David Bruce: Boredom is Anti-Life — Art, Audiences


• Students at MIT have occasionally hacked (that is, pranked) the school’s works of art. Actually, one hack really wasn’t a hack — it really was a work of art. Artist Scott Raphael Schiamberg installed what appeared to be a field of wheat in Lobby 7. On a Monday in May 1996, students and faculty strolled through the wheat. Mr. Schiamberg received much media publicity, and he received many congratulatory emails. One MIT employee emailed him, “It took my breath away. All Mondays should be so beautiful.” Of course, MIT students added a few touches of their own to the work of art — such as a cow and a scarecrow. However, MIT students liked the field of wheat, and they did not like some of the other works of art on the MIT campus, such as Louise Nevelson’s Transparent Horizons, which MIT students criticize as being like much other MIT art: In the students’ word, the art is “ugly.” MIT hackers once installed a desk and a study light in the top of the sculpture, and they once rededicated it with this plaque: “Louise Nevelson / b. 1990 / Big Black Scrap Heap / 1975.” And occasionally MIT hackers will install authentic-looking but satiric “works of art” in MIT galleries. For example, in 1985 MIT hacking group James E. Tetazoo installed “NO KNIFE: A STUDY IN MIXED MEDIASEARTH TONES, NUMBER THREE” in MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. The “work of art” consisted of a large plate, small plate, fork, two spoons (one a soup spoon), and glass on a tray placed on an upside-down trash receptacle. A statement accompanying the “art” satirized art criticism. The first sentence read, “The artist’s mode d’emploirelies upon minimalist kinematic methods; space and time are frozen in a staid reality of restrained sexuality.”

• Do modern angels wear jeans and use mobile phones? How about statues of modern angels? In the city of Hertogenbosch (aka Den Bosch) in the south of the Netherlands is the Roman Catholic St. John’s Cathedral. Dozens of statues are in the medieval cathedral, and some of the statues are recently created. Sculptor Ton Mooy sculpted 25 new angels for the cathedral, and among them he sculpted one modern angel. The artist wanted to create a jet-pack-wearing angel, but that design was rejected, so he created an angel wearing jeans and using a mobile phone. The artist points out, “The phone has just one button. It dials directly to God.” (It’s also interesting to note that the cathedral also has a large stained-glass window depicting Hell — the window depicts 9-11.)

• British artist Sir Joshua Reynolds looked through some drawings at a second-hand picture dealer’s, then asked how much one of the drawings cost. Astonished to hear that the price was 20 guineas, he asked, “Twenty pence, I suppose you mean?” The dealer replied, “No, sir. It is true that this morning I would have taken 20 pence for it, but if you think it is worth looking at, all the world will think it worth buying.” Sir Joshua paid the 20 guineas for the drawing.


• Sometimes, stand-up comedians face very hostile audiences. Once, an audience kept shouting at George Calfa, “Get off! Get off!” He told the audience that the only way he would leave would be for the audience to give him a standing ovation. but after the audience had given him a standing ovation, he told them, “This is the first standing ovation I ever got — I’d better do an encore.”

• The recitals of modern dance pioneer Martha Graham were so different from classical ballet that many people had trouble relating to them. A woman attended a Graham recital, then went backstage afterward and asked her, “Martha, how long do you expect to keep up this dreadful dancing?” Ms. Graham replied, “As long as I have an audience.”

• CBS executives detested the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island; however, when they tested the pilot, they discovered that audiences loved it. This so amazed the CBS executives that they tested the pilot more than once, because they were afraid that something was wrong with the first audience.

• Following the premiere of Rodeo: The Courting at Burnt Ranch, choreographed by Agnes de Mille, the cast had 22 curtain calls and was showered with bouquets. Most of the bouquets consisted of flowers, but one was made of ears of corn and red, white, and blue ribbons.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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