Friday, October 21, 2011

Half-ass TV recap: Work of Art Season 2, episode 2

What's this? ANOTHER half-ass TV recap? Two in a ROW? I'm sorry, but here at half-ass TV recap headquarters, there are no rules. There is only television. So the votes are in and this week's episode was a true crap-fest of bad concepts, bad teamwork and ultimately bad art. But no worries, America. The quality of construction is not the focus here. Work of Art is looking for lightning-quick thinkers and creative innovators who are up to ludicrous demands on their sanity and time. So far, this cast is grasping, but I have faith that one or two will get it together at some point in TV seasonal time.

Where was I? Yes. Work of Art, Episode 2 opens with everyone's favorite morning activity, Parkour. The artists are gathered to watch some guys run and bounce off the edifices of New York City and then sit on a wall, breathing heavily afterward. The team (uh-oh) challenge: Movement. Demonstrate movement in art in two group shows. They have a day and a few extra hours to complete this task. I'm thinking: giant mobiles, hanging sculptures, mini-generators powered by hamsters, modern dance (aiee), projectiles, you know: movement. Here's what the teams come up with: Poop. And: Phases of the Moon as Represented by Migration Patterns from the Asian Continent. You know, movement.

So Team Poop, or Digestion, as they redub themselves, get to work on poop-inspired art. The Sucklord is skeptical. "How does this involve movement?" he asks to his oblivious teammates. The answer: it's slow movement. Over at Team Phases of the Moon/Immigration Studies, I don't exactly know what's happening except Kathryn is beavering away at what looks like a bloody stomach, hanging in a box with a camera trained on it, in case it moves. Note that Kathryn has only shown work before and during episode 1 that involves guts, blood and fluids, made from clay, plastic and what-not. This is her thing. Team Moon should have traded her to Team Digestion at this point, but it's not baseball. Always remember that. Art is not baseball--don't try to make it something it's not (talking to myself here).

Mentor Simon de Pury steps in and happily begins studying the ongoing work. His happy-face falls almost immediately and he calls a solemn meeting where he tells one and all in his charming Swiss/British/French accent to scrap everything and start over. And to make sure it's Brrrrilliant! Whoa. The artists handle this two ways: they start over or they just keep going in the same direction. Artists are like that.

Team Digestion switches to Team Playground and starts developing childlike rides, except for last week's winner (and immunity grantee) Michelle, who sculpts a wooden man with wooden balls, sitting near a photographed playground. When you pull his balls, his arms flap up and presumably so does his dowel-like penis. Bravo won't show the penile movement in order to shield our delicate sensibilities. I've never seen a dowel move like an erection, Bravo, but now I'm even MORE intrigued and will try this at home. Your censorship has only piqued my curiosity that much more. Not really.

The Sucklord creates a game that shoots things into funnels that trigger rat-traps with toy rats in them. It looks kind of fun to play actually. Score one for The Sucklord. Sara makes a swinging-girl sculpture with a vagina. Bravo has no qualms about giving us a closeup on the vagina. Double-standard standards, I guess. Dusty makes a teeter-totter with his portrait on one side because he misses his family. Later, host China Chow will attempt to ride this contraption in her floofy designer dress, adding a layer of meaning that has no meaning.

Over at the other team, they've altered their concept to circles. Team Circles sneers at Team Playground, calling their efforts, "childish" and "literal." Kathryn has stuck to her guns (guts) and is now filming splatting innards onto plastic. This will loop into endless splat. It turns out she suffers from Crohn's Disease and can't seem to stop creating this particular vision. This is too bad on a few levels. First of all, anyone who has Crohn's Disease, I am immediately moved to wish them well and to advise them not to join reality-show casts, as they are stressful and stress sets off Crohn's symptoms, which are painful and very difficult to treat. Kathryn realizes this as she is shown swallowing her daily pills while experiencing a flare-up of her disease. She is looking very pale, which is a Crohn's symptom. And she can't stop making internal-organ art, which will hurt her and her team, who are focused on the concept, however ludicrous, of moving circles.

Gallery show time! Team Playground has an interactive thing going on where people are playing with the stuff and watching it mostly move in various ways. Team Circles or Loop, or whatever they try calling themselves, is really sad. Young Sun has made a limply hanging Mylar(?) Japanese flag that's supposed to represent Japan, post-typhoon. What the fuck? Lola glue-gunned a billion doctor-office paper shreds into a big ball that just sits there, attached to some kind of hanging blob that just hangs there. Leon made a tableau with broken window, swinging light bulb and some fallen debris. It's well put-together, I suppose. And the light bulb is a circle shape.

The judges are aghast. Really--they look crestfallen, having to critique this work. Ha ha ha! They pick Michelle with her pervert sculpture and Bayete's video, WEEEE! as top finalists. Bayete's simple video of himself spinning on a rooftop, is the winner. The video has side-by-side images of Bayete, focusing on his face as the city spins behind him. Judge Bill Powers finds it "oddly mesmerizing." Jerry Saltz wonders how it was made. Bayete looks like he's having childlike fun, even though in reality he was dizzy and felt like throwing up the entire time he made the piece. I've spun around for art with my son for this effect for a photo assignment and it is fun and I almost threw up too. I'm not going to tell the judges that this is a simple method to combine sharp-focus with motion-blur. Let them wonder. It does work well for this challenge. Congratulations, Bayete.

Bottom three are Lola and her shredded balls, Kathryn and her looping guts, and Tewz, who made a stagnant modern piece with a cylinder, some tubing and a plastic hand that's supposed to spin around, but just hangs there, sadly. Tewz thinks his sculpture is really good. The judges are all like, WHAT?!??!? Guest judge and last-season regular, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, finds their focus on circles, "Ridiculous." Ya think?

During Kathryn's critique, Jerry calls her on her inability to do anything other than what she does and she bursts into uncontrolled sobbing. It's really bad. The judges and host China Chow look like they'd prefer to go to commercial. We do. And when we return: Kathryn is out. She will focus on getting better and continuing to make her art (taking Jerry's critique into account) while having visceral experiences. Stay well, Kathryn.

And now, artwork coincidentally inspired by this week's Work of Art. A few weeks ago, my son wanted to make a video. He picked the tune and improv'd this. Note that his work contains movement, circles and actual play. Unfortunately, like Kathryn, he has Crohn's Disease. He's a brave and inspiring person and a hell of a hula-hooper.

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