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Trash Art at the Pompidou

There is a new exhibit of l'art trash called Dionysiac, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, until May 9. It's a collective show featuring:

  • John Bock (b. 1965, Germany)
  • Fabrice Hyber (b. 1961, France)
  • Christoph Büchel (b. 1966, Switzerland)
  • Richard Jackson (b. 1939, United States)
  • Maurizio Cattelan (b. 1960, Italy), see post from May 22, 2004
  • Martin Kersels (b. 1960, United States)
  • Malachi Farrell (b. 1970, Ireland)
  • Paul McCarthy (b. 1945, United States)
  • Gelatin (art collective, Austria), who shocked Salzburg in 2003 with an outrageous sculpture unveiled during the Salzburg Festival (see my post from August 14, 2003)
  • Jonathan Meese (b. 1971, Germany)
  • Kendell Geers (b. 1967, South Africa)
  • Jason Rhoades (b. 1965, United States)
  • Thomas Hirschhorn (b. 1957, Switzerland)
  • Keith Tyson (b. 1969, Great Britain), image of his A Window on an Infinite Cellular Blanket (1999)
Harry Bellet and Benjamin Roure wrote a review (Les vedettes de l'art trash au Centre Pompidou, February 20) for Le Monde. The 14 artists are brought together, they say, "under the aegis of a bacchic and festive god":
They are bought while at the same time doing all they can so that their works are unsellable: enormous installations, complex and fragile, which except for Cattelan, get poor results at auction.
Their controversial style is not really an impediment to their popularity. According to the article, 3,500 people attended the vernissage and 2,500 visitors entered on the first day open to the public. Most of the artists in this show are already fairly well known worldwide, but at least some of them are angling for some notoriety in France, perhaps for the eventual opportunity to have a piece bought by the Fondation Pinault, the contemporary art museum being built on the Île Seguin (see my post from last June).

However, critical reception has not been very positive. Geneviève Breerette's article (Des figures de l'excès, plus désagréables que dérangeantes, February 20) for Le Monde singled out Gelatin's contribution, a play on Picasso's Guernica, with figurines modeled in brown paste posed in copulatory scenes, and Richard Jackson's happening Pump Pee Doo, with multicolored bears pissing into bearhead-shaped urinals.
As with Dada, the exploitation of the Dionysiac vein is more serious than you might think. It's just that discovering it in a surabundance of gross things of uneven interest and in a sordid ambiance that makes the show frankly unpleasant. Unpleasant more than disturbing, since we can reject it in the name of art and at the same time accept it in the name of non-art.
Nicolas Trembley wrote about his impressions (Trash and Vaudeville, February 21) of the show's opening for Artforum:
The galleries smelled like shit, literally, and yak butter, thanks to Jason Rhoades and Paul McCarthy. The pair contributed several "shit plugs," made from the waste left behind by Documenta XI viewers, preserved in blue cans with phallic lids. At six o'clock sharp, a crew of cranky-looking young people dressed up in white monkey suits entered and began dancing and squealing in a primal, determinedly Dionysian ritual that involved lighting candles stuck in the tops of the plugs. The show was officially open!
The nastiest review comes from Hervé Gauville («Dionysiac» sans plaisir, February 26) for Libération (my translation):
The exhibit is called "Dionysiac." That title supposedly refers to Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, which was written neither in French nor in faux English. Dionysos would have been simpler but but may not have been young enough. Dionysiac sounds like Star Academy [the French American Idol].
The links are there: go read the whole thing.

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