For the past couple of decades or so quite a number of
artists have been trying to push the limits of decency in art. It’s good
business. Remember the piss Christ, the elephant-dung virgin, Mapplethorp’s
special nasties? Feces and bodily functions have been a staple of
All that derives from the artistic career model that grew
out of the avant-garde offending the sensibilities of the bourgeoisie, as
happened in Paris
in the late 19the century when Impressionism and its antecedents descendants
outraged the art public. They took those things seriously in those days;
columns were written and fights broke out in the galleries. Later on the
Dadaists and Surrealists self-consciously set out to offend. The bodily
orifices, organs and dead animals of recent years are born of the same idea: if
you offend them, it must be good, and should make money.
Now comes Portland
artist with an action that represents a new low in moral depravity. He is
actually (can you believe this?) going to make an art piece from telemarketing.
Is there no end to how low an artist will go? Christopher Michael Sullivan is
going to make an art event out of cold-calling to sell art. This could get
Full disclosure: I’ve been marginal participant in one of
Sullivan’s art pieces. The pieces usually consist of a number of artifacts, a
related event or two and extensive documentation on the actions and their
results. I’m also one of a number of persons on an advisory board that is part
of his firm, which is in itself a conceptual art artifact.
Sullivan’s satire has a queasy, stretched-wire sharpness to
it, not quite laugh-out-loud funny and not quite comfortable, and difficult to apprehend
at a casual glance. One doesn’t know whether to chuckle or avert one’s gaze.