Friday, April 15, 2005

The Art Of Litter

Littering has risen to a new level in Waltham. It is no longer a thoughtless and random epiphenomenon of mindless consumption. It has become deliberate. Considered. Intentional. It has, in short, become Art. Viz. this installation that I came across last week as I was walking along the Charles River.

Note the streaming green and blue ribbons, obviously chosen to echo the blue and yellow of the curiously cropped can, and to mimic the flow of wind and water. The anonymous artist displays an aesthetic that pays demotic and ironic homage to both Andy Goldsworthy and Christo and, at the same time, offers a darkly scathing and hilarious critique of post-millenial Capitalism.

The can's raw transection can only represents the artist's violent rejection of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can iconography. It is as if "the bottom has fallen out" of the Pop aesthetic, and a deeply felt nostalgia (not untinged with bitter and ironic regret) for a more pastoral and bucolic era/art had taken its place. The evocation of effigy and gallows is deliberate: the artist rages, even rampages against the tradition so fiercely that he or she has transcended a mere "anxiety of influence" and has attained a frank, full-blown "going-postal of influence."

In its scathed, post-Pop bifurcation the can must be seen as a castratus. Its prior cylindrical phallicity has become an aluminum vagina dentata in a brilliant commentary on the illusive and shifting constructions and deconstructions and even reconstructions of gender and self.

Our anonymous artist has given us a post-post- and maybe even post-post-post-modern Wood Sprite -- ribbon-bedecked, wounded, androgynous -- which simultaneously evades and embraces commodification as it flits among the spring trees and heaped-up trash of the river bank.

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