8.12.2008

Not Complex

This is the type of thing that normal, rational people just couldn't make up. If you tried to imagine the most pointless, crude, nihilistic artwork you could think of, this is the type of thing you'd be shooting for. Giant dog turd wreaks havoc at Swiss museum (from The Guardian)
A giant inflatable dog turd created by the American artist Paul McCarthy was blown from its moorings at a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before landing in the grounds of a children's home.

The exhibit, entitled Complex Shit, is the size of a house. (See image here)
This type of postmodernist "art" is usually said to be "challenging/subverting/decontextualizing popular conceptions of X or Y," and it usually just has the effect of making the average person angry or disgusted. This piece is so insipid, however, that I can't imagine anyone even being offended by it. It's the intellectual equivalent of a chimp throwing its poo. You can think it's yucky, but it's a chimp. You can't have a moral problem with the actions of a non-human animal.

So, out of curiosity, does McCarthy have some sort of point? Not that we might expect some actual statement of purpose; rather, what type of ruse is he trying to pull over on the public? The Guardian piece gives us a partial answer:
The installation is part of an exhibition called East of Eden: A Garden Show, which features sound sculptures in trees and a football ground without goalposts.

The centre's website describes the show as containing "interweaving, diverse, not to say conflictive emphases and a broad spectrum of items to form a dynamic exchange of parallel and self-eclipsing spatial and temporal zones".
Is there anyone out there who'd care to diagram that quote and tell me what the hell it means? Still, this explanation is for the outdoor exhibit as a whole. What is the Macy's Parade dog turd itself supposed to tell us? The museum website says a bit more:
Paul McCarthy will be subverting the otherwise harmonious landscape sculpture of the Zentrum Paul Klee {the Swiss museum} with his installation ... a giant pile of dog faeces.
OK, so it's subverting the harmonious landscape. Is that it? It's ugly and disgusting, and it ruins the landscape? That's just pitiful. Puny, worthless, beneath contempt.

The artist, however, is not beneath contempt. Instead of being a chimp, outside the bounds of moral condemnation, McCarthy is -- at least biologically -- a human, and thus deserving of all the contempt rational men might care to cast his way.

From his Wikipedia entry: "McCarthy's work... often seeks to undermine the idea of 'the myth of artistic greatness' and attacks the perception of the heroic male artist." Well, he is certainly successful in destroying any perception of himself as heroic. He's not capable of doing any more than that.

In the end, we see that the title of the giant floating dog turd applies to the artist, too. Half of it does, anyway. Neither he nor his art could be considered complex.

5 comments:

LB said...

Holy crap!

Do you know that huge amorphous bronze piece that's been installed outside of MFA entrance for many years now? We have always referred to it as "the giant doody". It seems Mr. McCarthy was going for a more literal interpretation.

C. August said...

>>Holy crap!

My thoughts exactly.

I don't remember "the giant doody" but I'll notice it next time. I haven't been to the MFA in awhile and I think it's time to go back.

Gus Van Horn said...

Oh, good! I'm glad somebody blogged this *%^#.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

I don't think there has been as appalling a "oh, the humanity" moment as this since the crash of the Hindenburg.

C. August said...

Nick, that is friggin' hilarious. You have inspired me to do a little photoshoppery.

Hindenburg Redux