14 June 2006

What I think of X Playpen

X is a really powerful symbol. To explore some of what an X can do, you can try this exercise: draw a stick man, and instead of using dots for eyes on a stick man, you can give him Xs. And presto! Weather the little stick man is dead, drunk, or beaten unconscious, those Xs means trouble.

Simply put, X is a negation, and this associated meaning is so strong that an artist has to be careful how it is used. Imagine if Gober applied the X to the playpen in a different way:

This use isn’t clever at all, provokes no thought, and communicates something else entirely. To X out a picture of a playpen is very different than to make the pen itself impossible, or inhospitable. What kid would want to be put in Gober’s pen? What kind of adult would think it was a good idea anyway? More than anything else, his playpen seems to be saying “Kids not welcome”. And I think it is great that Gober used the tools of a child’s existence to communicate that message. I like this contrast, because it shows the power of even banal, over-used symbols.

So, does Gober hate kids? I doubt it. To me, Gober’s playpen indicates an environment in which kids ought to have a place, but where they really don’t belong. I think it is a criticism of the politics and society in which many kids find them selves. The world is what we’ve made it, and we’ve made it a place that is generally not suited to children or their needs.

10 June 2006

One to Think About

Robert Gober's X Playpen, 1987.

09 June 2006


Sally Mann has given me permission to use her images for my thesis. I've requested seven of them, spanning about 15 years. I might end up asking other artists for one or two more (to contrast Mann's corpses with other artists' representations).

My first e-mail from Sally Mann was back in April. I think that was the first time I have ever been truly star-struck. It made me feel the way I image normal 12 year olds felt at New Kids On The Block concerts. I never was a normal 12 year old.

01 June 2006

Thesis Update, Again.


I'm editing again.

Maybe I should rename this blog "watch this moron get a M.A.", and I'd be the moron.

That might work.

I now have feedback on the first three chapters (three more to get feedback on), and it was good, fine, ok feedback. I'm taking it.

And I don't have permission yet to use the pictures I want to, and all I can do now is wait.

I feel like my whole cognitive being has been put through a food processor. Or a paper shredder. Or a meat grinder.