Walead Beshty just drilled a 12-inch hole through the middle of a 90-inch TV, and it’s amazing. The Los Angeles artist’s destructively perfect show “Open Source” is on view at Petzel Gallery in New York, and includes a full range of misused technology: multiple sawed TVs, impaled scanners, misprocessed photographs and fingerprint-collecting sculptures, that all find beauty in the risk of total failure.
In addition to the 3 partially destroyed TVs (2 more are sawed completely in half), an iMac and 2 scanners are impaled on 6-foot tall poles… all of which are still “alive”. The screen of the iMac glows with a similar pattern of the TVs and the scanners screech and rattle when the still-functioning mechanisms are interrupted by the middle bar (see/hear it in action).
This is more than finding beauty through destruction – it’s a palpable feeling of risk. In other words, these are NOT cheap TVs – the titles of each sculpture dryly describe the exact item (I looked it up on amazon) and, as if to prove they are BRAND NEW televisions, the “finger-print protecting” film is left on every surface.
Beshty made his name a few years ago with abstract photograms, made in complete darkness by crumpling, rolling, or folding photo paper while exposing it to different colors of light in a photo-processing lab. His newest photograms tower 10-12 feet tall, and were processed with 2 massive sheets that were sandwiched face-to-face, resulting in Rorschach patterns and greater distress. Hand prints and smears result from failing to properly handle paper that was too large for the processing equipment he was using,Copper sculptures in the middle of the floor have picked-up permanent fingerprint marks from the art handlers that transport and install the work. The professionals are instructed to violate protocol and not wear gloves when moving the sculpture. That rule accompanies the work as it travels, so the more these are moved for exhibitions through their life, the more they change.
Beshty frequently compares his work and process to a “game”. As he puts it in this Q&A, “A game is always evaluated by the range of outcomes in it’s internal structure, not by one particular outcome, and the value of that signal outcome”. Viewing the work is sharing in the “win”, while happily decoding and reliving the entire suspense of the game play.
All Images courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York
TV “detail” images photographed by David Behringer