Monday, July 10

I have found the secret to life

A recent trip to Milwaukee to attend an arts advocacy conference also brought me to the Milwaukee Art Museum and its space-age, Santiago Calatrava-designed addition. (An incredibly white building, inside and out.)

Tony Oursler’s MMPI (Self-Portrait in Yellow), a hilarious work from 1996, was on view in the contemporary-art section, near the concrete staircase across from a grand, late 1970s/early 1980s painting by Julian Schnabel. Opposite the bombastic broken crockery, the self-effacing, helpless Oursler surrogate.

Projected on the blank face of a tiny doll, pinned to the ground by a painted yellow metal chair, was Tony Oursler reciting lines from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, an all-purpose psychology test of 567 questions administered to help diagnose psychiatric disorders (as well as, it seems, to weed out undesirable job candidates). Among the phrases deadpanned by the artist were “I never think about the past,” “I have thoughts that I share with no one,” “I get angry quickly, but I let it go just as fast,” and “I have found the secret to life”—all to be answered yes or no by the test-taker/viewer. I stood there listening to the looped audio—it was maybe seven minutes long—in order to hear all the statements. A midwestern family of four—spending a lovely, wholesome afternoon together—strolled by and paused momentarily. Right at that moment Oursler droned, “I have been attracted to members of my own sex.” Dad quickly escorted wife, son, and daughter away.

2 comments:

Brian Sholis said...

Perhaps of interest: "Ab Ovo," a group exhibition curated by Steven Hull that makes use of the MMPI.

Brian

The Hanger-On said...

This is an awesome project, and probably several hours (or days) of reading. I am unsure, though, how to get a copy of the physical book. I hate reading onscreen.