Trong Defends "(What Would Tom Friedman Do?)"
Trong reacts to the judges' critque of his piece, ""WWTFD?"
"WWTFD?" held a mirror up to the judges and artists, and offered up a reflection. The sculpture was essentially a portrait of "us." If you look at the position of the TV sets, they mimicked exactly the placement of the judges facing the critiqued artist. The piece was about our ambivalence at participating in a reality television show, which I thought was perfectly normal and healthy. The texts on the screens represented psychological thought bubbles, applying to those subconscious sound bites that race through our heads. What person hasn't said at one point or another, “I hate reality TV” or “It’s so fake!”? The sculpture was a script, and we all seemed to have followed it exactly.
"(What Would Tom Friedman Do?)" not only referenced the artist, but more importantly the acronym "WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?)". The sculpture was therefore looking at mass media and spectacle as religion, like Mark’s golden TV altar. The “insider” response to the work did not hold much water for me, since everyone there is an insider except for Erik. When artists create work, they think of their audience. For strategic purposes, my main audience was the five judges. But it was also very accessible to a mass audience in many other ways.
The very nature of art is that it asks us to approach life in a more roundabout, questioning way. It is this sense of self-doubt that "WWTFD?" was trying to broadcast. When given the opportunity to reflect, people often choose not to because the truth can sometimes be painful. As Jerry Saltz quoted Brice Marden, "The word 'painting' has the word 'pain' in it."
In a related way, these painted television sets offered the choice of seeing in color, black and white, or all the above. And, in all fairness, as a former Work of Art contestant once said, you can’t be "judgmental" without the "mental."