Friday, December 12, 2014

What is Art ... Amnesty?

Courtyard at MOMA PS1

As I warmed in the dinette with a cup of tea at MOMA PS1, the Long Island City adjunct to the Museum of Modern Art, the smell of hot lunch permeated the once-upon-a-time school building and the lining of my stomach, the latter causing some quiet growling. My friend arrived and we traversed the galleries finding ourselves fascinated by (the exhibits) Zero Tolerance, Samara Golden's The Flat Side of the Knife, Francesco Vezzoli's Teatro Romano and The Little Things Could Be Dearer. Nothing caused more discussion and consternation though than Bob and Roberta Smith's Art Amnesty. Art Amnesty begins in the museum courtyard with four dumpsters marked THROW YOUR ART AWAY. Somewhat perplexing but when we walked into the Art Amnesty gallery, I put two and two together, came up with four, and found a fascinating concept. According to the guidelines @BobandRoberta:
... are offering an opportunity for artists to dispose of their artwork at MoMA PS1, and to retire from making art. Beginning October 2, artists are invited to deposit their art in dumpsters located in the museum’s courtyard, which will be emptied as needed throughout the period of the Art Amnesty. Those who wish to exhibit their work one final time before it is destroyed may bring their art to the 2nd Floor Main Galleries, where museum staff will install it for public view. The museum will accept work under the Art Amnesty during regular hours, subject to certain restrictions outlined in the submission guidelines. The exhibition reprises and expands upon their Art Amnesty originally presented at Pierogi Gallery in 2002.

from Art Amnesty

The Art Amnesty gallery displays a lot of art; some of the larger pieces are actually very good, a scattered few wouldn't be out of place on their mother's refrigerator and much is very bad but all of it will be disposed of when the exhibit closes on March 8, 2015. There is some real garbage including a Merrel brand shoe marked as Champs that someone removed in the museum and a banana peel enclosed in an empty plantain chips bags. The exhibit seeks to answer the questions:
Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?

from Art Amnesty

As I walked around the gallery I wanted to contribute. I surmised that the use of the word amnesty gives anyone the right to offer up art. At the very least I would've brought in a tshirt I designed for my crew d'tees line just to hang it in a nationally recognized museum - adjunct. But alas, all I could do was leave the gallery and visit the bathroom. I was still hungry so I ate a banana I had while listening to my friend urinate. When he had zipped up, I said that I should bring my banana peel into Art Amnesty. He was somewhat aghast but I countered that the point of the exhibit is amnesty, defined as a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense; in this case the offense being whatever the artist deems to be art. After some discussion, my friend pulled an empty bag of plantain chips out of his jacket pocket and said I might as well use this garbage too. When I realized that bananas and plantains were of the same fruit family but used (primarily) in different cultures I realized that by putting the banana peel into the plantain chip bag I was illustrating global assimilation. Much to my friend's consternation my art had turned into a collaborative piece.

Global Assimil- ation in Art Amnesty

I walked into the gallery and started explaining my thought process to the docent before asking if he really wanted to hear my thought process. He replied in the affirmative so I told him everything and he was perfectly fine with it - even smiling. Then I asked if he had some paper I could tape the bag to. He handed me a sheet and a stapler. Then I asked for a pen so I could title it. He directed me to a table with colored pencils and crayons and said I could use whatever was there. (Much of the art work in the gallery had obviously been done at this table.) So I wrote three lines on my paper:
  • GLOBAL in yellow signifying the sun
  • ASSIMIL- in blue signifying the sky
  • ATION in brown signifying the earth
I handed my art to the docent, filled out my I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS WORK OF ART AGAIN pledge, signed the I WILL ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BE ALL THAT THEY CAN BE. CHOOSE ART AT SCHOOL. pledge (which is to be mailed to Jeb Bush), and my art was hung up (fittingly) next to the art work that I had deemed my favorite when I first walked through the gallery.

from Art Amnesty

As we walked home, my friend was resolute in his disgust. He said what I hung up was garbage, plain and simple. (What about the shoe? The Shoe!) No matter how much verbal diarrhea I explicated, my friend could not grasp the concept of Art Amnesty: that using the word amnesty in the exhibit's name allows anyone and everyone to contribute art, precluding judgment on said art and allowing anyone and everyone to proudly proclaim I am an artist. I might even go back with one of my crew d'tees tshirts!

PS: The day after my validation as an artist at MOMA PS1 I went grocery shopping and was asked to sign my credit card slip. When I handed the signed slip back to the cashier she told me I had the signature of an artist. That's two validations as an artist in one week!

Teatro Romano

Mirrors as The Flat Side of the Knife

from Zero Tolerance