Last night I headed down to Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston for the opening of Reorientation, an exhibition of Redux studio artists curated by Lori Kornegay, visiting Assistant Professor in Arts Management at the College of Charleston. Featured artists include Townsend Davidson, Kevin Hoth, Erik Johnson, Dorothy Netherland, Colleen Terrell, Jonathan Brilliant, and Mary Walker.
Executive Director Seth Curcio asked renters to prepare their studios for guests, who were invited to tour the facilities. Bob and Seth, who just moved in and were too busy preparing for the Art Parade to clean up, left visitors a note:
and, as expected, a wreck of a studio:
But opening night, some interesting questions about artist intentionality arose out of the otherwise banal mess they left. Absurdly enough, Seth and Bob unknowingly created art without doing much of anything.
It all started a few days ago. I was working in the office with Curcio, and he told me Bob and Seth’s studio needed a “woman’s touch.” I confess, I don’t really know what that means. I spent a few days in the boys’ studio working on grant stuff for Reduxâ€”I just worked around the Ding-Dong wrappers and tried not to step on the bubble-wrap on the floor, which they either disposed of or stored there for future use. No way to tell. But I touched plenty and nothing out of the ordinary happened, aside from the occasional pop under my feet. I guess a little cleaning up was in order. (Curcio’s relationship to cleanliness is worth noting here. I know from crashing at his place that when the boy picks up a broom, folks, he means business. He’s a dirt annihilator. You better pick your belongings up off the floor and store them in an orderly way, that is, if you don’t want them to be banished accidentally to the trash or the curb.)
Curcio had an idea of his own for dealing with the eruption of stuff in Seth and Bob’s studio. He decided to drape a blow-up doll over the desk chair so that when visitors peeked past Bob’s painting of his huge hairy torso and Seth’s beautiful apocalyptic bunnies and smoke, they would see the doll sitting in the chair “as if she were working at the desk,” this Curcio told me last night, grinning nefariously and rubbing his hands together.
The doll did, in fact, appear quite at home, slumped in the chair, head reclining as if napping. But unfortunately for the joke’s sake, not everyone thought the blow-up doll was a tell-tale sign of Seth and Bob’s slovenly libertinism. One visitor and a long-time supporter of Bob and Seth suspected that they ransacked their studio and planted the doll in plain view to provoke people to wonder if their studio was an installation piece in the show. What could it all mean? Those guys, they have a way of getting noticed, even when they’re not around. (Laugh.)
What started as a prank turned into a discussion, however casual, about Bob and Seth’s installation piece in the show, and it fits into their already ambiguous oeuvre: party (while stuck) in an elevator, man with very large bunch of balloons tours a town, eclipsing the East Rock statue, a race between dynamite and the Washington Generals…
Ambiguity for artists is a great rhetorical device mediating between the artist and his audience. Ambiguity perpetuates the discussion of what art means and what the artist intends, and works especially well when the artist isn’t present to answer these questions. The mere absence of the artist mystifies a work and its maker, allowing for more enjoyable possibilities to occur.
Moving people is hard enough–it’s nice to know that if you want to create art worth talking about, just make a mess and leave.