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May 24, 2007



I have a friend back in Miami who produced some enormous abstract paintings in grad school in the early '90s. Beautiful ones. The biggest were 20 feet wide. And if it ever occurred to someone to give him $300,000, he could make more, and produce a lovely large-scale show. But it hasn't, so he's working three feet wide on his back porch and teaching high school to support his family. And thus my sympathy for all parties involved in Mess MoCA know no nadir. The situation represents several failures, probably the worst of which is the museum's conception of advanced art.

I'm willing to wait for details as well, but as an artist, I can say with authority that if someone hands you that kind of scratch and you can't turn it into an exhibition, I don't care what kind of work you're doing - you need to go get another job.


I didn't mean for my post to run "against Büchel." I'm still formulating how I feel about his cancellation. I just meant to suggest if he did do it as a statement (and there's no evidence of that) that the ramifications of that were significant.


Point taken. I was reacting to the comments, which do seem to me (at least when I read them last) to sympathize more with the museum than the artist, and the fact that the post takes as its jumping off point the idea that it was a prank or performance and then considers what that might mean. I think that's an important line of thought, and you handle it well as always, but it doesn't leave much room for the fact that Büchel argues that Mass MoCA stands responsible for the collapse of the exhibition--his public statements (and we have little to go on save for his and those of Mass MoCA) seem to dispute the idea that it was a stunt. Until information becomes available that casts doubt on that, I think we have to keep the speculation about motives at arm's length.


I think we have to keep the speculation about motives at arm's length.


We wouldn't do that with any other artist known to tweak the establishment.


It may be a matter of perspective on my part. It's a developing legal situation and I am keenly aware of all of the hits coming to this page from Mass MoCA and other institutions. On the other hand, I'm not saying no one is free to speculate--but keep in mind when doing so that giving greater weight or attention to that speculation instead of the artist's own claims that his work was subverted by problems with Mass MoCA's execution, it shouldn't be surprising that some people will see your comments as running against Büchel.

Just to reiterate, I'm not taking a stand either way on who's responsible legally, ethically, whatever other way you chose, for the situation as it stands. But I'm adding a small update to the post to reflect your comment.


I don't want to go on too much about this (i.e., I still have not [and maybe never will] taken a definitive side in this, although, I'm convinced now that MASS MoCA stands more to lose than gain by moving ahead with the exhibition), but still, I feel that I have been trained by Büchel to suspect a larger, perhaps covert, message behind his actions. At what point can we, the viewers, assert that the prankster-artist owns that suspicion? The director of MASS MoCA said that at times it felt to him that Christoph was indeed sabotaging the installation. It's not as if it's inconceivable that he was. To be told to ignore that possibility feels like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the huckster commands the heroine to "Ignore that man behind the curtain!"


I don't believe I've urged anyone to ignore the possibility--I've touched on it myself, and am keeping it under consideration--but rather to remember that at this point it remains just one possible explanation existing alongside other conflicting narratives. This is part of why I've been wishing for more specifics from Mass MoCA. Büchel's statements as reported by Geoff Edgers, for instance, seem to say that he provided a list of what the exhibition required. Let's see the list then--Mass MoCA should still have it. If it doesn't include, say, a burned jet fuselage (or any of the other outlandish demands he made that the museum failed to meet), then we'll have reason to believe he was playing some sort of game. If the initial list does include those items, then it'll put the weight behind his accusations regarding Mass MoCA's conduct. At that point there's be at least some evidence to back suspicions, not just speculation: Toto, you might say, will have seen the great and powerful Oz.

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