Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mechanical Turk Review of My Art# 46

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 46th review I've received.

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Friday, February 08, 2013

Mechanical Turk Review of My Art #45

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