Past the vintage neon signage of the art deco-style Parisian hotel in Miami Beach, an eight-foot-tall milk carton perpetually pours a stream into a colossal cereal bowl. Performers luxuriate in the liquid while splashing around and sipping tropical drinks. Floating inside the bowl are inflatable cereal pieces from favorite childhood brands.
The installation at Satellite Art Show, titled F+++ OFF, is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based artist duo Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw. Originally titled Fuck It, the new title expresses the artists’ exasperation with the roadblocks they experienced while trying to coordinate the piece in Miami. “F+++ OFF is going to be just as ridiculous and absurd as it sounds,” the pair says.
Though F+++ OFF seems downright strange on the surface, there’s a deeper intention. “Everyone will enjoy the humor and absurdity. But consider the geography and location to derive more meaning. A lot of our work, on the surface, is nothing. After you move past the ridiculousness, humor, and nothingness, we do enjoy representing bigger meanings and darker tones,” Outlaw says.
So what do an oversize milk cartoon, cereal bowl, and spoon mean to the larger sociopolitical climate? “There’s a lot of anxiety in the world right now. In the political, environmental, art world, everything is shifting so quickly. With all the wealth at the art fairs, and the money spent here, we wanted to poke fun at it with this absurd, ridiculous sculpture,” Catron says.
The absurdity of F+++ OFF compares to the excess of Art Basel and the surrounding art fairs, structuring both an analogy and a critique. “All the art at Basel is excellent, the best in the world. But it’s a capitalistic experience with the art fairs in general. It’s a shopping arena. It can be ridiculous,” Outlaw says.
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Catron and Outlaw understand the risk and dilemma in creating work that critiques the very world that sustains them. “As artists, we have a lot of mixed feelings about fairs. We want artists to make money, but the art world has shifted to cater to these fairs. It’s taken away some of the aura of art. It can gloss over the reason for making art and whitewash that away sometimes. There’s a darker side to art fairs,” Outlaw says. “But we’re not 100 percent critical of all these things because it’s a world we want to be a part of. In our work, we tend to critique and criticize the things we want to be a part of.”
In the end, the artist duo really just wants to elicit a laugh from the audience. Outlaw says, “My favorite reaction is when someone looks at it, giggles to themselves, and thinks, That’s stupid. Then they go away and think there’s more meaning behind it.”
Catron interjects, “But there’s nothing wrong with just a laugh from the audience. I mean, this is not what you expect to find in a hotel room.”
At Satellite Art Show, Thursday, December 1, through Sunday, December 4, at the Parisian Hotel, 1510 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Day passes cost $10; week passes cost $25. Visit satellite-show.com.