ARTLURKER

A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Funner Projects’ Maintain Right

Justin H Long, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz and Eli Broad. Image courtesy Carlos Rigau @ the de la Cruz Collection.

F unner Projects recently closed their performance, Maintain Right, at the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space’s project room this month with a final 2 x 4 wielding performance of their large homemade crossbow in a project that combines elements of performance, participation and sculpture. The minds behind Funner Projects – Justin H. Long and Robert “Meatball” Lorie – greeted guests outdoors in a makeshift garage/ shooting range where they arranged some rudimentary bleachers and joked around with the audience while they hurled stick after stick of blonde 2 x 4 beams into human silhouettes on wooden boards. Taking time to tease the audience with a machete that they used to cut the line that launched each beam towards its target.

The crossbow performance was relocated to the de la Cruz from Little River Yacht Club, where it had previously been part of That’s Not a Knife earlier this year. The title, Maintain Right suggests a kind of momentum or thrust toward something new. It also doubles as cautionary advice to keep a safe distance from the firing area.

Robert “Meatball” Lorie and Justin H Long. Image courtesy Carlos Rigau @ the de la Cruz Collection.

The role of chance is also involved in the performance in that the guys are never able to precisely predict what body part on the silhouette will take the hit. They are able to tinker with the crossbow to try to meet the demands of the crowd, but with every firing came the anticipation that elements outside of their control would alter the course of the projectile. The Surrealists used games of chance in their practices to go beyond the consciousness of the author and attempt to reveal something deeper and perhaps more honest about art and human nature. Maintain Right uses chance to create suspense, excitement and ultimately… fun.

Could this be considered a form of highbrow Jackass? There are probably a hundred ways to sexualize that notion of a long 2 x 4 wooden beam being thrust into a silhouette. And perhaps on the surface, the spectacle of male bravado, humor and subtle violence could be interpreted along these terms. I suspect that may be part of the point. After all, Long and Lorie admit they were “raised on a steady diet of MacGyver and Grade 8 bolts.”

Robert “Meatball” Lorie and Justin H Long. Image courtesy Carlos Rigau @ the de la Cruz Collection.

The inherent carnivalesque nature of Funner Projects happenings set out to subvert what Long and Lorie refer to as “cookie cutter art.” Their events rely both on audience participation and the ability to re-create environments that are both socially engaging and which uphold the integrity that you’re looking at something art-like. In Maintain Right, there are always punctured wood boards on display that function as a record of the performance, even when the boys are taking a break.

Funner Projects like Maintain Right offer accessibility through absurdity – a kind of new democracy in the consumption of contemporary art. Rather than come up with a pretentious conceptual challenge under the banner of ‘institutional critique’ these guys go for a ‘less pretense is more’ attitude that proves to be more effective amongst the incessantly growing art walk crowd. Often relying on humor to lower their audiences’ defenses and creating a balanced environment between the experienced and novice art goers. The crowds at the Maintain Right performances during Art Basel Miami Beach week varied from affluent collectors and museum curators to young hipsters just “checking it out.” What made this phenomenon more intriguing than any other random art walk was that it actually had these heterogeneous art crowds stick around for more than one performance.

Robert “Meatball” Lorie and Justin H Long. Image courtesy Carlos Rigau @ the de la Cruz Collection.

The selection of Maintain Right for the de la Cruz project room was at first a little bewildering. The collection’s pristine 30,000 square foot-ultra-modern building would suggest the kind of art world sanctity that Funner Projects so adamantly rejects. This contrast, between site and artistic intention only heightened the experience making it an effective, albeit strange marriage. Funner Projects maintains the kind of authority over their environments that enable them to literally take their show on the road without compromising or losing intention because of location– a challenge for artists working in public performance-based installation. It is indicative of the trend contemporary art historian Miwon Kwon described as site-specific artwork becoming “unhinged from the actuality of the site” in her formative One Place After Another: Notes on Site Specificity[.]

The next leg of this performance will open in New York’s White Box art space, March 5- 23, 2012.

This post was contributed by Melissa Diaz.

 

3 Comments

  • Cesar Barroso

    This is art without substance or character. Just a good occasion for rich people to have fun, and show the world that money does not give one any knowledge of what art is.
    Miami, Feb. 26, 2012
    Cesar Barroso

  • KEVIN ARROW

    I enjoyed this project on so many different levels. Regarding the selection and placement of this project, I especially appreciated how they were set up outside of the building shooting their 2 x 4 ammunition towards the inner heart of the institution, as if they were attempting to break into the sanctified space from the outside. Perhaps Substance and Character was left at the door, but these qualities are overrated.

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Funner Projects’ Maintain Right