Art is all about viewer participation nowadays, which is usually just code for making viewers feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible. (See: flaccid, naked penis at MoMA and anything by Yoko Ono.)
But in Germany, boy do they know how to sweeten the deal. Recently, French-born, Berlin-based artist Cyprien Gaillard built a pyramid out of 72,000 bottles of beer at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin and invited visitors to contribute in a key way: by getting bombed on it.
Lucky for Gaillard, folks were excellent at following directions:[Photo by Josephine Walter]
Of course, this being a serious institution dedicated to "the production and presentation of discourse oriented contemporary art" and Gaillard being a serious discourse-oriented contemporary artist, the pyramid has to, you know, mean something besides an unusually fun Saturday afternoon at the art museum. The theme here is the fact that, as the museum's website says, 'Preserving a monument goes hand in hand with destroying it.' Consider the Pergamon Altar, which Germany "rescued" from modern-day Turkey in the 19th century only for this stunning relic of classical antiquity to wind up in the crosshairs of one museum snafu after another. The altar was obviously top of mind, when Gaillard built his own monument out of Efes beer bottles imported from — where else? — Turkey. The writeup elaborates:
The cardboard boxes filled with bottles form the even steps of the pyramid. By using the monument " by climbing the sculpture and drinking the beer " its destruction is already initiated. The barbaric removal of single architectural elements that have been transported from their original location to Berlin, embodies both the concept of displacement and a tourist colonialism.
Wait, is he chiding museum goers for being colonialists? And tourists? Burrrrrn. There's more:
Despite the geographic origin of alcohol often being of great importance to the consumer, the provenience seems to become more and more unimportant, as its consumption increases. Along the lines of the gradual destruction of the sculpture the alcohol gradually dispels and destroys both body and mind.
Now he's just wagging his finger.
...Equal to a collective amnesia in an active neglect of the sculptural form " lost in the hopeless interaction with the monument " the successive destruction becomes an aesthetic of resistance.
Okay, we're officially confused. And frankly, pretty uncomfortable. If this is what it means to get free beer at a museum, we'll take our chances on the penis.[Photo by Josephine Walter]
[Hat tip to Frame; top photo by anna.k.o.; all images courtesy of KW Institute for Contemporary Art]