New York

Tom Sachs

Morris Healy Gallery

Tom Sachs’ full-service installation Cultural Prosthetics re-creates life in the Bourgeois Zone: product, protection, life behind closed doors, everything. So you can’t just wander on in, first you have to pass the Security Threshold. There’s a check point where the front desk usually is, cobbled together out of scavenged police barriers, then a series of little video monitors, another police barricade, followed by a metal detector built into an archway. The metal detector inevitably beeps when someone walks through, at which point the harried looking gallery attendant waves a detector wand at you until it beeps, then he waves you on in. Into Cultural Prosthetics, the showroom, the boutique.

There’s a lot you could say about a room with big, brightly colored cases (industrial-safety-white-and-red, mostly) full of brightly colored (also white and red) handmade handguns and shotguns and bulletproof diapers. You could talk about violence and surveillance; feelings of vulnerability and fear; you could talk about the necessarily contingent nature of solutions to the above, and the paranoia that induces. All of that would make sense, but it would also sort of miss the point. Because, mostly, this installation is about indulging all the impulses of your average 12 year-old boy—about finding stuff, stealing stuff, breaking stuff, then making other stuff out of all the bits and pieces—and having the wherewithal to actually construct all the really cool toys you could only dream of when you were 12. It’s as if Peter Pan split Never-never Land for the ’burbs, but still refused to grow up. No more standing there making bang noises for this Lost Boy: Cultural Prosthetics is about the sheer, unbridled fun of finally being able to make guns that really shoot, and then getting to shoot em off inside, in an art gallery no less (sometimes, anyway: like actual toys, Sachs’ primitivo/nostalgic guns aren’t completely reliable). It’s about how cool it is to be able to furnish your clubhouse with Florence Knoll furniture (here constructed with duct tape, phone books, and bulletproof glass) instead of milk crates. Cultural Prosthetics reminds us that, while rampant consumer culture, planned obsolescence, and throwaway everything are pretty horrible, with the right attitude and enough duct tape, you can still have a pretty good time. At least there’s lots to do.

You can make hand grenades to go along with your zip-gun collection (Sachs constructed his grenade out of the distinctive bright-orange Hermès box); you can make upscale Glocks out of turquoise Tiffany boxes (after all, guns are fetish objects, just like jewelry). Or you can reproduce that high art thrill: Sachs makes his own Robert Ryman/Yves Klein/Minimalist monochromes out of duct tape. The nature of the material re-creates the Minimalist tension between the industrial and the handmade, and the varying lengths and layering of the tape re-creates the interplay of the absence/presence of the artist’s hand that you get with Ryman and Klein, just like the real thing. Plus, they come in all the colors duct tape comes in (which is most colors, except gold); the ones at Cultural Prosthetics are gorgeous, also just like the real thing. Boys. Toys. Fun, fun, fun.

Mark Van de Walle