Explain a piece of public art (if you can!)

(I threw this question into IMHO because interpretation of art is inherently subjective. It’s not a General Question because there’s likely not one single answer, but it’s not really a Great Debate either.)

Chicago is following up on the success of the “Cows on Parade” last year with “Suite Home Chicago,” plastic couches, chairs, ottomans, and televisions assembled and painted in various patterns by various artists. Most of the works are whimsical. However, I seem to have been inflicted with probably the only somber and “educational” piece in the whole bunch. :rolleyes:

In front of my office building (Michigan just north of Adams) is a chair and ottoman. The chair has quotes about how much television Americans watch and is labeled “VEGETABLE.” Fine, it’s a critique on how much us bourgeois unsophisticated Amurricans watch too much television. But the ottoman is labeled “BAMIYAN” (translation?!) and has quotes about the destruction by the Taliban of that huge Buddha statue some months back. The real puzzler is the name the artist gave this work: “Cause and Effect.”

WTF?!?! :confused:

Americans watching too much television is the cause of the Taliban destroying the Buddha statue?!? And the cause and effect REALLY doesn’t work the other way around: we watch too much TV because the Taliban blew up a statue?

Please explain the point of this work.

Maybe they feel that things like TV cause complacency, and that complacency allows groups like the Taliban to rise to power.

Art may be inherently subjective, but cultural commentary depends to a ceretain extent on understanding the cultures one wished to comment on.

The message might have a stronger effect if it was indeed complacency that allowed the Taliban to rise to power, but since that is not the case, the net result is to make the artist look ignorant of the events they are purportedly commenting on.

The key to"understanding" this type of art is to remember that the current rule for curators is “You can’t be too arch.” The whole idea is to be “Hipper Than Thou”, and if it means sneering at people who need explanations, sobeit.

It could be considered slightly ironic that one of the first things that the Taliban outlawed was television.

On the other hand, maybe we’re reversing the artist’s intended cause and effect. Maybe he’s saying that we only watch the news when we wee things get blown up.

When we watch too much television, we also forget to use preview.

Jumping on ITR’s bandwagon (if I may), maybe the artist is saying that things become “real” to Americans when, and only when, we see them on TV. If we didn’t see it blown up, it didn’t really happen. Thus the critique might be that Americans feel that their participation (by being TV viewers) is necessary to validate the reality of any given event. The artist may be illustrating a cycle – our TV viewing causes things to exist, which causes us to watch more TV, causing more things to exist and so on. The joke, or the irony, or some artistic term, would then be that couch potato becomes more and more removed from reality, just as the coverage of an event isn’t actually the reality of that event.

Of course, this model would work better if the Taliban stuff was on a TV, and not the ottoman. We might then add the interpretation that our scandalously mindless TV viewing allows us to rest comfortably on the belief that things like the Taliban do not affect us, or that the Taliban exists for the purpose of our comfort/entertainment.