Turning Shame into Art


Tour participants at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, in Sydney (Photo for the New York Times by Christo Crocker)

Excerpt from "New Tour at Museum Reveals All," by Mark Whittaker, The New York Times, May 1, 2012:

Stuart Ringholt said that in his 20s, he was profoundly affected by experiences of extreme embarrassment, a subject now at the center of much of his work. One of these involved toilet paper hanging out of his pants as he walked on the field at an Australian football game with hundreds of people looking on.

“I was wrecked — I went home and explained it to my girlfriend, and she was killing herself laughing,” he said. “I was distraught for a whole week.”

Being a dabbler in performance, Mr. Ringholt turned shame into art. He went to Palazzo Vecchio in Florence and stood in front of a marble fountain for 20 minutes with toilet paper trailing from his trousers. He walked around for a day in Basel, Switzerland, wearing a prosthetic nose with a “gob” of fake mucus hanging from it.

“I tried to understand how fear manifests in the body and how it debilitates you,” he said. Knowing these acts of abjection were performances didn’t make them easier, he added: “It was just as bad. You get a panic attack. You get cold sweats. I realized it was the same fear I got when I rang up a woman to ask her on a date.”

Eventually, he said, he learned to conquer his fear by understanding it. He called the woman and got the date, and he took his fear workshops on the road. That led to the nude museum tours.

See also: "I Ran Out Naked In The Sun" by Jane Hirshfield, from Come, Thief

Infinitely Tiny Increments

Naked: A Gallery View from Eiko and Koma on Vimeo.

“A naked man and woman moving with glacial slowness on a mound of earth, feathers, sticks and vegetation doesn’t sound at all like an enthralling theatrical experience. But such is the almost inexplicable magic of ‘Naked: A Living Installation,’ by the Japanese-American duo Eiko and Koma, that watching two bodies inch toward and away from each other in infinitely tiny increments is an utterly absorbing, potent drama of time and space — endless in the moment, over before you know it.”

From “Poetry of Stillness, in a Moment Stretched to Infinity,” by Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times, March 30, 3011


A Girl by Ron Mueck

Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Missing Something Personal

Excerpt from “Post-Minimal to the Max,” by Roberta Smith, New York Times (Feb. 14, 2010):

David Bates's "Lower End Boat Dock II"  (Photo: DC Moore Gallery, New York)

After 40 years in which we’ve come to understand that dominant styles like Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Pop are at best gross simplifications of their periods, it often feels as though an agreed-upon master narrative is back in place.

What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting, which seems to be becoming the art medium that dare not speak its name where museums are concerned….

…Museum curators need to think less about an artist’s career, its breakthroughs and its place in the big picture and more in terms of an artist’s life’s work pursued over time with increasing concentration and singularity.

They have a responsibility to their public and to history to be more ecumenical, to do things that seem to come from left field. They owe it to the public to present a balanced menu that involves painting as well as video and photography and sculpture. They need to think outside the hive-mind, both distancing themselves from their personal feelings to consider what’s being wrongly omitted and tapping into their own subjectivity to show us what they really love.

These things should be understood by now: The present is diverse beyond knowing, history is never completely on anyone’s side, and what we ignore today will be excavated later and held against us the way we hold previous oversights against past generations.