No matter where you are in the world, vibrant and expressive art exhibitions exist. Whether it’s right out in the open or tucked away in a little studio, the galleries and museums of the world are all determined to showcase their best and brightest talents to feed the heart and soul of their communities. Of course, sometimes you need something a little extra – whether that be a specific mode of expression or a stunt that demands attention, some artists and galleries have taken to showcasing extremely provocative and interesting installations. Whether it’s a personal statement of identity and understanding or something more politically and culturally-minded, these innovators have shaken their art exhibitions, their art worlds like no other before them.
I like Pigs and Pigs like Me (104 hours)
Created by Miru Kim for Art Basel 2011, the artist decided to live with pigs around the clock for 104 hours in order to overcome her fear of germs and filth. Enclosed in a glass box, Kim lay naked for the next few days in the direct company of pigs, and described the environment as, “a concentrated industrial environment, so the level of smell is toxic.” She would go on to describe the events of the show: “I get into a mental zone when I am doing a shoot. After I’m done, however, if I can’t get the smell off my feet, it’s very disturbing.”
This interesting exhibit showcases the transformative and bizarre aspects that contemporary art exhibitions deal with. Not only was the installation a unique sight for anyone in the gallery at the time, but it contains within it an important message: that through art, self acceptance and understanding is not only possible but promoted. It’s not every day that we are allowed to exorcise our demons, and it’s not every day that we can perform this artistically.
Orville copter is one of the most subversive art exhibitions of the last years, created by Bart and Arjen Jansen in the Netherlands in 2012. This piece brought quite a lot of attention to the two after everyone heard that the artists taxedermied and rigged up their dead cat Orville to a drone and started flying it around. Orville, named after the famous aviator Orville Wright, had died in a traffic accident previously to the event and decided to create the piece that gave him some notoriety. Created “out of love,” the artist determined that all Orville wanted to do was to chase birds and fly, and created the piece as a celebration of his old pet.
An interesting project to say the least, and likewise had some controversy attached to the project. After hearing a variety of emotionally-charged complaints, the artist decided to go on the defensive: “Look at yourself,” he began, “you wear leather shoes, are sitting on a leather couch and eat meat, without even wondering if the cow or pig in question has had a good life.” Bringing his attention back to his pet, Bart reiterated, “Orville has had a wonderful life.”
Luzinterruptus’ “Literature vs. Traffic” event
Staged all over the world in Madrid, New York, Melbourne and Toronto, this group of artists and activists were invited to create art exhibitions and interesting artistic event for major cities. In this specific event, symbolizing an ongoing battle between pedestrian and automobiles and a protest against the effects of traffic on urban living, representatives from the group placed thousands upon thousands of books on the street. Their message has been consistent: “We want literature to take over the streets and conquer public spaces, freely offering those passersby a traffic-free place which, for some hours, will succumb to the humble power of the written word.” The river of books is daunting but also inviting and was enjoyed by countless thousands.
Street demonstrations such as this one, especially in large metropolitan areas, are lightning rods of controversy and interest, as the interrupting nature of the art exhibitions affect thousands of lives. One thing’s for sure, however, that anyone who witnessed these events had definitely been impacted deeply because of it. Art continues to push boundaries and impact the day to day lives of more and more people, and being able to voice your concerns and passions in public is a testament to a healthy and vibrant culture.
The Klunk Garden, created in 2009 by the Austrian art collective “Gelitin,” is a simple concept: a Zen Buddhist rock garden with various human body parts emerging from it instead of large stones. The four Austrian artists, who enjoy shock and novelty, resolved themselves to include these elements as often as they can, in order to distort preconceived notions. Unveiling their piece in Tokyo, the exhibit was seen as an attack on Zen Buddhism, since the uncanny and shocking humanity on display was an intense contrast to the fluid perfection of the rock garden itself.
What art exhibitions like this promulgate is the notion that we should never take any one thing at face value – just because a rock garden can be beautiful and timeless doesn’t mean that we need to look at it the same in every context. By adding in the human element, our place in the world becomes prominent and almost intrusive. The piece invites the viewer to contemplate the world as it is and not one that is idealized in its perfect harmony. While seen as an insult, and indeed this view should be heard and listened to, it is also more than simply a dig at the Buddhist tradition.
The Vandenberg – Life below the surface
In 2011 in the Florida Keys, world renowned Viennese artist Andreas Franke and The Sinking World brought one of the most unique and beautiful art exhibitions to the state in the form of the sunken USNS Vandenberg. This artificial reef is the second largest in the world and attracts a diverse ecosystem of fish and other marine animals. Franke decided to take pictures of the wreck, and of models in his studio (dressed to resemble life in the 40’s and 50’s), and then superimposed these images back on top of the Vandenberg, creating a bizarre and still-life environment on the deck of a wrecked ship.
Being able to determine where we’ve been and where we’re going as a culture has long since been a defining ability of art – what better way to talk about the past and the future than with a wreck from ages past? By bringing the Vandenberg back to life in an unsettling way, Franke is challenging the notions of contemporary society being stable and resilient by giving it a glimpse of a creepy dystopia. Not only that, on a practical level, it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of art and environment in such a creative way, and the Vandenberg project was a brilliant execution of this pairing.
One of the most regarded art exhibitions in 2008, Complex Shit has been created by Paul McCarthy (not to be confused with McCartney). This inflatable sculpture is placed within parks and other naturally beautiful cityscapes and “mocks its picturesque surroundings and pokes fun at the prudent qualities of public sculpture.” The inflatable dog excrement, which is the size of a house, had a tendency to be blown away and causing damage to its surroundings, including bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window. While causing unintentional damage, the installation reminds us that not all art has to be serious, and sometimes a little levity can clue us in to more serious and pressing issues in society.
While on the surface seemingly tasteless, juvenile, and disrespectful, the impact of Complex Shit was a refreshing and interesting one. BTL – Bigger Than Life, the company that works with the artist to create scandalous installations of all kinds, has been very proud of all the attention that the installations have caused. “[We’ve] been working with Paul for 15+ years” BTL President Mark Bachman said. “He’s a fascinating man.”
Why wild and weird art exhibitions?
And what kind of person would have to be behind such a disruptive and interesting set of art exhibitions? Fascinating people creating outlandish, offensive, comical and fascinating pieces of art only shows the need in society that we have for these people. By creating unique and wild showcases, we are taken out of our mundane everyday and brought to a different plane, and we always have artists like McCarthy to thank.
The ongoing and often wild world of conceptual art
Conceptual art tends to get a bad reputation in the eyes of the media and the common art viewer – often derided as exhibitionism and mere shock, installations such as the ones below can provide much more than simple titillation and novelty. Art has always been a method of allowing the citizens of a given culture to express themselves however they wish and by going to such lengths to find true and unique expression, conceptual art exhibitions have proven that it has value, if even as a way for society to analyze itself. It’s not that these strange and interesting art exhibits are weird outliers, it’s that they themselves should be assessed and valued simply for their existence, because they show the power and value of free expression.