Surprisingly, Abdi's piece was the first socially aware sculpture we've really seen on the show. It reminded me of what Kara Walker once said, "People would rather be ambivalent, because of this suspicion that of all the things that fail, political art is one of them." And yet we are fighting two wars abroad and have a national drop-out rate among urban black youth over 50% or something hovering around that figure. In the gallery, Abdi had his shrunken heads lit and to see them smoking added another level of menace and urgency to his IEDs.
The whole back and forth over who gave Jaclyn the idea to leave out a jar of Sharpies is irrelevant. A friend had to tell Andy Warhol to paint soup cans and I'd say he did OK with that advice in the end. Jaclyn's tagged up self-portraits echo a lot of what you see online where given a semi-anonymous platform, people's venom bleeds out in web postings and Tweets. I thought it might be fun to rewrite a passage from that Kipling poem "If" to read: "If you can trust yourself when all blogs doubt you, yet make allowance for their comment (strings), too."
Serrano was a perfect fit for this episode and his feedback to Nao was dead-on. Her parting words about failure recall William Kentridge's line, "I was reduced to being an artist." Meaning that his failure as an actor and as a set designer lead him to the success he enjoys now. What an important lesson to remember.
Lastly, I want to leave you with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, who (when he was still a Cardinal) remarked, "An essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy 'shock,' it draws him out of himself..." I might be wrong, but something tells me he wasn't referring to Piss Christ.