Monday 28 March 2016

BANANAGANZA: Kristin Stahlman & Co. at N.A.C.

I suppose the root word for Bananaganza is Extravaganza. The artist who organized the whole show, consisting of photographs of banana peels found lying about, is Kristin Stahlman. Because the banana peels were actually found, the show made me think of Marcel Duchamp's Objets trouvés or Found Objects, such as a bicycle wheel mounted on a kitchen stool, a urinal labelled Fountain and a bottle rack not labelled anything but simply signed "Marcel Duchamp."  For this reason, I though of giving my review the title, "Pelures de banane trouvées" or "Found banana peels."  But that would be a misinterpretation of the purpose of this show, which is simply to have fun.

Dada, the group which influenced Marcel Duchamp, was not out to have fun.  In its efforts to undermine the seriousness of the ideals, including artistic ideals, which in their opinion led to world-wide war, the Dada artists were quite seriously subversive.  Reason and logic were their enemies and they were deeply pessimistic.  Duchamp wanted to shock and succeeded.  Compared to him, this group of photographers gathered together from as far away as Venice, Italy, are a bevy of childlike innocents, celebrating banana peels in the same way in which, I suppose, they celebrate life.  I am told that on their Opening Night, they did not open NAC's doors to the general public, but instead held a banana-themed party, eating and drinking bananas in every shape and form and holding a competition to enact slipping on a banana peel.

This banana peel art is quite disposable, but only because they do not consider it important.  I don't suppose that anyone who contributed a photograph of a banana peel to the show expects to go down in the pages of art history as striking a blow against consumerism and materialism, as most of the exponents of Found Art have done.  They can't even be said to be going in for conceptual art as the quirky labels they put on their photographs, such as "Banana in the crotch of a tree" for one phallic, only partly eaten banana, do not illustrate ideas but are only added after the event, by the power of suggestion.  Any connection with ideas is based on their associations and nothing more.  All those people with an axe to grind were "so much older then."  Kristen and her friends are "younger than that now" (with apologies to Bob Dylan, whose fervent fan I was in the sixties).

The one thing that was lacking, as Steven Heinemann of the Write Bookstore pointed out, was a trompe-l'oeil rendering of a banana peel, such as a street artist might draw, to make people afraid of slipping.  But they were, after all, photographs. Perhaps if Kristin puts the show on again, she might think of this suggestion.  In the meantime she has already included a banana peel on a shelf of toys and a banana peel in a washroom.  Banana peels may crop up anywhere. 

Perhaps there were banana peels on Jacob's Ladder and that's what put his hip out of joint rather than wrestling with an angel.  Perhaps they eat bananas in Heaven, throw the peels in Purgatory and those that slip on them end up in Hell.  Long live bananas!  So says Kristin Stahlman and so say I.  Down with serious intent!

No comments:

Post a Comment