IDOL THREAT OPENS AT W3
Someone once said that the power of an expression can be judged by the fallout of that action. That ‘good’ and ‘bad’ art is not determined by aesthetics or talent or even the creator, but by how much people talk about it and influence future culture. I have no idea who said it, but the idea stuck with me as a truth, as a proof that art has power and that power can be measured.
Friday night marked the opening of Dylan Neuwirth’s full occupation of the Dearborn and Mercer Gallery’s, with his IDOL THREAT exhibition, and by all measures one could say that it was an astonishing success. Certainly it pissed off some viewers (there was no, um, physical work on display) who did not bring or own a smart phone or tablet to view the 15 pieces (the Mercer Gallery is totally empty and you can only see the work through the screen of a mobile device), and the SAM wasn’t exactly thrilled about Dylan geotagging three pieces in their 3rd floor gallery, and just about every craftsperson in the building was flapping their arms and talking to themselves in frustration and disbelief. So it’s fair to say that not everyone loved the show. People shouted and swore and one older gentleman even went so far as to kick the empty spaces that people gathered around with their iPhones extended and probing. But even those who were bent sideways over the exhibition cemented Mr. Neuwirth’s foray into the digital arts as nothing short of landmark.
Maybe I should back up, return to an earlier chapter in the story of IDOL THREAT.
We met with Mr. Neuwirth in the spring of 2012 and asked him what we ask all of the artists we wish to represent at W3 – what would you create if you had support – if you could do anything – if money and time and technical expertise were not issues? What big dreams lurk? What do you want to do that would give other institutions pause? What risks are worth exploring? These are familiar questions to Dylan, questions he regularly asks himself – he has always been ambitious and rebellious and has always rooted his work in concept-rich soil. Maybe he didn’t come right out and say “fuck the object” but it was clear early on that he knew that the influence and future of art rotated around a conceptual approach to technology. There is a running joke that W3 records more conversations than the NSA. I don’t know exactly how true that is, but we do record just about every conversation we have with artists developing shows at W3. And sometimes concept comes out of heated, late night conversations about what we are doing.
“We are witnessing firsthand the transition from selling objects and experiences to the selling of information – the genetic matter of art. We now digest packets of raw data – the artifact is too clumsy and bulky – even the vehicle of book, of compact disc, of canvas has been abandoned, refined and distilled into a dizzying array of ones and zeros. Invisible, weightless, complete. This is the IDOL THREAT.” – Dylan Neuwirth
I encourage you to watch this interview with Mr. Neuwirth to learn more about the exhibit.
Back to the opening night… Besides the crazy guy karate kicking the air, and a few vocal Luddites protesting outside the building, the opening reception was packed full of positive energy and inspired conversation. Some visitors couldn’t help but reach out and try to touch the sculptures, many tried their best to pose next to them while their friends screen captured the virtual and the real side by side. Bret Easton Ellis showed up with porn actor James Deen and Paul McCarthy (Mr. McCarthy’s protege Susie Kleet opens a show at W3 in December), Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac spent the better part of an hour examining ‘EMPIRE’ before retreating to the Dial with Dylan Penn and friend in tow, and even Jeffrey Dietch made the rounds multi-tasking with a new iPad in one hand and an iPhone in the other, viewing and texting like some kind of orchestra conductor (it was a performance unto itself). It was utter mayhem, but eventually the crowd populated the Dial, the roof deck, and scattered to various after-hour parties at the neighboring Four Seasons hotel.
James Ferraro debuted material from his new full length NYC, Hell 3:00 AM to a confused but transfixed crowd. In tow, were Dean Blunt (oddly his former collaborator and partner Inga Copeland made an appearance) for a short, tense DJ set ending in black noise.
Mr. Neuwirth and Berlin based artist Andy Wauman engaged in friendly but heated debate (conversation?) early on and like toothless pit bulls, just locked onto each other and didn’t let go. James Dean and Susie Kleet were starving and instead of navigating the crowds at the Four Seasons, the seven of us piled into an Uber cab and headed up to Lost Lake Cafe, which returns me to the opening idea about the fallout and half-life of expression. Fueled by coffee and cherry pie (there were a few discrete comings and goings but I don’t think they were drug related) the six of us talked about IDOL THREAT until 7:30 in the morning. By the time the final check was brought out, we had envisioned virtual red light districts, populated Wall-Mart parking lots with old growth forests, terrorized elementary school playgrounds with ……. invaded every museum, government building, concert hall and cemetery with animated gifs and penises the size of skyscrapers (hey James Dean and Susie Kleet were there, and Paul McCarthy and Bret Easton Ellis can be absolutely sinister!)
The point is, beyond the seven figure sales of Dylan’s opening night, beyond the beauty and innovation and presentation of IDOL THREAT, Mr. Neuwirth put forward an idea that everyone recognized as powerful, exciting and here to stay. It has been, and will continue to be the source of many, many editorials and reviews – polarizing critics and enthusiasts, inspiring entrepreneurs and tech-savvy kids, and employing a new generation of lawyers and politicians to wrangle with this new form of trespassing, this invisible intrusion of privacy and security. For better or worse, IDOL THREAT pulled the pins out of the doors that guard our museums, our banks and our homes, and revealed this new virtual landscape, this fortified reality as a playground and exhibition space for all that cared to dream.
To read the full text of the interview, please click here: IDOL THREAT
See this on Walden 3 or read Rachel Gallaher's article and review of IDOL THREAT in City Arts Magazine: The Gallery is Empty [Art in the Age of Social Media]