Friday, April 11, 2008

You've Got Mail

I didn't really post anything about the Whitney Biennial, because overall, I wasn't all that terribly impressed. Most of it was extremely low-tech, about everyday building materials and our use and waste of them in pieces that weren't particularly striking, and occasionally downright ugly--purposely so, and with poignant affect, but nonetheless unpleasant to look at.

This work by Walead Beshty, however was some of the most interesting this year, and this also gives me an opportunity to point out that Whitney is now broadcasting on YouTube. I think it's an interesting idea, and it looks like the videos are pretty fun.

Mostly it was the shatterproof glass boxes that I loved. Just now, I was struck by the idea of insuring these packages. You'd have the reverse problem here, because if the contents get damaged, they actually accrue higher value. Technically speaking, the artist would owe FedEx money for damaging the boxes. I don't think anyone would really expect FedEx to be careful enough with any package to send unprotected glass through the mail, but it certainly is a good record of to what our packages are normally subjected.

It also kind of put a smile on my face that the address labels on the boxes are to the Whitney Biennial. In other words, it's the very fact of them arriving in that gallery, in and of itself, that gives them their form. In a way, it's kind of like an installation piece, because its existence depends upon the location of its display (there were actually a couple of works that referenced their own appearance at the Biennial, which I thought was wonderfully, self-consciously reflective). But as he points out, they could be sent anywhere and acquire more patterns in the shattered glass.

There's also something very interesting in what he mentions about how FedEx owns this particular enclosure of space in the box size and shape. And one might think that the space inside that box belongs to the sender/receiver of the package. But it doesn't entirely. In fact, FedEx, it would seem, has rights to about a half-inch inside the box, as well. They're forgiven for intruding inside the box, into the content of the box; if they weren't, the glass couldn't have been broken, and further, the artist relies upon them doing it in order to create the piece.

©2008, Ryan Witte

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