art stinks

There are an infinite number of better puns I might make about this story, but I’d be violating my kawaii-safe rule in doing so. Via Art News Blog, artist Santiago Sierra has unveiled a new exhibition at the Lisson Gallery in London:

21 ANTHROPOMETRIC MODULES MADE FROM HUMAN FAECES BY THE PEOPLE OF SULABH INTERNATIONAL, INDIA

The work is made of 21 modules of human faeces, each measuring 215 x 75 x 20cm. […] Workers of the sanitary movement Sulabh International of India are mostly scavengers who, by birth, have to undertake the physically and psychologically painful task of collecting human faecal matter, being charged with the blames of a previous life of bad deeds.

21 ANTHROPOMETRIC MODULES MADE FROM HUMAN FAECES BY THE PEOPLE OF SULABH INTERNATIONAL, INDIA

It’s a striking work, each slab reminiscent of the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey (but of course, representing almost the exact opposite). ArtNewsBlog appreciates the installation on multiple levels:

There’s a message that the artist wants to get across, which could be honorable or mocking, depending on which side of the fence you choose to sit. The optimist in me sees an artist highlighting the exploitation of a group of people that need a hand up. The cynic in me sees an artist doing something shocking for the sake of publicity (exploiting the media). The humorous me sees an artist shi$%ing on the floor of an upmarket art gallery and laughing at those that take it seriously (exploiting the gallery and public).

I’m inclined to give Sierra the benefit of the doubt with respect to being merely a publicity seeker, though the PR aspect is undeniable. Still, as an artist, Sierra’s focus is on class issues. For example, another work of his, “Economical Study of the Skin of Caracans“, touches on a similar theme (details below the fold). At any rate, the art does at minimum force the viewer to wonder how such an enormous pile of shi% could be assembled, and the physical reality of it in front of the eyes attunes their mind to the plight and working conditions of these laborers at the bottom of the bottom of India’s society, a depth which we simply cannot fathom from our everyday experience alone.

I confess that my ethnic heritage drives my interest in this art; I’ve been on a tear recently about Indian laborers working in Dubai at my political blog recently as well. This is the kind of art I like – simple, understated, and yet carrying a hefty social message, not overly preachy but relying on the innate compassion of the viewer to make the connection.

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masterpieces exposed

This story about a man throwing red ink into the Trevi Fountain – one of the great majestic masterpieces of Rome – caught my attention not for the (frankly) jejeune claims of artistic significance, but rather because how it highlights just how fragile and vulnerable these and other great treasures remain. From the article:

Initial reactions were of outrage and concern, and underlined how exposed Italy’s precious monuments are. Over the years, vandals have damaged dozens of statues, including the Pietà by Michelangelo in the Vatican. A 1993 bombing aimed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence that killed five was attributed to the Mafia.

Trevi dyed

The treasures of Greece are likewise vulnerable, though the authorities seem to be more proactive. The sculptures at the Acropolis are being moved by gigantic cranes to a dedicated museum, for example. The Greek authorities are also demanding that London return some of the sculptures from Greece now residing in the British Museum, but they probably are safer there. Same goes for the treasures of Egypt.

telling art from a hole in the ground

this tale is better told in reverse.

what the following bodes for the survival of Western Civilization, I cannot say, well or ill. But understand that we have entered an era in which holes in the ground are understood to be artistic installations rather than holes in the ground, as a matter of first assumption:

“We saw the first poor victim, a young woman who went into it with both feet up to just below her knees. She had to be dragged out by her friends,” said one onlooker.

“Unbelievably, as we watched to see whether she was OK, an older woman deliberately stepped on it (she later told us, amazingly, that she thought the crack was painted on the floor) lurched forward and landed on the ground. She had a sore wrist to show for it.”

Except, of course, that the hole in the ground WAS an artistic installation:

Doris Salcedo, the artist responsible for the latest Tate Modern Turbine hall commission, has said she wants visitors to look down when they encounter her work and engage in quiet contemplation – rather than be sidetracked by the space’s spectacular architecture.

Some, however, have failed to look down carefully enough.

The work – a long, sometimes foot-wide fissure that runs the entire length of the hall – was unveiled at a private view on Monday night, when someone fell into what is becoming known as “Doris’s crack” (its official title is Shibboleth).

The Guardian and Art News blog have more to say about the shibboleth of artists cracking holes in the ground and calling it art. I find the title, Shibboleth, to be oddly appropriate.

conceptual terrorism

a shocking evolution in terrorists’ strategy:

Conceptual Terrorists Encase Sears Tower In Jell-O

Authorities called to the scene of the senseless attack said they could do little to control the large crowds of dangerously bewildered citizens, many of whom searched desperately for some semblance of meaning in what had just taken place.
[…]
“Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged,” an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video’s first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. “It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence.”
[…]
While officials have yet to determine the purpose of the attack, a number of potential theories have emerged, including the sudden deregulation of the U.S. economy, the destruction of culturally significant landmarks, and maybe the fact that man, in his essence, is no more than a collection of irrational fragments, incapable of finding reason where no reason exists.

conceptual terrorism

PostSecret

If I had to characterize this art project, I’d say it was a manifestation of the universal human desire to get caught:

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.
[…]
You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret. Each secret can be a hope, regret, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything – as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.

There’s something innately profound about the sheer mundaneness of it all; just like the Thought Project I mentioned earlier. There’s also A PostSecret Book available that has many more secrets than the blog.

(No, none of the postcards or emails there are mine. Seriously. I swear.)