Work of Art Episode 2: Attack of the Clones Recap

by Will Brand on October 20, 2011 · 7 comments WANGA

The producers include lots of shots like this to ensure we understand Lola's generative process.

Leon, meanwhile, is making pure critic bait. It's a smashed pane of glass (Duchamp points) with an accompanying, moving light bulb (movement points) that swings to evoke “a husband and wife fighting” (double Duchamp combo); the few lines he has sprinkled throughout the episode indicate this has something or other to do with the conditions of his leaving Malaysia to become an artist (what does it mean to you?). It's Acceptable Art, and that'll do. Meanwhile, Kymia is sitting face-down in plaster, trying to cast her tongue; nobody I'm watching with can figure out if this is hot.

Bayeté's piece is coming together, and he's super proud of it. He's taken two arm-length videos of himself spinning on the roof – one with shirt, one without – and… and that's it. It's about how much fun it is to spin when you're a kid. “It's exciting being able to finally show everybody what I can do,” he says, or sort of says, or who knows, because the producers obviously hacked it together from other sound bites. The problem with his work isn't that you're not allowed to do stupid repetitive actions as video art – Bruce Nauman has more than proved that – but rather that Bayeté doesn't seem terrifically dedicated to performing. The piece is about fun, but he just doesn't do a lot of smiling in it – in most of the shots, he's visibly nauseated, and it seems like the piece could have done with a few more takes. Lola says it's too simple. She then goes back to firing hot glue at random into a pile of paper.

After the requisite fretting, the judging can begin. Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, the first-season judge, is back, and we're willing to excuse the last guest choice because sometimes Rohatyn actually judges art. Bill Powers, true to form, looks stoned out of his mind. As they walk around, there are a few choice quotes – Sarah K's piece is “Like a ride, but it's a ride you do with your eye!” says Rohatyn – but the real spectacle here is how well Team One's show has come together. Kymia's cast tongues and fingers look disgusting-fun, Michelle's pedo piece requires the viewer to play with his wooden balls, and The Sucklord's piece allows him to perform as a carnie, which works because he, uh, looks like a carnie. Even the bad works are carried by the theme – Sarah Jimenez has created an entirely mute sculpture of a woman on a swing, but it somehow doesn't look as empty as it should. It's a triumph for ad-hoc, low-concept curation, all around.

On the other team, lots of Bad Art Bassoon: Tewz learns the first lesson of kinetic art (it breaks), Lola's piece has nothing at all to do with motion, and Kathryn has created a making-of video for, yep, bags of guts. Those three get put on the chopping block, while Michelle and Bayeté enter the winner's circle.

Bayeté wins, and the editing hammers home the redemption narrative pretty hard. Jerry calls his work “strangely mesmerizing”, and Bill calls it “enticing” and “fantastic”. I'll go this far: it isn't a straight-up piece of shit, like his work from the first week. To say anything more without seeing more than a few seconds of the video would be premature.

Michelle gets a beaming consolation crit for her pedo piece, where we finally get to see it in action. It's a simple but well-constructed hunched wooden figure, with a photograph of a park behind him; playing with his balls makes his cock rise. The judges spend a little time being twelve, so Jerry, as the nerdy kid, has to touch it. In the process, we see, captured on film, the nadir of his quest for celebrity.

This is it. This is the moment.

With his judge hat back on, Jerry doesn't miss a beat: “I like that you set up a narrative. You took the idea of movement and went inside with it.” Chin up.

With accolades properly distributed, this week's Bad Artists take their place in front of the firing squad. The whole team gets it at first, with Jazz-minh trying to explain their concept: “The concept basically started with the moon, and the beginning of time, drawing water up through all of human evolution…” There's a lot of hand-waving and dubious looks until Jerry finally gets it: “So your show has something to do with circles?”

Lola's piece

Lola's up for individual critique first, with a pile of shredded patient records from a doctor's office that's she's turned into a thing that connects to another thing. Bill correctly identifies Lola's medical documents as a goldmine of meaning, and seems honestly surprised that she's managed to turn such an interesting material into such a boring work. For once, he's absolutely right.

Tewz's piece is just a thing. It's a coiled hose, for some reason, and then there's a clapper thing, for some reason, and also it just doesn't work. Tewz explains that it represents the textures of the city, and also that the hand can move, if you move it. Rohatyn actually just comes out and asks why the token street artist didn't make some street art, then calls the work they got “a bad minimalist art object.” Tewz can't believe it, so Jerry goes into his best bit of the day: “So you think it's a successful piece?” “I do.” “Wow.”

Kathryn gets hammered for doing what she'd done before, just like she did roughly every five minutes throughout the episode. At this point, it's just painful for everybody. It's actually a slight relief when Kathryn hobbles out of the room in tears, because it means we can stop watching everybody reprimand a basically okay artist for making the same work twice. Tears shouldn't stop all critique, but it's clear Kathryn's dealing with bigger problems – being stuck on the same process for years – than a 24-hour art race can fix. Even when she's out of the room, though, it goes on. Bill gets the final comment: “She's there with a bucket of guts, and a video camera, and not much else.” Really? You're going with “number of objects in frame” as the criterion here? This is easy pickings.

Cue an ad break, and then a selection the editing has all but given away: Kathryn's out. Bill Powers, for some reason, looks like he's been crying. Big hugs all around, lots of tears, she'll push herself 'cause she's still got something to prove. Aw.


Anonymous October 21, 2011 at 12:55 pm

 I think your funny recaps will make it worth watching this time round.  

Anonymous October 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Way less commentary this year, even Jerry’s recap has just a few dozen entries, compared to many hundreds last year, since every viable issue or question has been hashed to death.  Now it’s just finally pure entertainment as it was meant to be!  

Walter Latimer October 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

thought about starting a recap blog for this season, but this can’t be topped

Dan October 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Thanks’ Will, that was fun.

Brian Fernandes-Halloran October 24, 2011 at 2:59 am

this show really bummed me out when I saw an episode last year. This recap though is damn funny and faster and without the commercial brainwash sessions!

Luke October 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I finally stole a viewing of this on the internet yesterday and I still can’t help feeling that if only I was Jeffrey Deitch I could appreciate Tewz’s work.

Lisa Klow November 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

I loved it when Sucklord looked at Michelle like she was crazy for suggesting pooping as a theme, but then I wanted to see him just step back and let the others hang themselves. Digestion? Really?
Yes, it’s made for idiots but I can’t not watch! Love these recaps. Can I submit a piece of my own artwork to you and get a snippet of entertaining snark in return?

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