Joseph Kosuth invented an alternative to Harvard Referencing during a foggy academic past, never resulting in a patent because judged strikingly useless. He was often challenged when quoting an author because of his inability to remember which page or book he had found the scrap of information in. From this charming lack of focus stemmed an innovative concept, which consisted in referencing to IKEA chair models instead of page numbers, as in his mind each number was associated to a chair shape. Some quirky individuals taste praline chocolate when thinking of the number 3, Joseph Kosuth saw a Klug chair. Failure to be taken seriously by anyone but his loving parents, he turned to sculpture and revolutionized conceptual art, while never letting go of his wooden four-legged fetish.
Jeff Koons worked in a circus as a teenager, and was known locally for possessing unbeatable balloon-blowing techniques. He excelled in creating inflatable poodles, and was often spotted trying to coax the elusive creatures into playing fetch. After a few months, his work was discovered by a curator having been dragged to the circus by his hyperactive five-year old. A buisness deal was discussed, while trying to untangle the toddler from candy floss gone awry. Years later, Jeff Koons is a widely acclaimed artist, having successfully brought the bewildering techniques of puffing into shiny balloons to a true art form.
Lucio Fontana was a gifted swordsman, specializing in sabre and playfully knocking himself out. A traumatic incident in his mid-teens involving a dishonest paperclip and a torn finger stemmed a hatred for all objects related to paper, which he considered fiendish even when bribed with cupcakes. His therapist pompously interpreted this irrational anger as a subconscious effort to cope with the fact he was never able to grow a full moustache. In a therapy session aimed to soften his relationship with a particularly threatening sheet of recycled paper, he discovered his pain could be soothed by slashing it in two with his sabre. The art world’s endless fascination with this act of folly sponsored his purchase of a synthetic moustache.
It was of general opinion that the world of entertainment had reached an aesthetic abyss when « The Notebook » was performed on ice last Christmas, a flurry of leotarded figure skaters invading the Winterset House ice rink for over two hours of heart-wrenching pirouettes and absolute confusion concerning the storyline, especially after the notebook’s failed grand lutz. But Edward Wood’s new piece, a musical rendition of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential play « No Exit » is an excruciating proof that the art world still has unknown territories of aesthetic desolation to discover and fervently applaud. Three overly enthusiastic actors sit in the middle of the stage, manically staring at each other while the Bronze de Barbedienne vase whistles the musical’s theme songs to mask evident struggles with dialogue. The set designs lack focus, acrylic sheepskin rugs flirting with a gigantic lava lamp, casting a turquoise glow over an already precarious situation. An ironic thought crossed my mind, during the particularly painful fox-trot inspired « Give Me That Mirror ! » tune, that maybe Wood’s ultimate hommage to Sartre was to plunge us into his own fabricated hell, rampant with sequins and shrill singsong.
On a more whimsical note, The National Ballet’s new production of The Nutcracker is a delight. Erwin Wurm has been appointed costume and set designer for the ballet, and his eye-catching pieces, such as the gigantic gray mousse rat outfit or the traditional Snowflake Forest turned into a crowd of chair- holding models, are spectacular. The lead dancers perform flawlessly, and even the Sugar Plum Fairy’s struggle to accomplish pirouettes in her pink beanbag chair tutu is greeted with applause and a couple of walnuts thrown playfully on stage by an eager member of the audiance, trying out his new promotional nutcracker. This production largely surpasses their previous ballet, a sordid recounting of Macbeth with the glacial twist of its happening exculsively on Antartic territory, amid revenge-seeking penguins. The artistic director guilty of perpetrating this show is currently in rehab for an eggnog overdose, may our festive thoughts be with him in this difficult time and hope for a career reorientation.
Last but not least, Winterset House’s new exhibit on fashion inspired by the Art&Language conceptual artists is a must-see. The Joseph Kosuth ball gown is a breathtaking cloud of silk wound around chair legs and topped with a veiled hat bearing the Harvard definition of a chair. Mel Ramsden’s athletic line, entirely black and shapless, is more perplexing, the artist having specified that the form and shades of his creations are to be kept secret, known only to himself. Finaly, Terry Atkinson’s nightwear collection is seductive, yet clearly implies a critique of the fashion industry, instead of its lighthearted celebration. A catwalk show is scheduled next February for LFW, invitations will be sent to random visitors of Winterset House by On Kawara, stating the date and time of the happening in succint detail.
Claes Oldenburg was known for keeping his studio at an excessively warm temperature, giving brave visitors the impression of spending an afternoon bathing in the lava of an angry Mount Vesuvius. Old photographs depicting Happy Hour at the Oldenburg residence seem to spring straight out of a Francis Bacon painting, with a cocktail of melted flesh and tortured bodies reaching out for the Sangria. His early work visibly suffered from the heat, as many sculptures were forced to melt in a sign of protest for better living conditions. The artist was used to hiding the heating bills in his alphabetized sock drawer to avoid conflict, but a drunken revelation of his steamy secret put an end to the debilitating heat, and allowed a new era of sculptural surprises to breeze in.
“The content of this painting is invisible; the character and dimension of the content are to be kept permanently secret, known only to the artist.”
Mel Ramsden experienced a nervous breakdown upon realizing that the contents of his secret painting were not only unknown to the public, but to himself as well. Hopeful at the start, he tried performing various mind tricks in order to coax meaning out of the stubborn canvas, which included feigning indifference by hiding behind a paint pot to extravagant bribes and blackmail, threatening to expose its painted surface to bright neon lights, causing an unflattering tan line. After many failed attempts at finding meaning in his piece, he decided to retreat to his water bed for a year to improve his butterfly swimming technique.
‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.’
John Cage’s 4’33, which consists in exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds of deafening silence, was due to an unfortunate lapse of stress-induced amnesia. Paralyzed by the anxiety of facing yet another overly critical and ignorant audience, the Fluxus artist’s chakras recoiled into a tightly wound knot and immobilized him for the entire length of the piece. The first two minutes featured an enthusiastic first row member of the audience who happened to be noisily popping bubbles of a tropical-scented piece of gum. He was followed suit by an elderly gentleman in the standing section who proceeded to crack his knuckles in rhythm to his neighbor’s sullen sighs until an explosive sneeze from the third row gave the dramatic finale. Since then, 4’33 has attained world-wide recognition, and is claimed to be John Cage’s most famous and controversial work.
Bernd and Hilla Becher met in their early years while working for a real estate agency. They bonded over mutual distaste of the industry, failing to comprehend why their attraction for industrial ruins was rarely shared by their pompous clients. Bernd’s photographic style was judged bleakly analytical, choosing on one striking occasion to highlight the structure of a spindly windmill, instead of glorifying its tribal-chic indoor lounge, complete with bow tied leopards dangling cocktails from their Swarovski-studded jaws. Hilla was criticized for her choice of venues, and was politely asked to clear her desk after guiding puzzled clients through a tenth water tower. They merrily slammed the door on the industry’s startled face, and proceeded to revolutionize the art world, allying coal bunkers and New Objectivity.