Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Amazon's Mechanical Turk Review of My Art #59

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 59th review I've received.

Paul Shortt is a contemporary artist from the Midwestern United States. His work involves quite a few different types of media and frequently involves healthy doses of humor and interactivity. His website shows quite a few examples of the different types of works that he has been involved in, which I will attempt to describe. The first link was actually to reviews of his work written by Mechanical Turk workers. Since this is what I'm doing now, I didn't read them, so as to avoid unintentional plagiarism and form my own opinion. The next link I looked at, “Please No Photos” showed pictures of him carrying around a large sculpture of the crossed out circle, aka the “international no symbol”, in public places. This was meant to suggest “no photos”, when, of course, his intention was to take a picture of the person holding the symbol. This piece is a commentary on the lack of privacy in contemporary society. I definitely enjoyed the humor, irony, and meta-commentary of these two pieces. Paul has too many examples of his works up for me to comment on all of them, so I proceeded to skim through the rest, and will write on the ones that caught my attention. The next work I really liked was “Literally and Physically”, where Paul created works that the audience was invited to interact with, often in humorous and ironic ways. There is a set of bleachers that tells you to sit on it, but then tells you not to as you inspect it closer. Two related items meant to comment on the vapidness of internet communication included a rug that encouraged you to roll and laugh, or ROFL, on it, and a LOL microphone that included voice samples of the artist laughing. 

The next section that caught my eye was the sadly incomplete “It's Simple, But Complicated”. This was a series of actions that were physically simple to perform, but had larger cultural implications. One video shows him struggling mightily to raise the American flag to the full height of the flagpole. The contrast between the simplicity and the meaning of the action (as well as between the expected and actual difficulty of the raising process) was quite humorous and thought-provoking. I would have liked to see more exploration of this particular idea. The next set of works involved more audience participation, this time with printed cards and posters. It included a set of certificate “awards” satirizing the often pretentious art world. The facetious diplomas thanked audience members for completing the “minimum time” spent viewing a work, as well as for a momentary random conversation, and for enjoying the complimentary food. This was a funny work, if not the most profound work on the site. I looked at a few other works that explored interpersonal interactions in the modern age. One work took “missed connection” ads and recontextualized them in different ways in order to comment on the disconnection and lack of empathy in certain facets of modern life. Another work exploring a similar theme involved the idea of marketing oneself detracted from the usual context of resumes and work. Paul created and distributed an extreme self-deprecating business card and used it as his official card for a number of years. He also gathered a series of “reference letters” for dating from friends, which he collected for a future work. Overall, I thought this was an interesting portfolio. Some of the ideas were too similar or did not make sense to me, but I liked it overall. The use of humor and self-deprecation was a welcome change from the often pretentious world of contemporary art. I would like to see some of the more unique works in here explored more and taken further. I'm glad I spent some time looking at Paul's works.

For more info on this project please check out my website: