Blogging Blaffer

Thursday Links

Welcome to our weekly compilation of art writing that’s not about us.

If you’re reading a museum blog, you’ve almost certainly already heard about the Parisian controversy over Paul McCarthy‘s 79-foot inflatable butt-plug sculpture (titled Tree), but consider this a handy chronology:

Alexander Forbes on the assault of McCarthy: “At approximately two in the afternoon while the artist was surveying the completed work, an unknown assailant accosted McCarthy, allegedly screaming that his sculpture did not belong on the Place Vendôme before hitting him in the face at least three times. He was apparently additionally upset by the fact that McCarthy is not French.”

The Guardian on the vandalism of the sculpture: “Cables supporting the 24-metre green piece by US artist Paul McCarthy – which he said was inspired by a Christmas tree and a butt plug – were cut on Saturday, leaving the artwork slumped on the pavement in the Place Vendôme and forcing a security guard to deflate it, police said. An unidentified group of people cut the cables which were holding the artwork, which caused it to collapse,” police told Reuters. “The person responsible for the piece then decided to deflate it to avoid it being more seriously damaged.””

Jonathan Jones says McCarthy has presented far more scandalous work without incident, but never mind: “The trouble with his art is precisely that it gets shown in very sophisticated galleries and art events where everyone takes it in their stride. In Paris, he’s suddenly managed to provoke the masses. That’s when contemporary art gets exciting.”

It’s hard to imagine an American president–even JFK–reacting the way French President François Hollande did, as quoted by Benjamin Sutton: “France is no longer herself when she is folded in on herself, tormented by ignorance and intolerance,” Hollande added hyperbolically. “The country would plunge into decline if it refused to be itself, if it was afraid of the future, afraid of the world.”

Anne Penketh reports that McCarthy’s artistic response is being incorporated into an exhibition at the Paris Mint: “Paris Mint spokesman Guillaume Robic said the chocolate factory was already up and running and had been producing 250 chocolate Father Christmas figurines, each with a butt plug, each day for the past few days. Eleven rooms where the figurines are stocked have been made dark to resemble a long tunnel. Visitors will be able to move through the halls, where there will be a strong smell of chocolate, and where a video and “aggressive sounds” will be playing. “It’s a dream, or a nightmare,” Robic said. “It reflects the aggressiveness that McCarthy felt after what happened in the Place Vendôme.””

In non-butt-plug news, Hannah Duguid interviews Kerry James Marshall: ““Blackness has always been stigmatised, even amongst black people who flee from the density of that blackness. Some black people recoil from black people who are that dark because it has always been stigmatised. In Western Catholicism darkness was evil, in the colonial and imperial context dark skin was always weak, powerless, subjugated. If you see these images all the time they become commonplace, and they no longer become a spectacular or sensational thing,” he says.”

Cassie Packard visits a London exhibition of Martha Rosler‘s The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-75): “Bouncing between a general lexicon of alcoholism and a visual vernacular borrowed from the likes of Depression-era social reformist documentarian Walker Evans, Rosler pokes fun at the mannerism that inevitably accompanies mediation. More darkly, she questions whether liberal documentary’s attempt to mask anxiety about meaning, to soothe with an aesthetically pleasing humanism, is ethically questionable or even exploitative of oppressed populations.”

Paddy Johnson pans Richard Prince‘s Instagram portraits show: “Prince is painfully removed from the youth culture in which he’s participating, which only extenuates the project’s problems. He makes up his own slang and signs his Instagrams online. It might be a self-aware gesture—it’s likely he’s had an assistant help him figure out who’s cool—but as artist Clayton Cubitt pointed out on Twitter, “Watching Richard Prince do Instagram is like watching your dad try to rap.””

Sean Fader, an artist whose Instagram project Prince appropriated, decided to re-appropriate the appropriation with a press release casting his inadvertent appearance in Prince’s Gagosian show as a “curatorial effort”: “At first glance, one might be led to believe that Richard Prince’s intentionally naïve commentary on Instagram images to be merely a last gasp at colonizing the work of others. Rather than just a replaying of that white male privilege as an attempt to stay relevant in a world he doesn’t understand, Prince’s curatorial effort represents a new turn in the form of his affectionate and deep engagement with the work of his peer, the photographer and performance artist Sean Fader.”

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