Saturday, January 8, 2011

Totus est non ut is videor, part 1

I have a new installation assemblage piece up at the gallery that I am part of, Sylvia Kania Gallery. The piece’s official title is Molestus Creatura: Quam ut Identify quod Elimiate lemma tutus, which translates loosely (I think) into Annoying Creatures: How to Identify and Eliminate Them. The piece is comprised of 5 annoying creatures that I have encountered and simple methods of eliminating or deterring them using common household items. The piece is basically an exercise in visual literacy. It sets up a simple pattern: image with item, image with item, mirror with item, image with item, image with item. The individual labels for each chunk has the title of that image written in Latin. Actually it is the Latin name for the annoying creature pictured. The material description for each chunk reads etching with watercolor, what the item on the shelf is, and shelf. For example the chunk of the piece with the skunk, this piece:

Mephitis mephitis; etching with watercolor, mothballs, shelf.

Each chunk of the piece follows the same pattern with the loose exception of the third chunk of the piece. This chunk is comprised of a mirror placed above a stool. Placed upon the stool is an antique mirror tray with three wine bottles. In the wine bottles is vinegar. The annoying creature meant to be deterred in this piece is a person who comes to galleries merely to get free wine or in Latin: Parum vomica ut ostendo sursum iustus bibo solvo vinum. The phrase “parum vomica” translates into “little sores.”
The impetus for this piece was sparked from anger at people who wandered into Sylvia Kania Gallery and literally knocked over artwork in order to get to the free wine. There have also been numerous comments from Art Walk patrons that the wine was cheap and of poor quality but these same patrons still drank the wine and never said thank you or gave any acknowledgement to the members of the gallery. Basic rudeness.

Moving forward on this problem of people’s basic rudeness, I tried to stay away from outright hurting anyone physically with this piece. Early ideas around this piece involved creating a ring of broken glass around the “wine” table so that transgressions would be apparent in the movement of the glass circle’s form. The glass however could hurt people and that would leave me with a tit for tat type of scenario. I did not want to be rude. I simply want to raise awareness.
The other 4 annoying creatures offered in the piece are imaged in simple etchings with watercolor. The methods of deterring or eliminating these creatures were actual items purchased from the store and presented as is. This was done purposefully to create a simplicity of image as well as to make the visual pattern of heightened importance.
As it was being “viewed,” we (we being myself and other artists) found that perhaps the fake wine was too available. With the addition of a blue tape line directly in front of the stool, we hoped that people would be more likely to not drink the wine. This was by and large not the case.

As patrons to the art walk walked in the gallery’s door, many people walked directly to the third piece and helped themselves to the contents of the bottle. This perhaps is a reasonable and logical response to some set ups during Art Walks. However, the smell of vinegar wafted through the entire area of the piece. One Art Walk patron commented on the smell and asked what it had to do with the piece. When he was directed to read the piece, he and his companions did exactly that and refrained from drinking the “wine.”

Many times Art Walkers were told not to drink the “wine.” Several people thought we didn’t want them specifically to drink the wine and told us we were “elitist.” Some people ignored us and then commented among themselves that the “wine” was “cheap” and perhaps had gone bad. Several times I interjected that the substance in the bottles was vinegar and that it was part of the piece and they still didn’t believe it. Half way through the Art Walk, the tray on the stool was littered with dirty cups. People still picked up half full and full cups of liquid and drank them sometimes placing them back on the tray. Within seconds these discarded cups were picked up by others. I should note at this point that there was no trash can anywhere in view of the patrons.

In the most extreme case of carelessness, a woman with a preschool aged child approached the stool. The woman took the wine bottle that originally contained a white wine but now contained white vinegar and poured the child a full cup. She handed the child the cup without tasting it first herself and the child drank the liquid. When the child commented that it was “yucky,” the woman tasted it and placed the cup on the tray. They then left the gallery.

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