Paper Monument’s Roger White gave the green etiquette light today on WNYC to art viewers unsure about expressing their distaste for shitting as performance art. White and Dushko Petrovich spent the first few minutes on the Brian Lehrer Show discussing a confused accountant’s query over one such incident.
WNYC Commenter Haywood Jablom: I was recently at the show of a friend who just graduated from art school. I’m not familiar with current practices because I’m an accountant but my friend did performance where he made excrement on a paper in front of everyone and then they had an auction for it. I feel only revulsion and no understanding and then he asked me later what my thoughts were. I could only say it was good to be polite. I’m interested in what the proper response would have been.
Roger White: We knew that would come up…we were expecting the excrement on paper question would arise. I think in a case like that…in addition to a very complicated etiquette there’s a tradition of avant garde-ism, and bohemianism and shock, and trying to be transgressive, so someone is clearly trying to get you to react in a certain way, and be uncomfortable…maybe it is permissible to tell them quite frankly how you felt. That’s probably what they want. It’s probably very satisfying for that artist to know that they’ve made a viewer uncomfortable or nervous in that situation.
Dushko Petrovich: I would be likely to critique it as excrement, and talk about its qualities, you know, its color, smell or something like that…because that’s exactly what the person didn’t want to hear.
In other words, art world etiquette on this subject is as fluid in form as shit itself. White and Petrovich go on to discuss a lot of the topics covered in the book, including the importance of downplaying ones success, general support of the art world, and whether or not it’s appropriate to wear khakis. Notably, there seems to be some mixed feelings on this last point, since the rule of thumb according to White is that khakis should not be worn, whereas Petrovich believes the rule of breaking the rule more important.