Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Any survey of contemporary video art must inevitably include the growing genre of quirky, oddball “performances” à la Marina Abramovic whose seminal work in the 70s (above with Ulay, 1977) was/is an inspiring staple in art school (after too). You know the kind I mean: a person wraps herself in duct tape; another binds herself to the ground with rope, puts a pin in her mouth and pops balloons falling from above. Once you’ve seen a gazillion of these, though, they lose their power and become simply an imitation of a concept about video art in galleries.

That said, on Tuesdays and Thursdays here in Walton, New York, the local auction house does its thing from six to nine. If I could represent the arbitrary flurry of activity there, I think I’d be up for the next Hugo Boss Prize. But, in all likelihood, I’d fall into the trap of “pseudormance,” mentioned above.

But picture this: a never-ending multi-person parade of objects carried poker face before the camera to the singsong of bidding. A cooler, a pair of yellow rain boots pulled from a hamper, a grandfather clock, a water softener, two sets of flowered sheets, a mountain bike, headlights, a vacuum cleaner (turned on to show that it works), five stuffed animals, sixteen glasses that say the big cheese, a beer stein, and a cast iron headboard.

The press release would say, “In this piece, Stevens re-creates the chaos of consumerism, where value has lost its logic, and the object prevails over our every activity. At the same time, she presents a perhaps more accurate depiction of non-linearity in our lives.”

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