...

Dirt from grave sites is an "archivist's approach" to art? Hmm. Instead of being buried, I think I'll ask to be "archived" when I die. It sounds more scholarly (and maybe even more orthodox), e.g. Who's archived in Grant's tomb?