Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spartacus Chetwynd: Home Made Tasers (REVISION)

As part of Studio 231
10/26/11 - 1/1/12
New Museum spinoff Studio 231 hosts a bizarre showing of contemporary artistic “talent.” Courtesy of Spartacus Chetwynd, the space has been transformed into a hybrid between a stage and a puppet show, with a dash of junkyard.

The museum’s website states that a variety of performances will be held at the space over the course of the exhibition. All of Chetwynd's performances are catered to their environments and in one performance at 231 all actors are to directly approach audience members, which is possibly a customization for the confrontational reputation of the Bowery. The press release warns that all of the actors are “amateurs” yet even in the derogatory sense, this proves to be an understatement. During one such performance, two actors appeared and casually approached and greeted the audience before inserting one lucky viewer in a rolling office chair. The two male performers stood on each side of her and told a child-like story in a make believe British-ish accent about the destruction of the Earth's natural environment. While one actor spoke, the other dispassionately moved the figurines in a small puppet box, which sat before the viewer. At the end of each seemingly unrehearsed stanza, the two men would wheel the spectator to the following mini stage to continue, and finally concluded their story in an alternate world where humans had to build a new Earth.

The space itself leaves much to be desired. As nothing concerning this is stated in the press release, one can only assume the appearance that the actors are living in the studio is unintentional. Fruits and snacks lie half-eaten on the floor and tables just steps away from a sculpture or puppet awaiting its next performance. The hand dyed costumes were the one element in the show that appeared professional, yet the actors dragged them on the floor as they walked barefoot throughout the gallery, colliding with various art objects along the way.

It is strange that a show connected to such an established institution such as the New Museum would be installed and preserved with so little care. Nothing about the Chetwynd show seems intentional or professional from the actors to the objects, and the affiliation with such a high quality museum with high expectations only further lowers the quality of the show.


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  2. Sue,
    I think this is very well-written response. Clear and lucid, you cover all the bases: the space, the interactivity, the performative aspect, the sculptural elements and the costumes.

    I am only going to address the last paragraph because it is something I actually disagree with: I think that the show isn't about commanding respect, it seems to me to be revelling in it's low art-ness. Everything about it was handcrafted and amateur and when put in the context of the Holler exhibition, it seemed like a refreshing rebellion, as if to say: both we and the Holler show feature an interactivity with the viewer, yet their show is sophisticated, high-technology and high budget, while we are familiar, intimate and personal. The disparity begs a comparison and I think that is a very interesting aspect of the work.