Monday, August 10, 2009

The dueling artists of Prada Marfa

Last summer my husband and I went to western Texas to attend a family wedding. I had never been to Texas before, so found it all fascinating. We flew into El Paso and headed west on Rt. 90.
That was the first time we saw Prada Marfa.

We stopped and left our cards. A few months after we got back, I received this email, along with a scan of my card....
Dear Art Viewer,
I am writing you in regards to your past visit to Prada Marfa in Valentine, Texas; a work of art by Elmgreen and Dragset. I recently have started a project documenting the business cards left at the site of the work. At this time I wish to stay anonymous but, I can tell you that I am an artist and appreciate Elmgreen and Dragset’s work in all its forms. I wish to ask you for any insights you might have regarding the work and its motives. In other words what where your experiences with the work and why leave a business card?
Thank You for your time, SITU NEUT

Here was my response...

Dear Situ Neut,

My husband and I were traveling from El Paso in July for a family wedding when we first passed the store at dusk. The windows were lit and I'm pretty sure there were shoes inside. During the course of our visit we found that other guests had seen it also and I found it was, as I suspected, an art installation. John, who is a videographer, wanted to film it on our way back to El Paso, but was disappointed to find that all the shoes were gone.

We scoped it out anyway though, and I have to confess, I was skeptical about it, as I am about a lot of installations, which seem so self-consciously "ironic". But I began to be won over when I saw the bullet holes in the glass, the shoes on the fence, and especially the business cards. I understood the sarcasm of the old sneakers on the fence, and the temptation to shoot at the damn thing, but what motivated people to leave their cards? I didn't know, and thought it might be a Texas tradition. What do I know? I'm from the Northeast...But of course, we had to leave our cards as well, we just HAD to. So all in all, it was pretty cool, but I liked the response much more than the initial artistic statement.

So thank you for contacting us, I'd like to see what comes of it, and feel free to contact me again. Your video put me right back there, but I must confess, it was rather disturbing for some reason to see you take all the cards and throw the rocks on the ground. So I'm conflicted, part of me thinks you ruined it, part of me thinks its so cool that someone picked up my card and emailed me, and I certainly never expected that I'd actually get to see the person picking it up!

I'm attaching some photos I took when our cards were nice and fresh, and a link to a youtube video of the train across the street.

We never heard a word in response which ticked me off a little, a simple "thank you" would have been nice, and that also made me more annoyed that someone had messed with my card.

Every once in a while I wondered what had become of his project, so I recently searched on SITU NEUT, and the only hit I got was in this blog from another person who had almost the identical experience except that he did get a reply to his emails and frankly, SITU NUET sounds like a jerk. If he believed our cards were "litter", why the careful documentation of them, even to the point of making a video of the "process" off collecting them? (since removed from youtube!?) And then trying to accuse us of commercial motives? I suppose he is the only one with artistically pure motives, the only one who "got it". Nice of him to suggest a more appropriate response "We would suggest a donation to the groups that made the project possible, rather than leaving litter at the site."

My theory is that he did nothing with this "project" of required him to try to understand a response that isn't spelled out for him in Art Forum.

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