The Plagiarist is Present: Thoughts on Art, Theft, Shia, Marina and Jay-Z


1. SHIA LABEOUF CRIES wearing a brown paper bag on his head with two holes cut for eyes. Jay-Z dances for “art world luminaries.” The dancing and crying are performance art – or stolen from it.

2. This February Shia sits in an art gallery in Los Angeles as fans line up for hours down the block and through an alley waiting for the chance to sit alone before the star and stare into his eyes. (Or, what you can see of them through the paper bag). Cameras aren’t allowed. They’re smuggled in. He remains impassive. The bag is tear-stained. He wears a tux. As you enter, you’re offered a choice of props to bring with you. They include angry tweets written on paper like messages from fortune cookies, a whip, whiskey, candy and a Transformers toy. Apparently you can do with these implements – and Shia – as you wish. Throughout he doesn’t respond. He simply stares and cries. But, if you can’t see the tears, is he really crying? Also, he’s an actor; he should be able to well up on command. The sign on the gallery door declares the piece is called #IAMSORRY.

3. Last summer the “art world luminaries” line up for hours outside the Pace Gallery in Chelsea. Once inside they crowd around a plinth and bench cordoned off by a shin-high rope, the sort museums use to keep people from touching the art. Behind the rope on the pedestal Jay-Z appears. Members of the audience are invited one-by-one to sit before him on the bench as he performs his song “Picasso Baby” over and over for hours in the gallery.

4. The two events are copies, maybe fakes, based on Marina Abramović’s arduous 700-hour long “The Artist is Present” performance at MoMA (also the name of her retrospective there on at the same time). She sat in a chair in the museum’s atrium, always wearing a long flowing dress, hair always braided and always over her left shoulder. Day in and day out she stared into some 1400 people’s eyes individually.[1] Crowds lined up for hours. Some came more than once. Her expression never changed, nor did her posture. She didn’t cry, but people in the audience did. This is what the art world calls “durational performance.”

5. The invitation to Jay-Z’s performance says: “The performance is an experimental and collaborative one, where rap’s own history with endurance and duration will be at play.”

6. Jay-Z only lasted six hours. Shia a week.

7. In “Picasso Baby” Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, sings, “Fuck it I want a billion/ Jeff Koons ballons. I just wanna blow up / Condos[2] in my condos. I wanna row of / Christie’s with my missy, live at the MoMA/ Bacons and turkey bacons, smell the aroma.”

8. Marina Abramović arrives at the shoot in a limo. When he performs for her, they stare at each other, locking eyes and foreheads.

9. Afterwards people in the art world describe feeling punked by it all, “punked” not their word but mine. A friend writes to me:

Jay-Z had water, many breaks, adulation, clapping, ego-patting, not to mention the glam life he raps about to return to, and the artist from whom it is borrowed (in this case from Marina) is a flattered and glad participant – what sort of a simulacrum is this? Can we use that word??

10. Shia’s performance may be part of his long “apology tour,” as I’ll call it, for his plagiarizing comic artist Daniel Clowes. The apology has included skywriting and tweeting his abject sorrow. Only there are numerous earlier apologies LaBeouf made for other things – and all of those apologies were plagiarized as well, lifted from a writer at GQ, David Mamet, Yahoo Answers, Kanye West, Charles Bukowski…. Just to keep all this straight and make it clear: we have Shia apologizing in February 2013 on Twitter to Alec Baldwin. That apology? Ripped from GQ. Then, he apologizes for the apology using Mamet, and so it goes… He debuts his film plagiarized from Clowes in May at Cannes and gets caught in December. Of course, the apology? Not his. Not by a long shot…

11. This gets me thinking about four little paintings, shaped like an eye, a slit, a vagina…. In fact, their vaginal suggestiveness is impossible to ignore. Hold on and I’ll get to how they connect to Shia and Marina and Jay-Z. Just keep those paintings in your mind. Here’s an image of them:

Rochelle Feinstein. The Abramovic Method, mixed media. Image courtesy the artist and On Stellar Rays.

Rochelle Feinstein. The Abramovic Method, mixed media. Image courtesy the artist and On Stellar Rays.

They’re by Rochelle Feinstein. They’re also called the Abramovic Method.

12. A funny thing happened on the way from A to Z, from Abramovic to Jay-Z. Here are some more of the lyrics of that song Picasso Baby: “It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean Michel/ Surrounded by Warhols…/ Twin Bugattis outside the Art Basel.”

13. Art here is just another commodity. Abramović’s performances have often been about duration and endurance, suffering, not exactly something it’s easy to buy or sell. It’s hard to commodify stabbing yourself or burning your hair and nails in a fire….[3] What’s there to purchase? Meanwhile much of the art market that you hear about – the high end with the big fairs and big money, the auction market, say – has become the ultimate luxury good for the private-jet class. Unhinged from any use-value, art’s worth is entirely arbitrary.

I don’t want to suggest that Jay Z isn’t interested in art. He’s supposed to be a serious collector, and I don’t think the video equals who he is in “real” life. Also, I want “the art world,” which often seems like some fairytale realm set apart from the real world, to move closer to it. Here, though, Picassos and Condos and Basquiats are interchangeable with just so much Cristal and so many Benjamins. “I want a Picasso in my casa, no my castle… I’m an asshole…” Uh, yeah.[4]

14. So, we have crying Shia and Jay-Z bobbing. In the gallery during the filming New York magazine’s art critic, the ubiquitous Jerry Saltz, looks as if he’s being played by Paul Giamatti, and Shia LeB and Jay-Z have ripped off (or borrowed from) Marina A. Both have been inspired by her Artist is Present stare-down, the one memorialized in the HBO documentary, the one with the tumblr “Marina Abramović Made Me Cry,” the one that has made her the most famous woman artist today, where people lined up for hours on 53rd Street waiting to sit and stare before her. The experience was supposed to offer up something real, a genuine exchange in this our age of social networks and supposedly “not-real” exchanges. Shia was impassive as he addressed us (well, the “us” who queued for him on the streets of LA. That “us” isn’t actually me). He cried for most, but stares at his interlocutor here.

But what is he offering “us”? Somehow his entire play at fraud and copying, originality and apology seems like he’s trying to say something bigger, something that he thinks might be art, but what?

15. His plagiarizing Daniel Clowes looked at first like straight-up theft as if he didn’t realize taking someone else’s words was wrong or that he might get caught, as if he, a star, were above the realms (and rules) governing you and I and was literally celestial. Then, there’s the skywriting an apology in the skies of LA on New Year’s Day. And, wearing a bag on his head scrawled, “I am not famous anymore” at the premiere of Nymphomaniac at the Berlin Film Festival. Or the second act of skywriting, “Stop Creating” and a third time skywriting a dictum to “Start Creating” again. It came on the heels of his LA performance art “show,” where he sat in a room for eight hours a day letting us confront him. So, what is going on here? Plagiarism, joke, art? Or maybe he’s just trying to distract us from his bad sex and bad accent in Nymphomaniac.

16. James Franco believes it’s art. Apparently so too does Shia himself.[5]

17. On one of the preview days for this year’s Whitney Biennial (Go see it by the way. It’s good, and originality and value are on show) one of the curators whispers, “Go downstairs; James Franco’s getting a tour on the 3rd floor….”

18. With art it can feel at times like the joke is on us. (Here I mean me too, all of us, not the “us” above of the generalized, implied audience). With its interest in institutional critique and conceptual values and all sorts of doubling that can occur in a single piece, contemporary art can seem to require an explanation to uncode it, and it can seem to be speaking to an insider audience. Certainly that seems to me the case when faced with the possibility that Shia LeBoeuf might be trying to make “art.” But, one of the things I love about art (not in quotes) is its ability to compress complex ideas and address them in one piece, that it can ask us to ponder these ideas. It’s what I love about those four paintings. It’s why every day since I first saw them I’ve been thinking about them and what they have to say about art now and art-making now, feminism and performance and fame and originality and values and China. That too. I’ll get to it all, I swear. Keep those four paintings in your mind.

19. First though Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga naked. Lady Gaga naked in a stream in upstate New York. Lady Gaga naked wrapped around a giant crystal. I promise this is not some restaging of 70s soft core porn either. This is the Abramović Method. It’s a cross between EST and ESP, new age and yoga. It involves crystals and deep breathing and openness. It’s also rigid. You have to follow each step exactly. (I love that something designed to make us open is so controlled. That’s very funny). Everyone who sees Abramović’s pieces going forward will have to be trained in her eponymous method and sign a contract saying she will agree to “commit” to watching them for at least six hours. Naturally you will have to surrender your phone, watch and camera in advance.

Lady Gaga and a giant crystal all for Marina A.

Lady Gaga and a giant crystal all for Marina A.

In the film Lady Gaga and Marina A are both in coveralls sitting on bar stools in a stream, their backs to each other. I’m not sure quite what this says about the method. I like streams in upstate New York probably more than the next person. There’s one outside my kitchen door, but there’s something confounding in all this, the control – demanding people wear lab coats (see this video) to experience her work. Is she reinforcing the separation, the kind of quasi-religious experience we’re often promised in museums? Is that good? Anyway, watch the Lady Gaga video and try not to laugh.

20. By the way, I don’t find James Franco on the third floor… He’s also a fan/friend of Abramović’s.

21. Now to the four little paintings shaped like vaginas, four little paintings that relate to copies and values from high to low.

22. I am looking at them now, and something like a wire runs diagonally through them. Each seems strung against a gray sky that gives them the eerie look of hovering UFOs. They are all so small you’re forced to get close to see what’s going on. One is a painting of a photo, one covered in something heavy and brown like burlap as if what’s beneath needs hiding. A small hint of light emerges from the cloaked rectangle as if it’s shining and can barely be concealed. Another is an iPhone photo and the last a painting of that photo —all are copies of copies. They are, of course, about originality about value(s) but there’s also that they look unmistakably like women’s genitals (not to mention the one that’s covered as if it needs to be hidden…). I can’t separate them from when I first saw them hanging in an art gallery’s office. I didn’t want to look too closely. Partly because they were in the office and asking to see what’s hanging behind closed doors feels like intruding, though gallery offices are generally considered extra exhibition space. Then there’s the subject, which resembles what we women generally hide, while one painting is actually hidden. Plus painting only a vagina and isolating it from the rest of a woman’s body makes it harder to contemplate than a traditional nude, which comes with centuries of art historical tradition (read male gaze).

Detail, Rochelle Feinstein, Abramovic Method, courtesy of the artist and On Stellar Rays.

Detail, Rochelle Feinstein, Abramovic Method, courtesy of the artist and On Stellar Rays.

23. Rochelle Feinstein is an abstract painter in this year’s Whitney Biennial[6] and when Rochelle first heard about the Abramović Method on NPR, she was confounded by it. It was an “enigma” (her word), something she had to work out, but her way of working it out is different than mine. She paints. I write. For her, abstraction works as a way to probe something that demands scrutiny, where subjects – her own life, even – can be translated. At a moment when abstract painting is making a comeback, and women are being heralded as the ones behind it (particularly women of Rochelle’s generation; see again the Whitney Biennial) I find her take on abstraction particularly powerful. It retains a connection to our world while pushing the materials and media in which she works.

24. In 1996 she made a series called Sucked, Tucked and Fucked generated from expectations of women, beauty and bodies. “Tucked” was made by skimming the skin off the top layer of buff-colored oil paint as it dried. “Fucked” was a round, hooked rug (the sort that you can find in kits at Joann Crafts) stretched, photographed, transferred and enlarged to a silkscreen printed on a painting. A Polaroid was taken for the silkscreen, and afterwards, no one talked about the series. The Polaroid was filed away, and she brought it back out a couple years ago when she heard about the Abramović Method on the radio. Rochelle has a way of reusing work, cannibalizing and repurposing it, using a painting with a photo to talk about copies and the nature of originals. She was also thinking about Luminosity, a performance piece by Abramović where she was balanced on a bicycle seat mounted on a wall, arms rising and falling in a diaphanous light. The piece seemed so focused on her vagina, on her being suspended and strung up by it, that it appeared what was really on display was her sex.

Marina Abramović in Luminosity, 1997.

Marina Abramović in Luminosity, 1997.

25. And, what does Luminosity mean? I have no idea. Really. But Abramović says: “It’s really a work about loneliness, about pain and about spiritual elevation. About luminosity and about the transcendental quality of the human being in general.”

26. Originally staged in 1997, Luminosity was re-enacted for her MoMA retrospective. Holland Carter, the New York Times‘ chief critic, thought her restaged works had lost something there, that the copies were somehow empty. Also if you think her Method is intense, she’s even more demanding of her re-enactors. So, this became the kernel of Rochelle’s series: a silkscreen of a stretched hooked rug made to look like a vagina; the enigma of the Abramović Method and how one copies, how one sends out information; plus Luminosity, Abramović’s own nudity and what it means to restage a piece that makes such a public display of nakedness. What’s the cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, with four pictures I get about 4000 words…

27. The fourth painting in the series was made in Dafen Village, China from a photo Rochelle sent a painter there with the help of UC Berkeley art historian Winnie Wong, who has written a nuanced book on – and apprenticed in – Dafen herself.

28. Dafen has become a popular subject in Western media. In the village  everyone copies famous paintings making cheap versions for our homes, hotels, businesses…. In 2005 the New York Times ran a headline: “Own Original Chinese Copies Of Real Western Art!” Read the sentence aloud. How does it sound? Thanks to that exclamation point and contradictions like “original” and “copies” and “real,” I give it an ironic inflection. Oh, the privileged point of view the Times has… The second sentence describes a 26-year old who’s painted 20k Van Goghs. There are words like “garret” and “paint-splattered.” “Socks and freshly-painted canvases dry side-by-side.”  Somehow this fits with how we think of China, all industrial espionage, internet theft, copies, cheap handbags on Canal Street and notions of the original and value. In all this is a judgment of the copies and copyists. Copycats – not artists, possibly not even craftspeople.

29. Fuck, Fake, Fate. Fake: Just the word has an ache in it. It might come from the Dutch to slap, to sweep, to wipe, and the German for fegen meaning “polish.” Do you thing Dickens’ Fagin is linked to this? This Google usage chart shows the word’s re-ascendance over the last 80 years. Apparently it was first used in English as criminals’ slang in the 18th century. 30. In Dafen, Rochelle worked with Yin Xunzhi corresponding by email through Winnie Wong, who has written about him “as a painter with great artistic ambition.”[7] In a narrative that could fit the myths with which artists have been lionized, he studied painting, moved to Beijing, didn’t like the “bohemian” pretensions there, left and wandered, searching much as any artist would, and settled finally in Dafen. In a village where countless fake Van Goghs are produced, his story seems to channel how we look at artists, the longing and pathos and self destruction we ascribe them from Van Gogh through Pollock. “But Yin,” Wong writes, “constantly plans to leave Dafen village in order to become a ‘real artist.’… he has shredded all of his original paintings because he has never been fully satisfied with a single one. Thus, Yin says that he is not a ‘real artist’ because he has no works….” In a sense Rochelle destroys her pieces too, cannibalizing them to make others.

31. Looking at Yin as an equal creator, Rochelle plans to give him a quarter of the proceeds if her painting series sells, though she also paid him his fee for his work.

32. Because contemporary art can be difficult to decode, often our only way of understanding it is through value, through what something costs. Art demands an act of translation, and money is a translation we all know, so the easiest way to come to terms with art is through the silly money the press often quotes when talking about art. It’s as if art’s complexity is only comprehensible through how many zeroes follow how many commas after a dollar sign. But, what gives art value? Aura? Originality? Some magic, some kind of juju, or something “real,” like staring into Marina (or Shia’s) eyes?

33. I feel like I’m saying nothing original at all here. That could be a joke. But this stuff about art and aura, Walter Benjamin wrote about in 1936 in his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

34. When we see art it’s rarely free of an artist’s name or context. All that information helps us orient ourselves around a picture and know how to see it. And, seeing itself is a risk. Looking at art brings a risk of falling in love. We risk being moved; we risk getting punked. We risk getting fooled, we risk feeling fooled; we risk not getting it. And what does that risk give us?

35. In the National Gallery of Art is my favorite Vermeer of a girl holding a flute. She stares at us directly with a bald look and rabbity, lashless eyes. Her triangular hat appears vaguely Chinese. It’s painted with rough stripes that don’t match Vermeer’s fine strokes, and her mouth is open on the edge of a word. Behind her the tapestry seems more like a Gauguin. Plus, the lines of the hat and her face are half in shadow. The darkness is so stark I see in it the ghost of Manet. I’ve long been obsessed with this woman, with the hat and Gauguin tapestry and sharp line along her face.

Attributed to Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), Girl with a Flute, probably 1665/1670, oil on panel, Widener Collection, Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

Attributed to Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), Girl with a Flute, probably 1665/1670, oil on panel, Widener Collection, Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

I tried to write a whole novel about stealing her. She’s “attributed” to Johannes Vermeer. Her origin is in doubt, well, more than doubt. That’s what the “attributed” in her label is code for. She’s not an actual Vermeer. Look at this one, The Lacemaker.

Imitator of Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, , c. 1925, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, courtesy National Gallery of Art.

Imitator of Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, , c. 1925, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, courtesy National Gallery of Art.

It’s not even on view, but in the National Gallery’s collection. She’s too embarrassing. The painting is funny, a fake. It was probably painted by Han van Meegeren, one of the most famous forgers who flogged frauds to Hermann Göring, but look at her. It’s amazing to think that anyone thought she was genuine with her mousey bob. Here’s an image of a real Vermeer Lacemaker in the Louvre.

Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, ca 1669. Image courtesy of the Louvre.

Johannes Vermeer, The Lacemaker, ca 1669. Image courtesy of the Louvre.

36. Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver mounted a show four years ago of what might be Russian abstract fakes. Or, they could be real. They could be student work made early in the 20th century or copies or simply impossible to attribute. No one is likely to know the truth. In From Russia With Doubt, he writes, “I was sure about the quality of the paintings. However, I was uncertain of their status as art, which triggered in me a feeling of uncertainty about art in general: What is authenticity in art? What strange set of rules can make such delightful and vital paintings inauthentic? By provoking these questions in me, these paintings, which might all be forgeries, somehow felt more honest than anything else I encountered.”

37. In the same book Lerner tells a story of a collector of Russian avant-garde art, who in searching for paintings found one covering a window in the barn of a painter’s nephew. The collector wanted to buy the painting: “‘No,’” the nephew said, “‘I can’t sell it. It will rain and everything will get wet. Bring me another piece of plywood and then I’ll give it to you.’ So I had to go back to Moscow to look for a piece of plywood.”

38. Value and values: art to one is plywood to another.

39. This year another Chinese artist, Pei-Shen Qian, made the news. Living in Queens, he was unknowingly making fake modernist masterpieces that sold for millions. It reminds me in a sense of Yin in Dafen. Pei-Shen’s story is full of aspiration and longing, and comes with a double tragedy. Now in his seventies, he came of age during the Cultural Revolution, and as an artist he wanted to be modern – contemporary – to make art that mattered, that challenged norms, but his work itself, didn’t necessarily meet the world’s expectations of what that should be. Had he been a decade younger, he’d be part of the era of Chinese art stars we celebrate now. The tale reminds me of that lost generation of women like my mom, married in the late 40s and early 50s, who were left out as feminism swirled around them. They couldn’t quite keep up, torn between what they were told they should want and what they had.

40. His story has so many elements readers love: fakes and the ache, an immigrant story, coming to New York with your dreams, working as a janitor, going to school at night. He studied at the Art Students League, painted in Washington Square, talked people into letting him do their portraits until one day a mystery man asked him to try a version of some modern painter. Pei-Shen can’t remember which one. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps, joined the American Dream, bought a house in Queens, but he didn’t make it.

41. He said in an interview: “The FBI said they were done by the hands of a genius. Well that’s me. How strange it feels!”

42. Part of what we (I) like about fake stories and art forgeries is duping the very rich. Because of the crazy money involved with art, because of the risk in looking, because the way contemporary art might seem inscrutable, because of the my-kid-could-do-it-ness people often say about it, these stories of fakes and frauds are compelling. One hedge-fund partner paid $17 million for one of Pei-Shen’s fake Pollocks.

The $17 million fake Pollock...

The $17 million fake Pollock…

43. In the same way the New York Times could write “Own Original Copies” with an exclamation point, just a few months ago one of its critics reviewed Pei-Shen’s paintings. The critic, Ken Johnson, describes them as derivative and “soupy.” “Nostalgia seems to be the unifying mood of Mr. Qian’s paintings.”

44. Johnson goes onto say Pei-Shen’s “paintings raise interesting philosophical questions: Why should we value a painting known to be made by a certain esteemed artist more than a painting that is phony but is nevertheless practically indistinguishable from the authentic work? Why is a real Motherwell worth millions of dollars more than a fake just as good…”

45. He reduces this equation to soul. This, I think, is what Walter Benjamin meant by aura.

46. Aura = soul. Art = plywood. “Soul” is a weird word, weirder than “aura” by half.

47. This sentence is perhaps weirdest of all in Johnson’s review – and by “weirdest,” I mean most troubling.

The artist’s soul is somehow in the work, and because great artists are supposed to have great souls, there’s more soul in their creations than there is in mediocre efforts.

48. He ends by suggesting an exhibition of all Pei-Shen’s fakes, similar to the show of the Russian Constructivist maybe-fakes, maybe-student-work, maybe-unknown Malevich’s Adam Lerner did at the MCA in Denver in 2010. Both shows ask questions of value, only Lerner wanted to explore that risk in looking. He wanted to ask bigger questions of it. Is this where Johnson got the idea for a show of fakes?

49. On the phone, Lerner tells me a Big Foot story. At the museum they have two lectures the same night, one on Big Foot another on Jung. People think the Big Foot expert a dupe while the Jung one is applauded. Someone asks the Big Foot scholar why no one has ever found a body. “Because they bury the dead” is the answer. People laugh. Lerner tells me and I laugh. But, the Jung scholar interrupts and talks about Carl Jung’s interest in our shadowy dark side and the irrational. She talks about how modernism has pushed that all aside and says, “Look, isn’t this amazing. Here’s someone in our midst searching for the monstrous version of ourselves. And, if they found Big Foot, scientists would dissect it and test it, and we’d suddenly have order, science explaining exactly what it was, the missing link, evolution….”  It’s this looking for our dark side, taking risks, the irrational and inscrutable that art can bring up. If we let it. But, Lerner says, “We crave certainty. What museums do, in part, is create that, but how beautiful that something out there remains nebulous.” He’s talking about the Russian paintings that are impossible to authenticate.

50. What I’m trying to nail down here is elusive, spectral, but art is hardly ever free from the structures around it, the things that help us identify and understand it and fix it in place with wall labels, didactic text, an artist’s name, a review…. But, what’s the difference between an artist and crafts person? Between Rochelle and Yin and that narrative of fakes and frauds? What makes art? Aura? Soul? The mystic mumbo jumbo in Abramović’s Method? Or, Shia LaBeouf and his maybe conceptual project of plagiarizing? The question is too big to answer. The Queens’ painter was caught up in a narrative that’s bigger than him, that’s about value but also values and forces outside of him.

51. Art is so bound up in this system of values, tied to names and authorship, provenance and authority, that it’s nearly impossible—maybe it is impossible—to step outside them. Maybe what I love in these four paintings by Rochelle Feinstein is that I see them trying to lay those questions bare. In this is something essentially feminist too. Exposing the invisible lines that prop up our perceptions of art is about making manifest how power and hierarchy, status and values work – all those elusive threads that serve to reinforce authority.

52. By the way, Marina Abramović insists she’s not a feminist. And, while name and value(s) bring some safety, some way of orienting ourselves around a work of art to understand, they’re limiting too. Art could be our own search for Big Foot; meanwhile in Rochelle’s paintings, you can also see a UFO hovering in the sky…


[1] Recently Peter Schjeldahl pointed out to me that Marina’s own performance might veer close to plagiarism (not his word but mine), pointing out the similarities between her piece and one Chris Burden performed in 1972. He wrote in the New Yorker in 2007: In Newport Beach, he [Burden, that is] sat immobile in a chair, wearing dark glasses, facing two cushions and an inviting box of marijuana cigarettes. Visitors naturally assumed that he was watching them, but the insides of his glasses were painted black, and he refused to speak. He reported, in his record of the work, “Many people tried to talk to me, one assaulted me and one left sobbing hysterically.”

[2] George Condo is a painter, far more obscure than Francis Bacon or Jeff Koons. In the video he appears sitting on the bench with a sheepish grin.

[3] In something that might seem familiar to Shia fans, in another early piece Rhythm O (1974) Abramović lay inert for hours, letting the audience approach, prod and poke her with implements feathers to honey, a whip and a loaded gun. All of which she related to her own life….

[4] Finally ending my boycott of the video, I’ve watched it several times writing this, and in it Jay-Z has a playfulness that’s hard to criticize as he pulls kids onto the bench with him. And, he presents an art world far more integrated and color blind than it might seem at your average gallery opening, including artists like Fred Wilson, Lorna Simpson and Wangechi Mutu in the video.

[5] Shia posted this on Twitter: Performance art has been a way of appealing directly to a large public, as well as shocking audiences into reassessing their own notions of art and its relation to culture. My twitter “@thecampaignbook” is metamodernist performance art. A Performative redress which is all a public apology really is. All art is either plagarisum [sic] or revolution & to be revolutionary in art today, is to be reactionary. In the midst of being embroiled in acts of intended plagiarism, the world caught me & I reacted. The show began. I became completely absorbed, oblivious to things around me. I found absorption in what I was doing, freed my conscious and released my authentic creative imagination. My use of Twitter started a broad cultural discussion that needs to be had about plagiarism in the digital age *celebrity/social media absurdity… Uh, yeah. I can’t confirm if it’s true. It’s since been deleted.

[6] Though Rochelle is actually in the Whitney Biennial for video…. And full disclosure I’m in conversation with her in the catalogue, talking about art and abstraction, narrative and fictions. Not to mention the teleological end of abstraction with UFOs.

[7] Winnie Won Yin Wong, “Framed Authors: Photography and Conceptual Art from Dafen Village,” Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, July 2008, pp 32-43.

About Jennifer Kabat

A recent finalist for Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize, Jennifer Kabat (@jenkabat) is working on a book called Growing Up Modern, exploring art, ideology and the landscape from the modernist suburb where she grew up to the Western Catskills where she lives now. She’s been awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism and teaches at NYU. She contributes to BOMB, The Believer and Frieze and was once an editor at the legendary style magazine The Face in London.
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One Response to The Plagiarist is Present: Thoughts on Art, Theft, Shia, Marina and Jay-Z

  1. hmm says:

    “he presents an art world far more integrated and color blind than it might seem at your average gallery opening, including artists like Fred Wilson, Lorna Simpson and Wangechi Mutu in the video.”

    That doesn’t sound color blind. That sounds deliberate. Interesting it’s called “color blind” when artist of color are there, rather than when mostly white people are there.

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