A work by avant-garde filmmaker Joe Gibbons.
In the rarefied world inhabited by performance artists, gallery owners and MFA candidates, there is something called “non-collectible art.” Making this art doesn’t produce something that someone can buy and take home, like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” or Marcel Duchamp’s urinal. Even a Banksy mural could, in theory, be part of a collection. Instead, non-collectible art might be an experience or the document of an experience — like the time Chris Burden filmed himself getting shot in a California art gallery.
Joseph Gibbons, an avant-garde filmmaker and former lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has taken this aesthetic to a new extreme. Gibbons pleaded guilty to burglary this week after he robbed a bank in Manhattan — and filmed the robbery for use in a future project.
“He was doing research for a film,” Gibbons told his cellmate after he was arrested in January, according to the New York Post. “It’s not a crime, it’s artwork. … He’s an intellectual.”
Such alleged crimes, of course, make great tabloid fodder — the New York Post called Gibbons “a wacky former MIT professor.” But while Gibbons was not immediately available to explain his actions, his bona fides are not in question. He’s received a Guggenheim fellowship and shown work in the Whitney Biennial — the film “Confessions of a Sociopath,” which offered a semi-fictional dramatization of his self-destructive behavior, including substance abuse.
“They want me to get a job,” Gibbons said in the film. “… You know what I told them? I’m Joe Gibbons! I don’t need a job!”
The work is a little bit ridiculous, a little bit pathetic. People like it.
“Gibbons’ work in film and video is characterized by a time-honored approach – that of the artist’s use of his own life as source material, a laboratory for self-observation and experimentation,” a biography on MIT’s Web site reads. “… Blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, self and persona, his films and tapes combine a desire to connect, to confess, with a contradictory impulse to confabulate and dissimulate.”
Dissimulation seems to be a fundamental part of the Gibbons modus operandi. This is an artist who lives between truth and myth, shaping one to fuel the other.
“I thought I’d just cultivate a different problem in myself to make a film about it, but I couldn’t really continue that, and that was also not really true,” he told the journal Big Red and Shiny of one project. “The film was a rationalization for the drugs.”
The inspiration for this madness and/or pseudo-madness? Arthur Rimbaud — the same devil-may-care French poet who inspired Jim Morrison.
“That was a big inspiration on me,” Gibbons said. “The symbolist French poet, Rimbaud’s dictum that the poet should consume all poisons and go into the unknown, the depths of degradation to bring back his findings, that I read when I was a teenager and it made a big imprint.”
Whether Gibbons’s Manhattan robbery was real or a put-on, he will be sentenced next month. In the meantime, the art world has his back: Gibbons is the intended beneficiary of an ongoing crowdfunding campaign, and the Queens Museum has offered to screen the footage of the robbery, according to the New York Post.
“You never can tell if the character he is playing is actually him or a work of fiction,” Vincent Grenier, a filmmaker and professor at Binghamton University, told the Globe. “For him, it’s been a fertile arena to play in the boundary between reality and fantasy.”
Justin Wm. Moyer is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter: @justinwmmoyer.
Miniature Columbus scenes
are played out in Lego bricks
In the minds of members of the Central Ohio Lego Train Club, Columbus is a city where a stroll through Downtown reveals a jousting match or a roving pack of monkeys.
A drive along a thoroughfare might turn up a team of astronauts on a horse and buggy; or a look skyward to the top of the Riffe Center, a peek at Batman watching vigilantly over the metropolis.
The ideas come together in the amazingly elaborate Columbus: Real and Imagined, consisting of more than 150,000 Lego bricks.
The installation is making a return appearance at the Columbus Museum of Art in “Think Outside the Brick,” the institution’s third annual showcase of Lego-created artwork.
The 2014 offering centers on the miniature cityscape as well as the work of the 17 finalists (12 teams and five individuals) in the museum’s Lego Design Challenge.
Led by the Colombian-American artist Yazmany Arboleda,
the group wanted to draw attention to the neglect of the city’s downtown buildings. A good number of them sit empty, even while many South Africans live in shacks. Arboleda told the Guardian that the abandoned buildings “embody the injustices in the city.” Which is why he and roughly 30 other artists marked them with about 264 gallons of hot-pink, water-soluble paint.
Arboleda explained in a blog post for Voices of Africa:
“We study the buildings during the daytime: we draw up floor plans, circulation patterns, and check the finishes on floors and walls — mostly scattered debris. Then, at the agreed-upon early morning hour, we gather and travel downtown with our buckets of paint and our ladders. The big challenge with most of our buildings is gaining entry to the second floor — once inside, we usually have access to the rest of the building. We walk up to the roof, and prepare our tools, pouring the pink paint slowly and evenly from top to bottom. As much work as could be done in preparation, we never have control over how the paint will actually adhere to each building. The speed and texture always varies, and it is always exciting to gaze upon the end result the following morning.”
© 2013 Brian Goeltzenleuchter
This wasn’t a murder, murder/suicide or a game of William Tell. This was art.
“I will be shot with a rifle at 7:45 p.m.,” Burden wrote to the editors of the avant-garde publication Avalanche of his landmark performance piece, “Shoot.” “I hope to have some good photos.”