Monique Levesque, Eric Lowe, Sebastian Ruslan
December 3rd – December 29th, 2016
I’m signed up for another free trial of Netflix. Last night I was lazy so I watched a blockbuster about magicians. Magicians like Las Vegas not like Hogwarts. At one point in the plot a story gets told of a magician who puts a playing card in a glass jar and hides it in a tree. The magician waits like twenty years for the tree to grow around the jar then comes back to perform a trick where they reveal the card, now sunk into the heart of the tree, to an astounded audience. The story isn’t true–it was made up for the movie–but it stood out and reminded me of an artwork I saw on an Artforum cover a few years ago. There was an article about Oscar Tuazon in that issue I think. The piece on the cover was by Giuseppe Penone. The image was of a bronze hand connected at its wrist to a forearm that cuts off at the elbow, and connected at its fingers to the neck of a tree. In the picture the tree has begun to grow around the hand, its new growth giving the impression that the hand is squeezing it like a tube of Go-Gurt. The commitment of time implied by the Penone piece (Continuerà a crescere tranne che in quel punto (It Will Continue to Grow Except at That Point), 1968) echoes the commitment of time implied by the fictitious magic trick in the movie and is maybe what drew me to it. I remember being drawn to the artist Tehching Hsieh’s work as well for similar reasons. Penone’s artwork, the fictional magic trick, and Tehching Hsieh’s endurance-performance pieces all evoke confusion about the borders between art/performance and life, an evocation that is underscored in each example by the passage of time.
I was wondering about equivalent work blending performance and life in the realm of Comedy? Comedy has a regular goal of adding words and/or actions up to form something funny, often focusing on minutia and common experiences of life for content. Though decidedly less deliberate than Penone or Hsieh, it doesn’t seem a stretch to me to characterize our lives–the lives of modern, media-connected first-worlders–as performances of some new type of long-form Comedy.
text by Scott Kemp