'The World Is Making Us Look Bad'

Can two failed ideas ever amount to greatness without creating more junk?

Arts Review

'The World Is Making Us Look Bad'

Big Medium Gallery, through Feb. 23

It seems like collectives and collaborations are the things to do right now. Strength in numbers and all that, right?

Entering the rechristened Big Medium Gallery is like walking into someone's bedroom or entertainment room. A desk with a troubled computer is followed by a dresser with random junk (and hidden art pieces), leading to a beanbag chair in front of an Atari console hooked up to a small TV. There is a lot happening in a very haphazard setup, and it is easy to miss the touches supplied by collaborating artists William Hundley, Paul Moncus, Stacey Farrar, and Peter VonDiest. In the restroom, it is easier to see what the artists are suggesting. The toilet "mural," the fake security camera (I assume it is fake), and the photographs are recognizable in the usually empty room.

The next gallery is all-out art with a sculptural installation, drawings, and sculptures. Half of the room is wallpapered with architectural renderings. Oil derricks drawn with charcoal and with black yarn coming out from different points link to a sewing machine seemingly creating a beastly throw rug. On the other side of the room sit three short sculptures inflating and deflating in such a way that the black fur rug is given a suspenseful tension in its stillness. Three drawings correspond with the sculptures and define the pasty latex as piles of lightbulbs, cassette tapes, and remote controls. The works in this room felt the most complete as art objects.

In the last two spaces, you can find a series of proposals for ready-made art, live examples of ready-made hybrids, and a participatory activity in the form of surveys and suggestions. The clipboards do not take up a lot of room, but the proposals cover the whole back wall, and the hybrids are scattered on the remaining wall and floor space. What does all of this junk mean? A malfunctioning computer overtaken by Internet pop-ups and hard-drive crashes, stacks of cheeseburgers, a map embellished with the Pacific Trash Vortex, piles of discarded electronics, and a wastebasket posing as a receptacle for your surveys all define a disinterest with what was once "need to have." Is this what it sounds like when consumers cry?

In these broken and forgotten states, items are brought together in the hopes of creating something new and improved. What comes out is something less innovative and more tragic in its absurdity.

It is difficult determining the mockery and the genuine frustration when some pieces in the show reach a more finished state than others. Writer/director Brad Bird cherishes the extraordinary in his Pixar/Disney favorites, The Incredibles and Ratatouille; individuals are exalted above mediocrity. But where does that leave the rest of us? Can two failed ideas ever amount to greatness without creating more junk? Probably not, but it is more fun to share the joystick with friends while playing Pitfall! on the Atari.

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The World Is Making Us Look Bad, Big Medium Gallery, William Hundley, Paul Moncus, Stacey Farrar, Peter VonDiest

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