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Shock and Awe

Jeanne talks "shock art," Andre Serrano's attempts to save Nao, and Abdi's winning bombs.


Seems perversely fitting in this week of "shock art" to apologize for having offended some readers in haste and humor a few blogs back.

This episode must have been difficult to edit, as there were plenty of moments left on the floor. Andre Serrano's most beautiful, generous and memorable line was addressed to Nao. Compassionately he said, "I tried to save you. Sometimes we artists are misunderstood." While moved by this gentle giant, we could not spare her. Knowing that she was in a hole, how could she wing it? She might have saved herself by revisiting and re-enacting an earlier performance from her repertoire. While quick-witted and in character, we learned very little about her through her work. I expected more from her than a get-up...

...And so, the best costume this week goes to China in her hoop skirt! She looked like Coppélia by way of Laurie Simmons. I wanted to cut her out and play paper dolls.

On performance art - just learned that 70 people (among the thousand) who sat across from Marina Abramović at the MoMA threw themselves a 'reunion' party. The idea that this experience bonded a group of strangers is oddly compelling. The sitters could not leave the energy at the MoMA, they had to go into group therapy. Beautiful.

Where Nao's performance was unfocused, Abdi was fully absorbed in his practice. And though it was not included in the episode, Abdi's shrunken heads were meant to be handled! I picked up two of them. Each had a different element on the interior - one hard, the other soft, gummy and frankly grotesque to the touch. They carried their weight of the impending violence. On their necks, he had painted a yellow cross, the maker's mark. It brought to mind the Unabomber's own initials carved into his homemade bombs. Such subtle details set this work apart from the others.



Da Vinci's The Last Supper is so famous that it is subject to endless parody. Jaime Lynn's piece is no exception. Jaime Lynn and John might have collaborated to come up with a another kind of Last Supper - perhaps The Boys in the Band meets Judy Chicago's Dinner Party? As John understood, he should have followed his head, instead of diving into sexual repression and/or its counterpart. Andres Serrano's iconic use of religion seems so effortless that one does not appreciate the difficulty of this challenge.

My favorite line of the episode was Simon telling Miles that he had his first erection looking at a Renoir - so Euro chic! I winced when Miles whispered cunningly to Abdi about his bathroom act - really boys, jerking off is not taboo anymore. But Miles honest use of personal anecdote was initially charming.

When was the last time I was shocked by an artwork? Last week I was in awe looking at a version of Cézanne's Bathers. A gender bending jewel of a painting, worthy of true sacrifice - a sell the house kind of painting. Shocking, memorable, corrupting, idealized, timeless ...

What could the artists have done to shock? Perhaps just throw away local conventions, breaking any of the gallery rules as a starting point. Thankfully, Abdi made a bomb.

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