Work of Art: Season 2, Episode 2

Well, this is easily the most scatological episode of any television show I have ever watched. On Work of Art this week it’s the parkour, dyah i mean “motion challenge,” and for the event China has decided to wear a men’s big and tall yellow cableknit sweater backwards and inside out. The artestants divide up into two teams, because forcing artists to work together where no other reason exists is always a great route to producing relevant, well-executed works of art.

“I would love actually to do a pooping piece,” Michelle unceremoniously exclaims almost from the get-go. And with that team 1 decides to concentrate on digestion as their motion inspiration. Um OK.

Team 2 seems to be going nowhere, and then all of a sudden Jazz-Minh (yes, that is her name) just starts doing somersaults and photographing herself with one of the parkour people. They then immediately go dumpster diving — collecting broken glass, soggy particle board, and then at one point just bags of straight-up garbage.

What follows is lots and lots of mentions of poop and shit, mostly from The Sucklord (and yes, that is his name). “We have to remember this shit has to move,” he shouts at one point with zero hint of irony!

I think what they are saying is parkour is shit.

Eventually Simone has a breakdown and yells at everyone for not making things that…move fast enough. It’s like the artestants saw this ridiculous challenge (show?) and said to themselves, “OK this is obviously both absurd and demeaning, BUT I need that moneys, so I gottsa make something…better stick with my core and do essentially what I would have done otherwise, only now I have to explain it more.” There is even a hilarious moment where one of them yells back at Simone saying basically, “Well this is what I was inspired to do, so suck my uterus.” Which is to say, “Um didn’t you get the memo, I’m an artist; I don’t take orders from you.”

So why is this a show!?

At this point I realize someone has used a paintbrush as a hair pick, and I just think…ugh, art school…

So the poopy team shifts to playground, because it’s happy and moving…but still not that far from the original poop angle, if you ask me. Team 2 decides to shift to a balls theme. Straight up balls. Leon, who is deaf, says (through is interpreter) at one point, and I quote, “let’s use it, let’s make it simple, it’s about balls.” And with that, they’re off! Then all of a sudden the girl who makes visceral tableaus, Kathryn, compares herself to Francis Bacon! Celebrated British 20th Century master painter, Francis Bacon! What, we couldn’t get an edited-in picture of a Bacon painting, Bravo? She’s super worried that making a video will ruin her, since she’s never made a video. Maybe she should be more worried that her piece is the same as her last one? Oh wait! That doesn’t make sense as a criticism if this were real and she were making a series. Artists commonly operate in the same vein for years, decades even. Nope! Not Work of Art. Gotta makes do more arts!

Lola manages to incorporate the term “double fisting” in reference to glue guns and found garbage. Somehow, I hate her less.

Poop girl realizes that she can incorporate actual testicles in her piece, referencing a man in a playground. Wait, have the teams merged? Oh, who can say really?

Then Bayete goes to the roof to spin, spin until his heart is set free! Spin like he could just take off if he goes fast enough. Take off and get out of this place. Best take your shirt off, Bayete. Oh wait, no, you’re falling down instead? OK this makes sense. And, scene.

Then we’re treated to Kymia jamming her tongue into a vat of purple goo (to make a mold of it) whilst she simultaneously flicks off Bayete. Gosh I love this show?

Then whats his face redneck (Dusty) gets his package, revealing his wife and child at home pray for him every day blah blah blah. He talks about his “teeter totter” self-portrait thing, and I have a realization.

TANGENT: Once when I worked at an auction house, and I was staying late one night, a furniture specialist who was cataloging Tiffany lamps near me and was natively French-speaking came over and asked me, ‘What word would you say for this,’ pointing to a cricket or locust of some sort in the stained glass. “That there is a grasshopper,” I immediately responded. He gave me this half quizzical, half disgusted look, as if I shouldn’t be privileged enough to have a command of the English language. I thought about it for the rest of the night, and he was right! Grass + hopper. It’s the most basic of proper names, right? This is how i feel about “teeter totter.”

I realize it’s sort of amazing the equipment and materials they’re given on this show. Unlike Top Chef or Project Runway, where scarce and/or limited materials are common and often a major part of each challenge, on Work of Art they’re literally given free reign of almost every possible material out there. Mr. Teeter Totter, for example, prints out a giant photorealistic print of himself, seemingly in a matter of a couple of minutes. Such a large-scale printer (not to mention the camera and computer) would surely not be in his usual repertoire, since it would cost many tens of thousands of dollars in all likelihood. I’m not bashing him, I’m just pointing out that most people don’t actually buy such printers for themselves; they have their photos printed at professional photo labs. I guess what I’m really saying is that I commend Bravo for actually giving these artestants the raw supplies necessary (but of course still throw in trivial rules and such) to do basically whatever they want. That is not something most reality competition shows ever come close to doing, with the exception of maybe the finale show — where the contestants have ample time, money, and supplies to “prove themselves.”

So how did it all turn out? Let’s look at what the judges thought were the worst and the best:

Team/Exhibition “Play with Me” wins.

Michelle: It’s a fairly basic but interestingly structured wooden kinetic sculpture requiring the viewer to grab balls to produce movement. I mean there’s nothing really to say either way. That is what it is. There’s nothing transcendent, but there’s nothing disagreeable. It kind of reminds me of a Nancy graves sculpture in a way.

Bayette: It’s a very simple and literal spinning video, presented in tandem. I certainly don’t hate it, but again it’s just very simple. Maybe in person it’s very mesmerizing, as the judges all said. And he wins! For taking off his shirt?!

Team/Exhibition “Loop” looses. Did the judges realize it rhymes with their original theme? For some reason the judges hate that this group didn’t have things literally moving and spinning around, you know since the theme was parkour and all. I imagine their thoughts to be, “How is a circle movement? I am literally going to poop my pants this makes so little sense.” If only they knew…

Lola: I think if Lola’s piece were concentrated on the smaller more semen-like part, it could have maybe been more interesting. Still, there’s nothing here that’s altogether better or worse than the winners. Needless to say, this show is incredibly subjective.

Tews: Of all the pieces shown, I honestly didn’t really feel anything from this piece. There really wasn’t any connection between the elements. But is that bad? Am I justifying the judges’ complaints? Tews in the real would could probably make a whole show out of these tube spinny things. Why not!? That it doesn’t move means nothing. China says “I don’t feel the city,” to which Jeanne responds, “oh well that’s because it’s a bad Minimalist piece.” Wait…what? How is this Minimalism? They were supposed to incorporate the city as well as motion? Ugh, this show… China actually uses Tews’ self-defense as a negative for the piece. He was supposed to not like it…he made it!

Kathryn: So she made a video version of her last piece, which again I’m not really that upset about. Are we saying artists should just jump from one thing to another after every piece? Like she’s not allowed to have faux viscera in her 2nd of 2 pieces on this show!? The simple difference of one being a video and one being a photo, for me at least, actually makes these two very different in a lot of ways. You experience them very differently. Still, this show can devote only a few seconds of reason to any one moment, so we’re given this crazy editing of Kathryn hysterically crying over the judges’ words followed immediately by China dourly saying, “Thank you Kathryn. I am a badly dressed robot and must go recharge my vagina batteries,” which is not a great segue into the time whence the judges talk privately. Kathryn is clearly edited to be the loser, and she in fact does go home. But in doing so, does she win? I think she wins. She was on this show, and sure she didn’t get the big finale money, but she is also not ruined as a person. The rest? Well, we’ll have to see…

P.S. Jeanne’s back! and now she’s described as an art advisor/curator (Spoiler Alert: You could call yourself the same things. No evidence is required.)

P.P.S Just a side note: There is a shot of people apparently lined up to get into the “gallery.” I mean I understand people would line up to be on a television show, but what is the point of showing that? Are the producers trying to make the viewer think gallery openings are somehow exclusive and worth waiting in line for? The only time I’ve ever seen a line for any sort of gallery opening, it was Pace’s big anniversary show(s) last year, and that was an absurd exception. We’re told one of the people in line is apparently a judge from “Top Chef: Desserts.” Which is just so…oh I give up.

P.P.P.S. Another side note: Was there like an Erector set of motors in the studio or something? Several artestants incorporated slight kinetic elements in their pieces, which is a lot harder than it looks. Electric DC motors typically spin at a relatively high speed, and stepping that down to a pleasant rhythmic motion (as seen in at least 4 pieces) requires gears and other such adjustments. I suspect there was some standard electrical box they could use, but this was never explained.

P.P.P.P.S. Sadly because they were on the winning team, we don’t get to talk about how Young’s piece was vaguely Guyton/Walker-esque (which perhaps explained why I liked it) nor that Leon’s sort of Duchampian.

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