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Posted on Jun 9, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

(Page 2)

It was most definitely a curious sort of apathy for me to imagine coming off an inanimate object. Odder, still, was my ability to forgive the apolitical broad view emanating from The Andy Monument, to even sympathize with it, particularly after I’d spent the previous eight months creating artwork for the OWS movement, arguing in print and on the radio and at public speaking events for its relevancy and hating those who predicted and prepared for its demise with relish. These saintly and determined Occupiers were, in fact, dear comrades with whom I’d shared weed and canteens and long embraces, all of us jeering so intensely at the innumerable garrisons of uniformed cops surrounding us since the fall that no one in a uniform—mailmen, bus drivers, doormen, nobody!—was safe from contempt in our peripheral vision anymore. 

So why now, in this moment, while standing next to a chrome aberration of Andy Warhol, did my fellow hell-raisers suddenly look like strangers to me? Was it a crisis of faith or was it, perhaps, because they really were strangers?

“If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes,” Picasso said, naming the distinct advantage that artists have always had over pundits and polemicists when it came to perceiving the world as it is; pundits and polemicists being much more likely to insist that the world is whatever a person wants it to be, as if reality, itself, were there only to corroborate a person’s completely egocentric opinion—political, religious or otherwise—about everything and everybody. Artists tend to have an instinctual understanding that reality is much more self-referential than needing to be labeled by a human brain to be relevant and that the meaning of an object has very little to do with the abstract counterpart that people carry around inside their heads, human consciousness being so much more comfortable sculpting putty than stone. I thought about Warhol’s famous silk-screens of soup cans and how they were never interpreted as ads for soup, for instance. I thought about his silk-screens of the electric chair, how they were never mistaken as commentary either for or against capital punishment. I thought about his silk-screens of Marilyn Monroe and how they were never considered glamorous portraits of feminine beauty.

I thought about how, contrary to his reputation, Warhol’s genius had to be his ability to deflate the importance of commercialism and celebrity in the American consumer culture, to rob it of its cheap superficiality by destroying its ability to speak for itself. By killing the language with which mediocrity finds its voice, there will be nothing left but the aesthetic element of BEING to consider.

“Excuse me,” said a tattooed girl in pigtails holding out a digital camera to my left. She was standing with what I guessed to be her boyfriend, who had intensely green eyes and a beard like Rasputin, both wearing backpacks and appearing several days out from their last shampoo and gargling. “Can you take for us our picture?” she asked, her German accent making her words sound as if they were being hatcheted into a wet log.

“Sure,” I said, taking the camera. “Where do you want to be?”

“Here,” said the girl, leading me around to the other side of the Warhol statue where she and her boyfriend took up position in front of a long line of riot police on scooters. With their arms around each other and huge smiles plastered across their faces, they could have been in front of Niagara Falls or on the west rim of the Grand Canyon or, given the stone cold seriousness chiseled into the faces of the cops behind them, Mount Rushmore. What I knew for certain was that they were standing in front of the country’s newest attraction. What I also knew was that it was on a national tour, soon to be available everywhere, which somehow cheapened my involvement in it. Handing back the camera and wishing the couple well, I looked over my shoulder at the Andy Warhol statue and tried to see myself in its completely reflective surface, surprised to find nothing of legible consequence staring back at me. Then, looking across the street and watching the grubbiest Santa Claus imaginable prance about on tiptoe among the demonstrators, his glee as bullying as a Bull Connor fire hose, his ceaseless merriment as he danced around with a filthy cardboard speech bubble containing the words “not me” attached to the end of a 10-foot wand, which he tried to force into the face of anybody who came near, I readily admitted that, without a doubt, I would be the first to look away and rock back and forth on my heels if any of the riot police crowded around Union Square decided to draw their batons and make a running tackle.


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