Eleanor Coppola, documentary filmmaker, wife of Francis Ford Coppola and short lived conceptual artist recently published her memoirs Notes on a Life. The Independent provides a few excellent excerpts from the book, including one entry detailing her exploits in the 1970s with then young artist and mother, Lynn Hershman (now Hershman Leeson). As she tells it, Francis Ford Coppola took a particular disliking to a performance whereby she and Hershman invited fifty board members from the Los Angeles County and San Francisco Museums of Modern Art to her home for a self guided tour while he was away. Working under the assumption they would arrive with the hope of viewing her husband’s Oscars, she replaced the awards with the miniature Oscar necklaces the academy gave wifes of recipients, removing the chain and the loop at the top of the figure. Meanwhile, guests in the kitchen were directed to peel a potato while reading the Joseph Beuys quote (from the 1970 documentary Everyone is an Artist,) “Peeling a potato can be a work of art if it is a conscious act” before dropping it in one of two pots labelled “Art” and “Not Art”.
It’s not a bad piece frankly, though it’s not hard to understand why Mr. Coppola might have felt hurt by it.
He thought I was making fun of him, his Oscars, our house. He worked long and hard on his films, and thought conceptual art was too easy. “So some guy shoots himself in the arm [Chris Burden] or pisses off a ladder in a gallery [Tom Marioni] and that’s a big deal?” The only thing Francis finds OK about that period is a Joseph Beuys sculpture I bought him that he didn’t like at the time but is now worth 30 times what I paid. I was not a good wife, by his definition or mine.
In conceptual art’s defense, I think there’s a little more to “some guy shooting himself in the arm” than Coppola’s husband sees; at the time it spoke to latent fantasies and fears about firearms no doubt underscored by the Vietnam war. Although Shoot was intended to only graze the artist’s arm, its full penetration is predecessor not only to scads of college youtube reenactments and ironically an inspired student performance prompting his resignation from the University of California but quite possibly the performative works by Matthew Barney. Notably, Michael Kimmelman, the head art critic at the New York Times described Barney as the most important artist of his generation.
Originally via: Spout Blog