I have some very exciting news to tell about Shalampax’s arts scene, if you can call one event every two or three years “a scene.” Last night I attended the opening of Redherring’s exciting new art installation. It almost, but not quite, defies description.
For the uninitiated, this piece might be overly enigmatic, to say the least. Casual observers will undoubtedly be frustratingly separated from an understanding of the underlying meaning of the work by a gulf they cannot bridge on their own. But read on. All will be revealed.
The event was held at Shalampax’s sole permanent art gallery, which, to make ends meet, serves as a brothel during off-hours. In the case of our art gallery, “off-hours” is 24 hours a day on Mondays and Tuesdays and about 23-and-a-half hours a day on the other five days each week.
Because of the limited hours, it is wise to call the gallery in advance if you want to view the art on display there. Reasonably priced sexual services are available at any time without an appointment.
As to Redherring’s new artwork, you’ve heard such claims before, but this is one exhibit that undeniably has the critics talking. True, they were merely asking for directions to the washroom, but there can be no doubt that they were definitely talking, which is odd for Shalampax’s art critics. They normally sit quietly while endlessly quaffing beer and eating heavily salted pretzels.
I’ll leave it up to you to conjecture what the critics were doing after getting and following the directions to the washroom, but I will tell you that the air was rife with the unmistakable stench of fresh vomit when they returned.
Redherring’s piece has two independent, but nonchalantly interconnected foci.
The bottom of the installation is a recently purchased, nondescript LCD computer display. Throughout the course of the entire exhibition the screen will display only the Facebook homepage. In the interest of not letting anyone know that she has no friends (Facebook or otherwise), Redherring has not logged into her Facebook account on the hidden computer that drives the screen.
Perched precariously on top of the flat-screen monitor is a can of chicken noodle soup. The label on the can is unbranded and unadorned. Black-on-white text in an austere font merely spells out “Chicken Noodle Soup.”
I cornered Redherring at the opening and, through considerable cajoling and by slipping her ten bucks, I convinced her to do an on-the-record interview. The following is her explanation of the meaning of her work.
“Let me start with the label. It is intentionally plain to represent the near-total anonymity that is the norm for most of us due to our overwhelming uniformity. Frequent unwarranted bragging about the uniqueness of each human being notwithstanding, our differences are, in reality, miniscule and exist only at the fringes of our being. In truth, with the rare exception of people who have, intentionally or otherwise, achieved celebrity status—whether in entertainment, sports, politics or whatever—or infamy status—whether in entertainment, sports, politics or whatever—we live in a world where almost unbearable sameness obscures the actuality of the individual.
“That’s why the soup can label is unbranded and unadorned. It, like most of us, simply doesn’t stand out.
“Why, you may ask, did I choose chicken noodle soup rather than, for example, leek, tomato, potato, turnip, oxtail, French onion, garden vegetable, cioppino, black bean, lentil, corn, or split pea soup? I recognize that most people are too stupid to figure it out and, therefore, I will be faulted for creating a work that is impenetrable for my agonizingly philistine audiences. Nonetheless, that too will sound blindingly obvious when you hear the explanation.
“Chicken represents cowardice. Most of us never emerge from our isolating cocoons of conformity for the simple reason that we are terrified of doing so.
“The noodles epitomize the flaccid way that most of us live our lives. We mechanically pass our seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and decades unconsciously bending in response to the chaotic stirrings of random external factors.
“The significance of the broth is almost too obvious to mention. However, because most of your readers possess, to put it exceptionally mildly, less-than-primitive artistic sensitivities, I’ll spell it out. The broth represents seminal fluid. Enough said.
“The computer monitor embodies modernity. And the Facebook homepage is both a literal interpretation of and a metaphor for all of the electronic social media—Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and the rest, in addition to Facebook—that are coming to so dominate modern life.
“The soup can is upside-down on the monitor to signify the way that social media appears—falsely, I might add—to upend the anonymity that was traditionally afforded us by the previously impenetrable smokescreen of our inviolable banality.
“I’m pleased and surprised that you noted the precariousness of the soup can’s perch. This symbolizes the precariousness of our existence. It is as if we live our lives balanced on a thin tightrope. A slight shift to the left and we fall to a quick, but horrendous end. A slight shift to the right and we fall into a slow, steady and increasingly painful demise. While none of us may know the nature of our death, we do know that sooner or later we will all fall from the rope.”
I feel particularly privileged to have had the opportunity to interview such a profound creative talent as Redherring. That has now proved to be a rare honor. A few hours after I spoke to her, her full-time artistic manager and part-time pimp announced that she will not be making any further public appearances or talking to any journalists for the foreseeable future. The date of her return into the public realm is unknown, but we will have to wait at least until the Chief Psychiatrist of the Shalampax Hospital releases her from a suicide watch in the hospital’s mental health ward.
If you’d like to see Redherring’s innovative art installation I suggest that you get to the art gallery as soon as possible. It will be on display only until the curator or one of the “off-hours” hookers gets hungry or wants to reclaim the Internet connection, whichever comes first.