Sunday, May 4, 2008
Monofish: Too cool for school.
May 2nd -May 2nd (one night only)
It may fall upon you to one day to have to think of what you think about it when someone hooks a dead fish up to an amp and throws it on the floor of your gallery. My initial reaction when confronted with the very situation was to shout “Jamie Dillon that's disgusting!” and then to find said artist/co-gallery director and tell him that I hoped he had a plan to de-smell the gallery (because it stank to holy hell). Anotheir part of me thought it was all very funny.
I want to dennounce this exhibtion as cliché avant-garde ill-thought-out attention-seeking bullshit, but I can't help but acknowledge that while it's an immature and cheap shot it does make me question the nature of many things. One, is the desire of the avant-garde artist to alarm or disenfrancise his/her audience. When talking to Jamie , he brought up the point that he saw his piece as a sort of “rite of passage”, meaning those of the viewers who could “take” the experience could be accepted into “club avant garde”. We both agreed that a proper musical comparison could be some forms of “noise music” which is sometimes played at such a volume and freguency that it hurts the eardrums, yet audience members at such shows often consent to stand, arms crossed, and take the onslaught of sound. It is not an accepted thing to dsilike the music or even get mad at the musicians for hurting your eardrums, instead the audience agrees that different kinds of sounds are worth listening to and that even the most ear-destroying sonic boom has merrit.
I became very interested in how the viewer (it is to be noted here that the viewer was very much an art-viewing public), would go so far as to raise their eyebrows, or react violently to the smell, but no one was willing to outright question the fish's position as an art-object in any sort of audible way. It is to be noted, however, that Monofish marks the only exhibition at Copy when the gallery has been virtually empty all night.
I wonder at my own ability to accept everything and find my mind in two places; I want to say it's okay to be crazy and do whatever but I also think the artist has a responsibility to their public. An anynomous viewer, after seeing Monofish commented “I'm a little bit mad that Jamie even invited me over here to see this.” I believe that we should have trust in our art-viewing public and that we don't have to “test” them with slightly shocking and smelly wastes of time. Time and time again they have proven to us that, yes, they will accept anything we throw at them and not riot because of it. The public has amassed an extremely high level of tolerence. We, as artists, don't need to pretend to be Joseph Beuys over and over again. A human being isn't a guniea pig and it's impolite just to invite people over to be part of your socialogical experiments. So I'm going to say I don't agree with Monofish, I won't riot, I won't shoot the artist (because, really, there is nothing there to even get mad about), I will just argue that this is a completely useless waste that I found mildly entertaining.
In stronger language I find Monofish to be a step backwards from everything I hope to achieve with art, which is a stronger and more diverse art viewing public. I don't like the idea of art that chooses to be anti-social or that proliferates the myth of an avant-garde art click. In the words of Winona Ryder's character towards the end of the movie Heathers “I just want my High School (gallery) to be a better place.”