What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Rhonda Lieberman on Courtney Love and The Pocket Guide to Politics

Left: Artist Courtney Love. (Photo: John Arthur Peetz) Right: A celebration for The Pocket Guide to Politics at the Standard. (Photo: Billy Farrell Agency)

DEAR ARTFORUM DIARY, your brave correspondent spent May Day with the 1 percent.

In the trenches! First was the press preview for Courtney Love’s art show at Fred Torres Collaborations. Who doesn’t love celebrity vanity art? Especially if there’s some wreckiness involved. The odds of that were good, if Love’s prolific Twitter activity and outfit-blogging (which I enjoy on www.whatcourtneyworetoday.com) and her general history are any indication. I wasn’t expecting her to actually attend this thing, so when I arrived I was surprised to be told she was on her way.

There were a lot of works on paper. They looked like tween doodles of roughed-up, sexy, baby-doll chicks with Courtney’s free associations scrawled across the page like graffiti: phrases like “I’m a celebrity get me out of here,” “Fuck you all,” “I want my baby, where is my baby.” What you would expect. The drawing was stilted and “adolescent,” I kept overhearing that word, but I thought it was good Courtney Love celebrity art. Press started to fill the gallery. The always fabulous Lynn Yaeger looked like a mature version of the artist’s kewpie doll–type figures.

“You must see the dresses,” she said.

Love had included two objets: one a white bridal dress with “Not my cunt on my dime mister” embroidered on it in red; one vitrine displaying a “glass slipper” and a lacy garment machine-embroidered with “Fuck yes tell me it doesn’t hurt/it feels good/fuck me . . .” While I was taking this in (Cinderella art?), the celebrity had somehow slipped in the back room of the gallery and we were told to wait because she owed Yaeger an interview. Fine, we waited. And waited. I wasn’t even expecting the star to be there but now that she was there she had set up a VIP room situation, making us wait. Ugh. In any case, she never came out. (I did sneak a peak: She was talking to a camera held by a fashiony looking guy. She was wearing a demure black frock with a white Peter Pan collar, looking pale, skinny, and happy—not scary-mode.)

Left: Artist Aurel Schmidt and André Saraiva. Right: Audrey Gelman and filmmaker Lena Dunham. (Photo: Billy Farrell Agency)

Only the early Tom Wolfe could do justice to the next event: “Celebrating The Pocket Guide to Politics”—a collaboration between D4D (Downtown for Democracy) and OHWOW—at the superglamorous Top of the Standard Hotel. Instead of “radical chic” it was “status quo chic,” a well-meaning but utterly clueless attempt to energize the Democratic base among high-end hipsters—on May Day, when people are swarming the streets precisely because the two-party system is broken. Hello??

The earnest “pocket guide” is a hiply illustrated high school civics–level primer on how government works larded with Democratic Party talking points. (Don’t they know Obama has given himself the power to assassinate anyone he decides is a terrorist? What about the bank bailouts? Endless wars? No accountability for war crimes/banksters? Our slide into corporatocracy?) Thumbing through it, I couldn’t help but think it’s kind of sad that even people who are well intentioned will get no clue if they only read the corporate media (which account for all the book’s sources).

The invite masthead branded the event with Art-meets-Fashion-meets-Socialite downtown glitz: from Terry Richardson to Gavin Brown to children of famous artists (you get the vibe). As a mental fashion victim moment it was up there with a Fashion Week event I fondly recall from the 1990s: “Supermodels Steppin’ Out Against Hunger.” (Yes, that really happened. I was there!)

I took in the cultural contradictions along with the champagne, chatted with whoever, and parked myself on a sleek banquette. As I gazed at the stunning Hudson River view, the lameness of the event wafted over me. On May Day, of all days, when the Occupy movement is trying to reenergize. A connoisseur of perversity would savor this delicious flower of decadence. As Nietzsche would say, “Encore! Make it even more disgusting!”

In parting, the ladies’ room at the Top of the Standard was a gift, a perfect metaphor for the 1 percent: the toilet crazily close to a floor-to-ceiling window—vertigo-inducing if you have a fear of heights (which I discovered I do not but wonder if anyone has freaked out there). You are totally exposed to this breathtaking view uptown: You basically flash the city from on high, and then you pee on it.

Left: Photographer Terry Richardson and Theophilus London. (Photo: Billy Farrell Agency) Right: A protester at Madison Square Park.