About Art Thoughtz
Under the guise of the exaggerated online persona Hennessy Youngman, artist Jayson Musson created a series of YouTube videos over two years called ART THOUGHTZ. Adopting the popular form of tutorial or “explainer” videos, Musson tackled institutional power imbalances, racism, and insularity by offering ironic critiques of various aspects of art history and the art world. Through his alter ego, Musson humorously challenges the cultural authority and politics of the predominantly white and wealthy contemporary art world.
These works contain adult language.
Institutional Critique strays from the genre of art that attempts to expose the ideologies and structure of the art world to instead critique infamous prisons like Rikers Island and Abu Ghraib—institutions with greater social and political significance than museums.
[Diplomats' “I Really Mean It” plays]
What up, internet? This your boy, Hennessy Youngman, a.k.a. the Pharaoh Hennessy, a.k.a. Mr. Museums. I wanna welcome y’all to The Obsidian Alcove. It’s a special place reserved for special topics and today, internet, I wanna talk about this theory within the arts called “institutional critique,” but rather than you know talk about the theoretical aspects of institutional critique, I’m just gonna go ahead and critique institutions in this video.
So I’ve compiled a list of what I consider, personally, the Top 5 institutions worldwide, so you know I’m just gonna start with institution number five, Rikers Island. Now Rikers Island is a dope spot, you know, if you’re like one of them outgoing, life-of-the-party, Blanche Devereaux–type niggas because at Rikers you get to live in large, communal rooms, you know what I’m saying, you know, just livin’ it up. It’s like a hostel meets the movie Hotel excepts it’s mad niggas with shivs and shit, but you know?
Well, imagine livin’ in a living situation like this, you know? Look, look. Imagine all the fun you could have comingling in an environment like this? Look at this. It look like a punchin’ party. That looks like fun.
At Rikers you’ll most likely form a tight, one-on-one friendship with another inmate and that inmate becomes your crimey. Now your crimey, that’s your eyes that’s in back of you, you know what I’m saying? Now if you’re asleep your crimey watches your sleeping body like a hungry dog, watching scraps of food fall from the dinner table, and vice-versa, of course, you gotta do the same thing for your crimey. You know what I’m saying? As he’s sleeping peacefully on his stomach, his firm buttocks exposed to the dangers of the world, you being the only thing protecting his sanctimonious mound from the nefarious forces, which seek to defile it. Yeah, that’s a real big job, internet; I hope you’re up to it.
Now if the hyper-social settings of Rikers Island ain’t really your thing but you’re still looking for an institution to call your own, then look no further than one of the United States’ most treasured jaunts, ADX Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado, where you’ll be spending a whopping 23-hours-a-day inside your cell just enjoying the confines of your own mind, you know what I’m saying? Now I’d be doing a disservice, internet, if I said it was easy to get into this institution because it really isn’t. The directors at ADX are looking for the brightest and the biggest stars of the criminal world; you know what I’m saying? I’m talking about the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; I’m talking about the whole starting lineup of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, you know what I’m saying? I’m talking about the would-be Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, who look like the only Keebler Elf to ever get laid off. I’m talking about Terry Nichols, an accomplice to the Oklahoma City Bombing; you know what I’m saying? This is a fucking blue-chip institution, internet; you know what I’m saying? You gotta get your game up if you wanna get the directors’ attention of ADX; you know what I’m saying? You just can’t shoot a bunch of niggas or touch a few children or get caught with a few guns or drugs in your car trunk; you know what I’m saying? You gotta go for the gusto, man. You gotta climb them criminal stairs, niggas. Come on, let’s go.
Now what can I say about this next institution, which hasn’t already been said by human rights advocates or S&M enthusiasts worldwide, who simply go nuts for the pictures who come outta this place? Yeah, you guessed right, y’all, I’m talking about Abu Ghraib, you know what I’m saying? Saddam Hussein used this place to torture motherfuckas; the United States military used this place to torture. I mean, the United States military used this place for enhanced, team-building exercises and the US-trained Iraqi police force is most likely gonna use this place to torture motherfuckas, too. I mean what can I say about Abu Ghraib? It’s just one of those institutions that shines no matter who the director is, you know what I’m saying? And if you’re a light-brown nigga such as myself, you definitely gotta make a trip out to Abu Ghraib, you know? I plan on a trip myself once my Kickstarter is showing a little bit more promise. Let’s go onto the next one.
Why come modernism always gets such a bad rap nowadays, you know what I’m saying? You always hear us contemporary folk with our contemporary cynicism always deriding those foolish artists of the early 20th century, you know what I’m saying, always shittin’ on their quote/unquote “failed avant-garde project” or talking about how silly their notions of utopia was. I mean, what’s wrong with a little bit of utopia, right? You know what I’m saying? “Bluebird on my shoulder,” you know what I’m saying? “Happy, shiny people laughing,” you know what I’m saying?
Maybe utopias get such a bad rap because every time someone tries to create a utopia in actuality they end up creating a totalitarianist regime and they end up creating something like the next institution on my list, Auschwitz, Adolph Hitler’s megaplex of Germano-Arian utopian fuckedupness. When you enter Auschwitz, you’re killed immediately, or you’re worked to death or you get live and work but you get to see everyone die around you or you live but you get all types of fucked-up experiments conducted on you by scientists who are later hired by the US government and then you died after the experiments, of course. This kinda brutality so systematically executed in such a bureaucratically efficient manner is why Auschwitz was and still is the premiere institution of the 20th century, making the MoMA look like nothing more than an over-glorified collection of thrift-store paintings.
Now, when talking about the number one institution on my list, I have to defer to my homey, Katt Williams—
[Clip of Katt Williams saying, “This shit right here, nigga? This shit, right here, nigga? Right here, this shit, nigga? This shit here, nigga?”]
—to even capture but a fraction of this institution’s impact upon the world.
You know what I’m talking about, right, internet? Come on. I’m talking about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, come on. This is the reason why the Flower de Amistad even exists. The reason why you got niggas living in nowhere-ass places like Nova Scotia. The reason why Ice Cube is always going to have them angry eyes even though he’s a multi-zillionaire. The reason why niggas such as myself, a nigga like me’s skin is so diluted that I’m the complexion of a peanut shell. The reason why niggas got that ill chain fetish. The reason why capitalism is the predominant economic system in the world today. How can capitalism not run the world with a foundation of epically abundant free labor?
For global capitalism, slavery was like—
[Clip from In Living Color: “Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money”]
Anyway, internet, that’s about it. I hope this video was informative. I hope I’ve double enwizened you about institutional critique, you know what I’m saying? I just love y’all to death and I just wanna shine my light on y’all whether y’all want it or not.
Peace, one love.
About Art Thoughts: Relational Aesthetics
Musson both describes and problematizes relational aesthetics, the art movement popularized in the 1990s by artists including Rirkrit Tiravanija and Carsten Höller.
How y'all doing, internet? Welcome back to the Alabaster Alcove. My name is Hennessy Youngman, a.k.a. the Pharaoh Hennessy, a.k.a. the Row Home Raconteur.
Today, I wanna talk about this artistic practice, this theory within the arts, known as relational aesthetics, created by the French science fiction author Nicolas Bour-, Bouria-, Bourriaud. (Did I pronounce that right?)
Basically, relational aesthetics is when someone with an MFA wants to meet new people, but because they spent all that time pursuing that MFA, they don't know how to talk to people normally, and they got really poor social skills, and they can't find no other way to meet new people other than forcing them into odd activities at their own poorly attended art openings.
Relational aesthetics is also when a successful artist who was too busy touring the globe going from biennial to biennial and they have no time to make physical art objects anymore, so the famous artist uses the attendees at the exhibition as the artwork in some way. Ya'know what I'm saying? Like to explore the social relationships between people. And this kind of practice is really good when you're already famous, because you can bank on a couple hundred people coming into your opening, and you know there's going to be mad motherfuckers around to do your relational bidding. So, it's good if you're famous.
If you're not so famous, it might not work out for you. You might have to play hide and seek or something, or peekaboo in the gallery. I don't know. But if you're famous, that's the way to go. Boom.
Next to the readymade, relational art is the easiest art to make that there ever was to make, because on the most primary basic level, all you need is some eager people, and all you gotta do is take an activity that people do regularly out in the real world and just do it in a gallery. That's really it. Somehow, eating and drinking with strangers in some kind of convivial happening in the antiseptic confines of an art gallery or art institution is realer than getting drunk in a bar, having a one-night stand, and contracting herpes. I don't know.
I guess because at a bar you got to pay for a drink in order to be there. So that experience is tainted by capitalism's dirty fingers and shit. But somehow congregating in a gallery, you take part in the same activities, it's a socially autonomous refusal of capitalism. Because we all know that a gallery is an ideologically neutral environment that has nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth or the advancement of local capitalism, or any of its sordid sub-practices. And that's why the walls are white in the gallery. Because white is neutral. It's neutral, blank. I can think. I can think. That's why I'm here.
Now don't get me wrong, internet. Relational aesthetics brings up some very, very valid observations in regard to the way we as a culture obsess over objects and unknowingly fetishize commodities. I mean, look at me. Every day I wake up, I put on these shiny chains and shit. You know what I'm saying. You know. Caress my shiny gun. And I even got fucking clothes with my own face on it. I mean you know. Fuck, man, I'm a sad case. I know, I'm a besotted slave to all these objects, and maybe relational aesthetics can turn the gallery into that river in which a nigga shall receive his baptism and be cleansed of this materialist disease. But first, I have to find a dope ass wetsuit on Amazon before I gotta baptism. I mean something like this. I mean, look at that shit in action. Come here, fish nigga. Come here, fish nigga. Boo-ya. Got that ass. Killing you for Jesus, fish nigga.
But in the end, internet, the concept of relational art is long on its way out. It's actually been around for like 20 years. You know what I'm saying. And all its possibilities have been exhausted by numerous artists. And if you want to talk about relational aesthetics as some kind of detachment and refusal of global capitalism, you know, sticking it to the old man and really fucking with the system using artistic intervention, then ain't nobody doing relational art better than this motherfucker right here.
[Clip from Sexy Sax Man video with saxophone rendition of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”]
Look at him go. Throwing mad wrenches in capitalism's machinations.
This is the best artist of 2011 right here. Hands down. Shit.
About Art Thoughtz: Studio Visit
In Studio Visit, Musson gives tongue-in-cheek suggestions for successfully navigating art world rituals.
[Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” plays]
What up, internet? This your boy Hennessy Youngman, a.k.a. the Pharaoh Hennessy, a.k.a. Mitt Romney's drug dealer, a.k.a. Mr. AKAs.
Now, today, internet, I want to talk about a very special subject that could make or break your career as an artist. So today, internet, I want to talk about the fine art of the studio visit.
Now maybe you're an up and coming artist and people with art world clout have begun to take notice of your work, or maybe you just been watching all the episodes of ART THOUGHTZ and shit's really working out for y'all. But basically, eventually, people are going to be interested in your work. They want to come to your studio and see what it is you do when you do the things that you do. So I have some steps for you all that you can follow in order to get the most out of your studio visits. Y'all ready, internet? Let's go.
One, have snacks. Now if I'm going to come to your studio and listen to you talk about memory or dreams or identity or alienation or the cultural significance of animated gifs, or chaos theory, or the impact of the internet upon blah-blah-blah-blah-Zizac-Galoos-Tom-Riddle, I'm going to need a little bit of something to eat.
And it don't got to be complicated, really. Maybe you can just have some gummy worms standing by, some peanuts, some M&Ms or something. Maybe you also could have some Red Bull or a Five Hour Energy, or maybe even some Adderall if you're a particularly unentertaining artist, which a lot of artists are. Or, if you really have some initiative, and you want to be in that show, then why not get a panini press for your studio and hook up some quesadillas while I'm sitting there listening to you talk? I mean who doesn't love a quesadilla? I love quesadillas.
Two, don't pretend to be busy. If you set up a studio visit, it doesn't behoove you to be working right up until the visit starts. Unless you're Doc from Back to the Future, ain't no motherfucker that's that busy that they got to be in a production kerfuffle right up until the studio visit starts. I mean—and I doubt you're really as busy as a time traveler, internet. And if you are, you know, I'm sorry. Working right up until your studio visit starts is just some performative bullshit, you know what I'm saying? It shows that you're trying too hard to look busy. So just chill out, be at ease, and be yourself, or be something better than yourself if your true self kind of sucks dick, you know what I'm saying?
But just chill out, clear your mind, make yourself a quesadilla, because you're really going to want to focus on your next step, which is three: set up an uncomfortable power dynamic for your visitors. Now this can be done in a myriad of ways. For instance, if I have a curator in my studio, I'll make them sit in a chair with wobbly and a broken leg, or I'll sit in front of a poster of Louis Farrakhan yelling, just to make my visitor question my racial politics. And this could work for white people, too. I mean you could sit in front of a poster of Bernhard Goetz, or maybe you could blow up a JPEG of dead people laying in the grass at Jonestown, or maybe you could leave a copy of Mein Kampf out in the open, you know. Just to make your visitor feel ill at ease, and they'll think you're a crazy motherfucker, and you got to remember, crazy sells.
Four, watch your tabs. Make sure you don't have any incriminating webpages open, like if you're researching a topic, make sure if you have someone in your studio, make sure you don't have Wikipedia open, or Yahoo Answers open to the subject you're researching, or the person visiting your studio is going to think that you're a simp, know what I'm saying? Or maybe you've got a bunch of news blogs open, but you accidentally got like SlutLoad.com, or YouPorn, or Red Tube, or Ask Jolene, or Pink World open, too.
[Clip of Hennessy Youngman saying, “You know I touch myself and shit. I don’t got no options, I’m single.”]
And you know you don't want the person visiting your studio to think that you're an individual of ill repute. Or maybe that's a good thing. Maybe the person visiting your studio really just wants to fuck, and the only way they could possibly make a fuck happen is by scheduling a studio visit. And if that's the case, you ain't getting that show until you put on a show. You know what I mean? I'm talking about sex.
Five, have mad shit on your walls. Having a lot of visual data on your walls is a good way to replicate your thought process for your visitor. You know, make it look like you're an intense thinker. Make your studio look like the apartment of a serial killer. You know, random images, scrawlings, fuck it, even just smear your own blood on the wall for good measure. This density of imagery on your studio walls makes it seem as if your thought process is multifaceted and deep. And that you're considering a totality of possibilities when you're making work. And having a lot of stuff on your walls is also good because it gives your studio visitor something to look at while you're boring them with your self-indulgent prattle.
So yeah, internet, that's it. Good luck with your studio visits. I hope you get that first solo exhibition. And if you do, make sure that you give me a shout-out in your press release. And that's about it, internet. Right now, I'm about to go nom-nom on this quesadilla, internet.
I love you. Peace. One love.
Fuck, this shit is so good. Oh my god. Come to my studio, I got a panini press. All right?
Peace. One love. Love you.