New York

“The Destroyed Print”

Jeff, a New York artist, made a print of himself seriously ill from the toxic effects of a material he was using to make his art, and sent it to some hundred artists, asking them to destroy it and to return the results. In other words this is a vanity piece, or, more politely, a self-referential piece, about the quite concrete suffering of the artist, and it gives a lot of other artists a chance to practice instant, on-the-run creativity. This is not just Novelty Art, but the worst sort of self-exploitation to achieve self-importance. A lot of the artists just tore up the piece and sent it back (many didn’t send it back, but I assume they also “creatively” tore it up). Unfortunately, they didn’t know that their response was a “signature” that told us all about themselves; Jeff is into a kind of phrenology, each “gesture” of the other artists being bumps on their heads. Other artists played the game—always nice to help out a fellow artist (there’s more unity among artists than critics: imagine the results if a critic sent a piece to other critics and asked them to “creatively” destroy it). They contrived more indirect, slow-working ways to destroy the work, some of which are subtle (erasing the number of the print), others gross (using it as a doormat). The whole enterprise is worth noting only because it shows what degenerate stuff passes as “conceptual” or “idea” art these days.

Donald Kuspit