The perfectly imperfect thing

Of all possible virtues, the finest is the perfection of imperfection. The title Rhinoceros Horn Fan refers to a case in the Blue Cliff Record, a famous collection of Zen koans, in which a master and his attendant have a conversation:
One day Yanguan called to his attendant, "Bring me the rhinoceros horn fan."

The attendant said, "The fan is broken."

Yanguan said, "Then bring me the rhinoceros!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Richard Serra is a Whinging Weenie

Perhaps you noticed the article by Steven Erlanger published May 7, 2008 in the New York Times.

There's a multimedia slide show included, with some interesting shots of one of his pieces (owned by the city of Paris) on display in the garden of the Tuileries. It seems that local kids (mostly) have discovered that the chalky, sandy soil of the Tuileries leaves interesting marks on the rusty barricades (or skateboard ramps?) that make up the piece.

Erlanger relates:
The soles of sneakers and athletic shoes may have their own formal design, but the prints look tacky on the orangey patina of the steel. As much as one may admire the dexterity of those who have put their footprints high up on the sculpture, Mr. Serra is not pleased at the way these particular viewers have chosen to “implicate” themselves and “apprehend the space and the piece.”
Pretty sensitive for a wanna-be tough guy, innit? This whine is coming from an artist who complains that people these days don't experience art, but only the second-hand, derivative, epiphenomena of art — art as represented in newspapers, magazines, JPEGs on the web, etc.
People talk of art and ask: ‘How much does it cost? What’s its pedigree?’ But people don’t go to see the work in place.”

“It’s part of the experience of walking around the space in which the art appears — you implicate yourself in the space, and the experience is in you, not in the frame or on the wall.”
Will the real Richard Serra please stand up? If you intend to make public art, art on a monumental scale, and insist that it be experienced directly — you must allow the public to respond to it as they will. It's not as if people in Paris are putting their feet on an effigy of the Virgin Mother, after all. At least the piece in Cor-Ten steel seems durable enough withstand its youthful and athletic critics. Mr. Serra's ego seems to be constructed more like one of those cute balloon animals by Jeff Koons.

Maybe he should display a sign next to his work that says:
You're looking at it all wrong!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that struck me as surprisingly obtuse for Serra.

I wonder how a footprint would look on his arse.

msierchio said...

Can we get Andy Goldsworthy to chalk up a boot?

Dharma Dog said...

Serra's work has always proved that "less is less". The public just wants a little more.It makes sense that the kid's signature is sneaker prints. The kids have created a sneaker cult culture with the help of Nike.

Laura said...

Hubris redux - Richard Serra's aesthetic seems designed to overwhelm and awe the viewer, as well as seduce and invite playful delight... Those rambunctious sneaker clad youth full of their own agendas just jump right over the whole experience, marking it as their own, not awed, seduced or overwhelmed, they just wanna play...Kid's today! And note to Richard Serra: Does every revolutionary turn into an old fart?