Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wrong vs. Right

Wrong but fascinating:
Curiosa by Barton Lidice Benes:

From Publishers Weekly
A born collector-"I have always been afraid of losing things"-Benes leaves no gallstone (see page 59 for Larry Hagman's) unturned in his acquisition of odd objets. The artist's fastidious catalogue recalls crime-scene investigations and Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. Whereas the 19th-century pharmacist recorded rare flora and fauna, Benes preserves the leavings of celebrity culture-Nancy Reagan's chocolate-souffle‚ stained napkin, Bill Clinton's half-sucked throat lozenge, Roy Rogers's nasal douche. Macabre, witty and earnest, the book offers readers the guilty pleasure of supermarket tabloids and the brooding quirkiness of a modern-day Vanitas. The most mundane object-a desiccated cookie baked by Katharine Hepburn, for example-labeled and squared in its wooden cubbyhole, looks just like art, but also foretells decay. Leavening the reliquary's morbidity are anecdotes of stealthy acquisition-the artist surreptitiously pocketing Ed Koch's dinner fork, friends thieving a twig from Mao Tse-tung's broom, a postal worker retrieving a dead bird that flew into Elizabeth Taylor's window.

Wrong: Acquiring a piece of the Taj Mahal (from the book Wunderkammer: A Document).

Wrong: A rock from a Robert Smithson installation and a toothpick from one of Tara Donovan's "cubes" that were laying on the ground significantly separated from the artwork.

Right: Candy taken from two Felix Gonzalez-Torres installations.

Wrong or Right: Grass collected from Robert Morris's Untitled Reclamation Project?

Wrong or Right: Ephemera acquired near/on the earthworks to be shipped back in the nesting boxes?

These works of art are outdoors, entropic, and away from the presence of museum guards. I am not in favor of pilfering like my Uncle Bill when he carved into the Taj Mahal (architecture no less) but is collecting grass, rocks, and salt problematic when these works are exposed to the elements? I am not trying to justify my acts - just questioning them.

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