While I’m off deciding on seven questions to ask my first willing interview victims Bev and Deloney, I thought you might be entertained by this malodorous little news item. I don’t suppose any of you have Dr. Freud on speed dial, do you?
Seems American artist Paul McCarthy, considered one of the more influential contemporary artists, had an installation at the Paul Klee Centre in Berne, Switzerland, called Complex Shit. It was an inflatable dog turd the size of a house, and it was installed in the museum’s front garden, the Art Playground.
The night of July 31 was especially windy, and alas, the turd escaped its moorings and was carried 200 yards, bringing down a power line and smashing into a greenhouse and breaking some windows before falling back to earth at a children’s home.
Museum director Juri Steiner said the installation has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this time it didn’t work, for some reason.
This isn’t the first that McCarthy has dabbled in crap, as it were. He was part of an interesting 1997 exhibition of scatalogical art, according to an article in Art in America. By turns witty, irreverent, and disgusting, in this show “formal comparison was beside the point; it was the transgressive approach that counted.”
Since 1982 McCarthy has taught performance, video, installation, and performance art history at UCLA. In his early works, McCarthy sought to break the limitations of painting by using the body as a paintbrush or even canvas; his work evolved from painting to performance art and psychosexual events intended to fly in the face of social convention, testing the emotional limits of both artist and viewer.
I’ll spare you the details, but the art critic at The Village Voice, as avant-garde as that journal can be, wrote in a review that he “was shocked—not only at how abject and totally sicko his art can be, but at how few people seemed offended by it, and how many appeared mesmerized” by McCarthy’s 1991 show at the New Museum. He called his work a “blitzkrieging blend of sculpture, performance, photography, and Freudian regression.”
No word yet on when—or if—Complex Shit will be put back on display.