The lumberjack look of multi-media manipulator, Paul Shortt, doesn’t seem to fit the image of this quirky, comedian, photographer, poet, installation and performance artist. Reviewing his website filled with his galley of photographs and videos of himself and participants is not unlike watching “The Truman Show” where everything in Shortt’s life is recorded and shared with the internet world. Even his reviews are commissioned from Amazon Mechanical Turk for $5.00 for 500 words, which in my book makes him one of the high rollers on the website. That is to say he’s not cheap but generous; and judging from his work he is also quite self-effacing and humorous. People have written about his “No photos allowed” installation piece but I quite frankly enjoyed the inventive posters he created on “modern greetings.” Those who are interested in novel social ideas should take a look at these suggestions, even if just for a laugh. Perhaps that is the most refreshing angle of Shortt’s work is the lack of seriousness and the full emphasis on playfulness. His museum pieces in “Literally and Physically” is interactive and designed for adults and children alike.
For Shortt, there is a child is everyone and it is absolutely necessary to have hands on experience with his work. People touch and handle each other in some exhibits; others might climb stairs and hear the creator of the piece laughing on a recording while you are encouraged to do what the rug tells you, which is “Roll on the Floor Laughing.” One video is watching Shortt attempt to raise a flag on a pole. The piece is called “Simple but Complicated” a just under three minute film showing Paul’s feeble attempt at raising a flag. This is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s recording 24 hours of the outside of the Empire State Building. It seems sort of meaningless yet like most things on Youtube one just watches it because you want to be entertained. You’re hoping that maybe the video of Paul’s car break down is just the thing that will pick you up. There is a funny, cuteness about Shortt that reminds you of a handsome Seth Rogan with his curly hair and scruffy beard. You can imagine him picking up women with a “missed connection” message written on a huge birthday cake. He has lots of great ideas, clever images and is literate! To Paul Shortt’s credit, he’s not just some spaced out guy on an ego trip but a real artist. Born in 1981, this 31-year-old BFA graduate of Kansas City Art Institute takes his work seriously. He is currently studying for his MFA in New Media at the University of Illinois in which he expects to receive this year in 2013. It will be interesting to see how Shortt develops and evolves as an artist. He’s talented and savvy and knows how to connect with an audience. With many artists going in for shocking performance art, Shortt seemed comfortable with his PG-13 rating, and should be.