Art World aka Theme Parks.
by Ivan Riascos
So I live in Orlando, Florida, the world’s foremost expert in theme park experiences. Over the weekend I flew to NYC to view James Turrell’s, Aten Reign at the Guggenheim, and Paul McCarthy’s, WS at the Park Avenue Armory. Both were in a sense a theme park based experiences that overtook the entire interior of building they were exhibiting at. Two polar opposite artists in every sense of the word, from the issues they address, Turrell dealing with the spiritual and how light affects our lives, and McCarthy addressing consumerism that is heavily driven with sexuality and fantasy, to the medium they work in, Turrell principally works with light, and McCarthy with video, and over the top installations.
James Turrell’s piece takes over the entire rotunda at the Guggenheim (http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/on-view/james-turrell ). They altered the circular staircase to accommodate for the visual aspect in creating the experience of Aten Reign. To fully enjoy this piece one needs to dedicate an hour of laying on the first floor, or grabbing a seat along the perimeter. The best way to describe the piece is to imagine a slow moving color field, which envelops you. The majority of the time is spent looking up that at the graduation through a spectrum of various colors. The center circle remains a neutral white that is not apparent at first. This neutral white is actually the natural light filtered from outside. The more you look at it the more it becomes like a meditative piece. You start to think how beautiful the world is in having witnessed such a beautiful creation, or things that you overlooked because you are too busy to notice the subtle changes in your daily surroundings. Another aspect that is overlooked in the piece is that it’s a wonderful place to people watch. Seeing the people’s reactions while they look up or lay down. The security guard futilely repeating to the visitors that photography is prohibited. Also the colors in Aten Reign causes a chain reaction to the colors in the room, so depending what you are wearing you will see colors become fluorescent or a different color.
Paul McCarthy’s WS, is the taking of Walt Disney’s tale of Snow White (http://gothamist.com/2013/06/18/paul_mccarthy.php#photo-1 ), and twisting the story with many references such as: biographical (the set and house is a replica of where the artist grew up), art history (Olympia by Manet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympia_(Manet) , The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Masaccio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden), Oedipus (the relationship between the characters White Snow, the mother figure and Walt Paul aka Paul McCarthy, the son), Hollywood set designing, and to add a final topping to the cake McCarthy mimics a Disney store where actual Snow White merchandise can be purchased. This show has an age restriction of no one under 17 is allowed to enter.
I will admit that prelude to visiting WS, I saw Llyn Foulkes retrospect show at the New Museum. Some of Foulkes work was heavily influenced by the Mickey Mouse Club handbook where his belief that Disney’s intentions are to brain wash children’s minds.
Below is an excerpt from the THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB handbook:
The primary purpose of the club is two fold:
a) It provides an easily arranged and inexpensive method of getting and holding the patronage of youngsters.
…Everyone knows how strong the “gang” instinct is in children. The Mickey Mouse club is unique in that it…implants beneficial principles, the latter so completely shorn of any suggestions of “lessons” of lecturing, that children absorb them almost unconsciously.”
While viewing WS I saw the same issues being address by McCarthy. His installation in the main room consisted of 3 large screens on one side of the room, with duplicate videos being shown on 3 other large screens. They show a party that is unraveling with White Snow and her different personification (each personality wears a specific color yellow, blue, and red), since there are 3 princesses then there has to be 3 Prince Charmings, Walt Paul, and 9 dwarfs. The movie is 7 hours long, so if you want to see the ending you need to stay till the closing.
Between the video screens there is a large set of the interior of the house where the evidence and bodies of the party gone wrong remain, including the smells of the food left over. The sets are the same location viewed in the videos. Of course you can’t forget the magical forest where White Snow and the Dwarfs reside in, which was recreated but in plastic plants and trees that have the color of human excrement and somewhat shape like it. Also located within the forest the artist offers you an exterior view of the house, with its white trim and yellow siding. The side rooms in the armory include videos showing. These videos are chapters to the story. One video includes Prince Charming having intercourse with an animated sex doll of White Snow, basically he is trying to revive our princess. The strongest video for me was Adam & Eve, Etant Donnes. Seeing WS and Walt Paul running naked in slow motion and the slowing down of the audio their voices calling in agony, you feel the pain, shame, and the gravity of the crime they have committed. It heavily references The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Going through the different viewing aspects of the installation; eye level, peeping through windows, cut out holes, from below, and from up above, you feel like you are in a Disney amusement ride minus the cart on the rails, and the innocence. The viewer is constantly bombarded visually and especially auditory, no matter where you go it mixes with other sounds of the installation.
Both exhibitions or should I dare to say theme rides, was such an interesting clash of perspectives, but powerful and strong artistic statements. One installation being so meditative and spiritual, while the other installation being perverted and decadent, showing the ugly side of humanity in a very pessimistic way. But of course real life works the same way in that you have good days and bad days and to me this is the beauty of seeing both works back to back.
I saw Turrell in LA. So Awesome! http://www.segmation.wordpress.com
I really wanted to go but of course money is an issue. I was torn between NYC and LA, NYC won and I’m glad. If I hadn’t gone I would never had seen Paul McCarthy. I read that it’s eleven of his pieces on exhibit, and each one very different from the other.
I love going to see different art. You have a nice writing style. Thank you for sharing. http://www.segmation.com