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Saturday, November 12, 2005

One the Kid Won't Be Seeing

I took a bit of a drubbing recently in comments at the parenting blog Daddy Types. It seems that some people don't approve of taking children to see work by Shirin Neshat. My favorite cheap shot over there was this one:
Now I can't decide who's worse - moms who force their kids to potty train at 6 months, or dads who make their 8-month olds watch films about self-mutilating hookers.
Well, when you put it that way....

Günter Brus, Malerei- Selbstbemalung- Selbstverstümmelung, 1965So I'm glad to say that one of the shows I saw today was one that I saw sans la fille. Günter Brus: Nervous Stillness on the Horizon at MACBA is a career retrospective of work by the Viennese Actionist. One interesting outcome of having so much of Brus's work from the 1960s and '70s assembled is the ability it gives to see the lines of influence running from him to American artists such as Paul McCarthy and Ana Mendieta who emerged during those years.

But, whoa. What a tough show to look at. Take, for example, this description (lifted from the gallery brochure) of Brus's 1970 performance piece Zerreissprobe (Breaking Test) which is documented in the exhibition in stills and on film:
In it Brus, totally shaved, injured himself in the style of the historical and pictorial tradition of the martyr. The action focused on the vulnerability of the individual, pain and "pure" madness, and marked the climactic and final moment of the period.
That, I think, pretty much describes the ethos of the whole show. Brus's work makes McCarthy's gross out nastiness stuff look like the child's play it really is. Oh, and I almost forgot. There's another film in the exhibition showing Brus wetting himself. Nice, I suppose, if you're into that kind of stuff.

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