Ornamental, 1999

A pair of objects made at invitation, to be auctioned as part of a benefit for Harvey Lichtenstein in celebration of his retirement from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) after his 32-year reign as the institution’s executive director. In 1999 President Clinton awarded Mr. Lichtenstein the National Medal of Arts.

Made from old fashioned silicone furniture sliders, lingerie garters, shower curtain hooks, 50’s era holiday fetish images via internet download, picture hanger hardware.

Project Description:

Mr. Lichtenstein is famed for his consistent presentation of cutting edge work exploring difficult issues, including power, sex, and gender. His first season at BAM (1968-1969) included Alban Berg’s sensational and Lurid opera “Lulu,” in which the main character actively prostitutes herself and also included The Living Theater’s “Paradise Now,” involving audience participation, and a notorious scene in which actors recite a list of social taboos that include nudity, while themselves disrobing; which led to multiple arrests for indecent exposure, during the life of the work.

The pair of objects is designed to resemble earrings or Christmas ornaments and references fashion and costume fetishization, while at the same time evoking a sense of “wholesome” 1950s era nostalgia.

The work partly explores what it means for a powerful male from this era to retire. The figures suggest theater starlets, a tawdry version of the Radio City Rockettes Christmas show, and notions of the “casting couch”. In one reading, we see the oppressed woman presented in the attitude of trophy gift and rightfully deserved object for the male who has achieved a heightened social status, and who will now, in retirement, reap the rewards of a lifetime of oppressive power accrual. Though gendered, they also stand in for all people who must labor and “put out” for the powerful in order to survive.

At the same time a heightened sense of the humorous absurdity in codified gender and power roles, (the awareness of which might more typically be found within gay and transgender communities,) could read these as idillic souvenirs of a bygone era. A kind of tribute to an imaginary past where sex is idealized and the fictional roles of “Boy” or “Girl”,  “Dominant” or “Submissive”, “Object” or “Objectifier” can temporarily be inhabited and reveled in by anyone, no mater what their gender or orientation. A kind of bacchanalian celebration of richly deserved reward.

They are intended to suggest decoration and celebration, provocation and transgression, costume and theatrical spectacle, all in honor of the man who founded the Next Wave Festival, and showed us things that others were afraid to reveal.