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Friday, August 27, 2004

Art Gimmickry and Publicity Dept.

If you can't get people to throng around your artwork in either appreciation or in protest - millions can't - then consider enlisting the janitorial staff to help you put your name in the papers.

Some rules:
1. Make sure your medium is disposable, like actual garbage or something. Ripping up bills that you've incurred / paid-off would be EXCELLENT!
2. Be damn sure that your disposable medium(s) serve an exhibit tagline about the disposability of art. If you're going to insult your competitors in a profession of the imagination, don't raise your overhead. Just exemplify the exhibit's context.

Maybe Gustav Metzger didn't really get help from the Tate's custodians. But something like this is reported every few years. In a gallery in Germany, Joseph Beuys once exhibited a 'very dirty' bathtub that was scrubbed up by a gallery
employee. Seems to little ol' unconceptual me that a) the museums and galleries aren't thorough enough to coach their staff on how to distinguish 'trash' from trash; b) the artists are baiting the clean-up staff in hopes of a little publicity; c) it's about being compensated for uninspired art when inspired art isn't selling.

Other examples of custodial 'crimes' 'against' art are cited near the bottom of the BBC's press release...whoops, article. By now, these incidents begin to seem contrived. In 2001, sculptor Damien Hirst illustrated the accumulation of raw materials that infuse the artist's consciousness, a tray of coffee cups, beer bottles, and cigarettes whose nicotine content was sucked out as if through paper straws. Of course, these are the same raw materials that infuse the consciousness of college students, depressed people, late-working museum staff, PR firms, etc. None of them would've thrown in the wrapped chopsticks, though. That really was a nice touch. Hirst probably should've just taken a tip from Jasper John's bronzed paint cans and brushes and bronzed the entire tray. This would've been not just a clever artistic 'quote', but pratical as well: bet John's exhibits were never in danger from the janitors.

But what if I take Metzger and Hirst seriously, as intending this 'garbage' material to make truly serious statements? Their work would've been a nice statement about how the artist's lot runs on the same consumption as everyone else, if they hadn't been tossed out before such connections could be made.

At any rate, two paragraphs up I referred to 'uninspired art', and I find it easy to be cynical about these 'trashings'. The art in question generally offers only the corniest illustrations of themes you just have to roll your eyes at nowadays, like consumerism, disposibility, depersonalization. They were exciting ideas at one time, but they are so broad now, and few artists disprove anything with any of the lifestyles that have been made public. I mean besides
that Michael Landy dude. And I suppose the thing that bugs me the most is that artwork like this - and to me it's artwork - really mocks other artists. Not 'consumers',or 'corporate vultures', or the viewing public, but the aspirations of the other guys in the field. And themselves, as well. 'Once you gotta name', the tray of trash or the bag of refuse says, 'look what you can get away 'til you're inspired again'.

Metzger's rubbish bag was a perfect statement of this tactic, both cynical and politically correct - objects to be recycled. Since it was tossed, we can only hope that they were separated into their proper containers. But what if the Tate Museum doesn't have appropriate containers? Now there's a creative challange! Metzger ought to sculpt a few, just for..heh heh...show.
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