In short, the tone is ironic. And this opening show is a September 11 show. An ironic 9/11 show. The prospect of this raised mixed feelings in me. If a line must be drawn, I’m on the earnest side of the earnest/ironic divide. (In me, it’s a matter of choice, chance, and circumstance coming together. Plus, it is not always the case that a line must be drawn.) Applying irony to the 11th anniversary of a terrorist attack seems a certain type of potentially understandable but not-native-to-me response, both layered critique and defense mechanism. (I'm also unsure about what exactly is the meaning of the 11th anniversary as opposed to the 5th or the 10th; for me, it was different in that this was the first year I didn't think about it that day until around noon.)
- The Stranger
- The most directly critical pieces in the show were anti-commercial works like this needlepoint by Derek Sanchez-Hoeksema.
I suppose that, basically, I defend your right to make a pink painting of cute mega-kittens mauling the World Trade Center with their careless paws (Erdman). Or a diorama (Amelia Bonow) that involves looking through American-flag-patterned glasses into a box and seeing a sad little sculpted scene of the first tower on fire, and then, following instructions to interact with the piece by lifting a weighted string on the outside of the box, seeing the mini-spectacle of a hot dog floating on that string toward the second tower instead of a hijacked airplane. (Hey, um, it’s kind of our fault, hot-dog-scarfing 'mericans. For the most ingeniously vicious use of a hot dog in recent art, though, you must consider Meiro Koizumi’s 2009 The Corner of Sweet and Bitter.)
Yes. I defend your right to make those things, even if I am not moved to take them home with me and love them as my own.James Ensor. black-and-white comic from the perspective of a person who wakes up on September 11, 2001, and as his morning progesses, is increasingly loudly and violently shushed by people glued to the news. Theresia Rosa Kleeman's See Dick Read is, in its stark simplicity, a fairly devastating visual shorthand for the massive cultural denial that leads to such things as an I'm-just-a-regular-head-in-the-sand-ignoramus-like-you president (led around by a Dick) performing the symbolically meaningful action of continuing to read a children's book while the towers burned.
But the totem and monument of the exhibition is Dan Paulus's* Twin Towers Jenga game set up right in the storefront window. During the opening party, it was a Rorschach test. Some people responded to its ultimate collapse by chanting, parodically, "Never forget! Never forget!" I responded with a mix of sympathy for the woman who pulled the final block—having gone through the Jenga-is-already-stressful-but-now-you-added-a-metaphor experience an hour earlier—and relief. At least the towers weren't waiting to fall anymore.
Derek Erdman's International House of Paintings is open seven days a week. Contact information is here.
On a related note (thank you to a friend who tipped me off on this), have you seen Regretsy's 3rd Annual Mother of All 9/11 Posts? That's a tone I can fully get behind. Do you see how well Justin Bieber never forgets, people?!
*Achtung!: Derek Erdman contributes regularly to The Stranger and is married to our music editor, Emily Nokes. Dan Paulus worked for years in the art department at The Stranger. I wouldn't blame you if you developed the conspiracy theory that this exhibition was an inside job, but I hope this review was useful, anyway.