Thursday, 27 January 2005

Fossilised Wankers

I think these two take the cake. The recipe? Hypocrites garnished with Idiotarianism.

From the LA Times :
Internationally known artists Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins have retired abruptly from their longtime professorships at UCLA in part because the university refused to suspend a graduate student who used a gun during a classroom performance art piece, a spokeswoman for the artists said Friday.

"They feel this was sort of domestic terrorism. There should have been more outrage and a firmer response," said Sarah Watson, a director at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, which represents Burden and Rubins. "People feared for their lives."
The brief performance involved a simulation of Russian roulette, in which the student appeared before the class holding a handgun, put in what appeared to be a bullet, spun the cylinder, then pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger, according to one student's account that was confirmed by law enforcement sources. The weapon didn't fire. The student quickly left the room, then the audience heard a shot from outside. What ensued is not clear, but police said no one was hurt.
Burden made his name in the early 1970s with influential and controversial performance art. In his best-known piece, "Shoot," performed in a Santa Ana gallery while he was a graduate student at UC Irvine, Burden had an assistant stand 15 feet away and shoot him in the upper arm with a .22-caliber rifle.
Ah, a Student of Hermann Goering. Personally, when I hear the word "Gun" I reach for my Culture (as Irving J Good once said).
Burden, 58, and Rubins, 52, are married. He had taught at UCLA since 1978, and she since 1982. Burden stopped doing performance art in the late 1970s and transitioned to sculpture, often making pieces that reflect on political issues or creating erector-set-like works inspired by the world of civil engineering.
"Pieces that reflect on political issues"? Why am I not surprised.
Rubins is known for huge assemblage works made from parts of scrapped vehicles and appliances, including a sculpture of steel wire and old airplane parts that dominates an outdoor plaza at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles.
The student who did the performance is Joseph Deutch, 25, according to the campus police log entry on the case. Campus police said that in the course of the investigation, Deutch handed over a gun that was not a real firearm. Robison, the district attorney's spokeswoman, said there was "insufficient evidence to show a gun was discharged or any bullet fired."
Christopher Waterman, dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture, said Friday that he didn't foresee the art department losing stature despite the abrupt loss of professors he described as "world-renowned artists, great creative forces."

"Change is a natural thing, and we're looking forward to conversations" about strategy for shaping the department's future in the search to fill the two vacant professorships, he said.
In other words, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Yes, you read it correctly. When they actually shoot someone with a rifle - that's Art. When someone else uses a toy gun - that's Terrorism.

I won't make any disparaging remarks about the sterility of the Professors' "artworks". I haven't seen the "sculpture of steel wire and old airplane parts" in question, and it's possible that such a thing could be a great creative achievement. I've seen great artworks made by people of talent that were made of such things. But the overwhelming majority of such junk is just that, junk. If the two Professors' creativity is on a par with their intellectual dishonesty, then it would be worth the journey to the Museum of Modern Art to see it. But my bet's on them being on a par with another bunch of wankers that I met 30 years ago.

UPDATE : Looks like I was right. From Artforum :
It's an understatement to note that the world changed profoundly between the completion of Nancy Rubins's latest work and its unveiling on September 13. The ways in which we relate to works of art have changed in varying degrees since September 11 but the effect is particularly clear in the case of the lone piece comprising Rubins's show--a gargantuan assemblage of jumpled airplane fragments.

The title of the work--Chas' Stainless Steel, Mark Thompson's Airplane Parts, About 1000 Pounds of Stainless Steel Wire, and Gagosian's Beverly Hills Space
Oh how Utterly Precious! And so, so Seventies!
--provides as good a nutshell description as any. Roughly twenty-five feet high and fifty-four feet wide at its broadest, the piece barely fit in the white--cube gallery, doing as great sculpture often does: claiming the space as its own and commanding it. The base and armature is a trussed column of welded stainless steel tubing--a relatively nimble footing for the mass that sprouts from it. Assembled from various stabilizers, wing sections, nose cones, pipes, fuselage chunks, and other random parts, all held tenuously in place by an improvised web of twisted wire, the piece is a monument of stored energy. Meanwhile, its dynamic form, which grows widest toward the top, is an inversion of the shape generated when a mass of parts is left to inertia and entropy: the pile.
A Pile. Rich. Brown. Steaming. Fragrant.
Two primary appendages thrusting outward and upward from the center and sweeping back suggest wings, and a reading of the work that includes references to the Nike of Samothrace is hardly a stretch, though it might be reaching beyond the artist's intention.
I throw my hands up in helplessness at this. I try to parody, but these people are so far up themselves they're beyond it.
Rubins's piece is made from what is immediately recognizable as salvaged scraps of small aircraft, not jets, but the work can't help but blur with the hijackings in the heavy associative haze hanging over virtually every aspect of culture. To see this work as a kind of phoenix figure or a quasi-anthropomorphic expression of triumph over tragedy may be indefensible, in light of its completion date, but to allow it to attain and bear its public meaning against the backdrop of a changed and ever-changing world is well within reason and, in fact, extends a challenge in which the work reveals its strength and significance.
Read that again. Slowly. Now try to extract a single microgramme of meaning.
It shows itself able to function as a flexible vehicle for themes and concerns both timely and timeless; it's as evocative of airplane disasters as of the fall of Icarus. Like many of Rubins's past works, this sculpture raps into far-reaching preoccupations and anxieties regarding production, consumption, destruction, and waste, as well as aspiration and failure in all their manifestations--concerns arguably as old as civilization itself, but lately boiling just under society's skin.
Like a particularly nasty pimple, or possibly scabies. Nice imagery.

As for The Winged Victory of Samothrace? The last time I saw that mentioned was in Harvard Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings". Ah yes, here it is :
..."Hello," said a gray lump behind them. "Long time no see."

"Goddam, old shoe," crooned Spam, and dropped a coin at Goddam's feet.

"Small world," said Frito as he palmed the Ring and clapped the surprised creature on the back.

"Look!" cried Frito, pointing to an empty sky. "The Winged Victory of Samothrace." And as Goddam turned to see, Frito looped the chain over his neck.

"Holla," cried Spam, "a 1927 indian-head nickel!" and dropped on his hands and knees in front of Goddam.

"Whoops!" said Frito.

"Aiyeee," added Goddam.

"Floop," suggested the tar pit.

Frito let out a deep sigh and both boggies bade a final farewell to the Ring and its ballast. As they raced from the pit, a loud bubbling noise grew from the black depths and the earth began to tremble. Rocks split and the ground opened beneath their very feet, causing the boggies much concern. In the distance, the dark towers began to crumble and Frito saw Sorhed's offices at Bardahl seam and shatter into a smoking heap of plaster and steel.

"Sure don't build 'em like they used to," observed Spam as he dodged a falling water cooler...
Now that is Great Art.

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