Thursday, November 4, 2010

 When Richard Serra re-created his famous act of throwing lead in 1995 at the San Francisco MOMA, part of the deal was that the several pulled out negatives couldn't be moved. Now, whenever a temporary show is on that floor, Serra's room has to be walled off.
  The piece, being walled off so frequently, had been hidden from my mother's less than frequent visits, and she showed delight and interest as we strolled by earlier this year. "So, what is it?" she asked, and before I could even get in to my index-vs-icon speech, a startling "what do you think it is?" came from behind us.
 Neither of us had noticed the docent lurking in the corner and his eagerness turned to patient dismissal as she referred to them as "waves". Obviously excited about correcting her with the true background, he told of them being evidence of an act and then went into a short minimalism primer.
 The thing is, they do look like waves, albeit of the dirty, low-rent variety. My mom had seen them  from a view unclouded by my artucation. I can't remember whether I had said or just thought "her explanation is so much cooler that yours!".  Not that it is, necessarily, but it's her idea on it and the very friendly docent's singular take came off as, well, singular. There was a lesson to be taught and he was doing his job to the letter.
 The index/icon/symbol Mexican standoff still energizes creative practices, but all three results gain a life of their own when enlivened with the narratives a thousand eyes will put on them. Even when a symbol is misinterpreted from a specific intent, it becomes something new. Can a misread be keener than an intent? Were the people of the "new world" so far off base when seeing the Christian symbol not as a cross, but a sword? Do artists really want to speechify from a lectern? Or are they sending something out to join the world?
 Maybe it was all because my mom is English.

Coming: Is index American?      

It's the way you tell it.

  The Aristocrats is a movie about an old joke with a silly punch line. But the punch line isn't the point, as numerous comedians get to tell widely varying, and increasingly offensive versions of the lead up.
 Widely varying versions of the same animal will be on display at the curatorial project Ugly Art Room's contribution to Bushwick's Beta Spaces festival. For one day, upstart curators are asked to take over a space in Bushwick and create a show. U.A.R.'s Jennifer Galatioto has come up with an idea to fill a children's schoolroom with different artist's depictions of a certain caniform, and call the show B is for Bear. That's all that ties the show together really, multiple forms of the same animal. The simplicity of the theme of course allows for multitudinous demonstrations of hand and style. Now that the content has been taken care of so specifically, the portrayal  is free to roam where it will. Having been asked to be in the show myself, my thoughts turned to another tasteless old joke along the line of the aristocrats.
 Have you heard the one about the bear that, after taking a shit in the woods, asks a passing bunny if fecal matter sticks to it's fur? That's all I remember of the joke, except that the rabbit must say "yes", because the teller then has to act out the bear picking up the poor hopper and wiping his behind with it. I think this might be the only joke I can think of where the punch line isn't a line, but a physical act. Whereas the aristocrat joke allows someone to embellish the story up to the end, the bear/bunny depends on the tellers comic performance. There must be a million ways to describe a stage act so horrible that it's funny and ironic to find out the title of the act is "the aristocrats", but there is only one way to act like you're using a rabbit as toilet paper. Whether it's funny or not (is it funny?) comes down to sheer movement.
 So the interest for me became not just how my bear was going to look, but how it was going to look wiping it's butt with peter cottontail. Having been trusted to make a piece yet unseen, I thought first to keep with my simple practice of painting. If the success of a storytelling comes down to personal elan, then perhaps the success of a painting could come to "dumbing (or pairing) down" to the point where it's purpose is pure  economical depiction of a dictated scenario. Maybe I'll do it twice, focusing on the subtle differences in bunny to bear interaction. As good reason as any I suppose to make a piece of work. Once you get the idea out of the way you can get to work.
 Except that I do have one idea. I think I'll change them to kittens.