This is a project where I pay workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk to review my art and website and pay them $5 for 500 words. This is the 45th review I've received.
Paul Shortt’s art is immediately human. It speaks to commonalities in all of us (narcissism, a desire for privacy, and memory) and therefore very accessible. However, this immediacy and accessibility occasionally render his works slightly pedestrian. When successful Shortt’s work stands out as decidedly stark and moving. Shortt’s website has an “About Me” section that briefly details his professional history, but his collection entitled “The Business of Selling Yourself” is much more effective in detailing the person behind the art. On a displayed business card, Shortt reveals aspects of his personality most people would hide and ignore. He’s selfish, bad with money, condescending, and a sex addict who is potentially bad in bed. These confessions were intended to be cathartic and productive, but regardless of his intention, they give context to the art that Shortt creates. This is ego-less art that aims for honesty over style. Aesthetically, Shortt’s business card is ugly and this can be said of many of his other pieces. The photography and videography is flat and documentarian, but this only serves to emphasize the emotional quality of the work.
Shortt isn’t attempting to forge a style, but rather expound upon personal issues that matter to him. The most effective of Shortt’s pieces is a series entitled “Please No Photos.” He took to the streets of New York City to visually express dissatisfaction with the pervasive surveillance that exists in the modern city. Using an enormous no photography sculpture, Shortt photographed pedestrians holding the sign in different public areas of the city. In addition, he places the sculpture next to buildings, in parks, and other common areas. The results are superb, with the sculpture appearing as part UFO part 2D object in our very 3D world. This juxtaposition pulls this real location and person into the world of google maps and government satellites, further emphasizing ubiquitous surveillance. Perhaps the most elegant series is “Contemporary Farewells,” which present monochromatic explanations of alternative and humorous ways of saying goodbye. The pieces have a simple, paper-cut look, with silhouettes of people performing the above-mentioned gestures. They involve absurd and laughable exchanges of muscle hugs, twists and turns, cell phones, and pointing. This series is much less serious than Shortt’s other works, but the presentation is right on. Where Shortt loses me is in the realm of performance art.
A quick disclaimer: I do not like performance art. Regardless of this fact, I think the visual and live presentations of the work are lacking in many ways. For example, in performing “Contemporary Farewells,” pairs of Shortt’s friends awkwardly act out the different humorous farewells. The actions are seemingly unrehearsed and strange to watch. Most problematic is the fact that the aesthetic cohesion of the printed work is completely absent in the performance. Instead of recreating the high contrast, monochromatic look of the original series, the normally dressed actors are set against a busy gallery backdrop. This lack of attention to detail could simply be irrelevant in Shortt’s eyes, but for me it creates a distracting disconnect in the live performance of his pieces