Paul Shortt’s work is most of all fun! (Check it out at Paulshortt.com.) I have already looked up ‘fun’ in the thesaurus, as I know I’ll be using it quite a lot. And the ghost of my high school English teacher is looming over my shoulder muttering about using one descriptive word more that once or twice in a paper ;) But come on, anybody who uses Calvin and Hobbes as an inspiration? What other word are you going to use? His work runs from performance art, to video, to more traditional forms. All of it has a strange sense of familiarity to it, making it accessible to the general public. But it holds layers of deeper meaning for those who take the time to consider. For Calvinball, the inspiration is the game from Calvin and Hobbes, wherein one is allowed to make up any rules one wants to the game, or indeed to change the game itself. Mr. Shortt’s merry (yup, thesaurus time) work invited participants off the street to come in and play the game with their choice of various sports equipment, making up their own rules.
The work ROFL CON takes the common texting phrase and places it in type upon a red carpet, allowing anyone who feels the need to roll on the floor laughing. (One assumes if an act of ROFLMAO occurred, Mr. Shortt would find some incredibly creative use for the outcome.) Another work involved placing a mirrored version of the 18th century pillory in a shopping mall. Yes, you can find deeper meanings in the fact that the pillory reflects back the image of anyone looking at the person in the pillory. And I’m sure the shopping mall placement is on purpose. But I can’t help but remember the childhood trips to Williamsburg, VA and everyone laughing and taking pictures at the re-creation of the town pillory outside the Capitol building. His work Certificates uses official looking paper to offer awards for taking seven seconds to complete the minimum amount of time to view an art piece, or for staying the appropriate distance from a work in the gallery. My favourite is Best Conversation in an Art Gallery Setting (subtitled I Was Totally Impressed by the Depth of Our Random Exchange). One hopes Mr. Shortt’s use of memes in his work means he recognizes the tiny Fry that popped into my head saying “Shut up and take my money!” I want one of each of these certificates! Although I could just settle for a copy of his work Free Poster. Deciding on colour would be difficult. But I really feel we could come to some agreement on price. His work is many things. Sometimes he says exactly what he means. Free Poster means, well, free poster. Sometimes he seems to be contradictory. Please Do Not Climb on the Sculpture is a sculpture in the shape of stairs. His work contains both a childlike joy and a serious social commentary. It welcomes everyone. But on the whole, I’d have to say it was amusing, boisterous, convivial and entertaining! (And it’s fun too!!!!)