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The People’s Critic: The Dead Guys



Usually I ignore my bulk email folder, letting the hundreds of pieces of garbage quietly collect themselves and just as quickly and deliciously, sweep themselves away without my knowledge. However as you know, one must sometimes enter into the dreaded delete folder, to check for that stray spec of information that one of your acquaintances promises on their mother’s life that they sent you weeks ago. Just to prove them wrong you go forth in earnest, searching while swatting away all the Viagra ads and Hedge-fund-come-ons or whatever else drops into your computer’s lap. Well there it was, a great big Spam ad from The Art Guys. “Please buy our ashes after we die,” they plead. It’s only a million dollars; so far no takers. I guess they will have to come down on their price now that we are in a recession. I personally would like to spend my next million dollars on my third vacation home in some place like Costa Rica, but that’s just me. Apparently this piece has been around for almost over a year and will end in April 2008 (shouldn’t that be, or when they die?). Look kids, this piece may be around for a long time. I can’t believe my spam guard has been deleting this for over a year now and has not automatically obliterated it from my machine. I’ll have to do some recalibrations.

I fortunately know quite a lot about the remnants of the deceased. I personally have interned hundreds of piles of ashes in my pet columbarium. Let me explain. As you may know, I am the director of the Museum of Weird, the best underground museum in the world (or at least in Houston), and we receive quite a lot of the departed from many loving pet owners all over the world. It is a pet ashes only cemetery. We DO NOT take any raw remains. Please do not send them.

Anyhow, back to The Dead Guys. How do we know that we will actually be getting their actual remains and not a pile of barbeque ashes? I’m sure if you purchase this piece for such a large sum of money, you will be witness to the actual cremation rite, all part of the price of admission? My point is this: as I kept receiving so many dead pets at the museum’s facilities, I began to question whether their ashes were in fact wholly legitimate. Let’s just say I had some of my scientist friends who were working on the genome project here in town run some clandestine labs and we found out that for the most part, people weren’t shelling out $25 to bury some old burger charcoals, but were actually having me lovingly bury their pet iguana or cat or parrot or rat. However, some people did lie and send dirt or something else.

Now that I have been spammed, along with hundreds of other people in the community, and unwittingly forced to become part of The Dead Guys “audience,” I do wonder if the rest of the audience (like me) wants to know if this is just another moneymaking scam like all of the other spammer scammers out there, or if it’s a legitimate and sincere exchange of commerce. Hold that thought…I’m not really sure I care about whether or not they bilk some oil conglomerate out of a million dollars for some old weenie roast barbeque ashes or the real thing. I’m really more concerned at this very moment that my Mac screen now keeps blinking off, now that I’ve opened their spam email. I want to know if I have been infected with some kind of a worm. Hmmm, I never get a chance to stick it back to these spammers since I don’t know who those anonymous bastards are, but I do know who The Dead Guys are and if anyone else experiences this problem please email me at museumweird.org@sbcglobal.net and we’ll get T.A.L.A. to help sue The Art Guys in a big class action law suit. I’m sure there will be lots of money to be made after they are dead and you know they will just love all of the attention they will be getting while they are still alive. Hmmm, I guess that begs the question, are they worth more dead or alive? I guess dead? Well, that’s kind of pathetic.

I hope they know they can just take out more car insurance and crash their car into a wall and probably film it and call that art. They could say the death part was an accident and really get some money for their kids. I say this ‘cause I see they haven’t gotten many offers yet on the ashes and ya know time’s-a-tickin’. Most likely, they will make some money in the end and probably from some oil kingpin. Who else could afford such a steep price for an artwork just for a laugh? One of The Art Guys just became a father and says his kid can buy a new car with the money when he’s sixteen. The real irony is, thanks to the greed of the oil and coal conglomerates, the current censorship of science data from the Bush administration and the ongoing public apathy about the environment, within ten to twenty years the world will be a pretty bleak place for The Art Guys’ kids, as well as the rest of us, to grow up in. Will there even be that many places to drive to if everything else is pretty much ruined? Maybe The Art Guys will live high in the mountains in their million-dollar mansions sipping on $40 bottles of water while the rest of us are still down here in Houston living in some kind of rickety, makeshift stilt houses and rowing around in four feet of sewage water.

I see The Art Guys have refused several offers on their ashes. I can only conclude by their own words that the bids were too low and that they will not sell for less than a million, but they would sell for more than a million. Does this reflect their egos or their own greed? The Art Guys say this piece is about art and commerce and exchange. Hmmm, I wonder if The Dead Guys do get some of that good ‘ole oil money before they die, will they spend any of it on saving the environment, or just on themselves? Would they be willing to “exchange” a better planet for their audience, for you and me and their kids and grandkids, or will they merely mimic the greedy example of the would-be-buyer-meglo-millionaire, who mostly likely has acquired their fortune from the ruination of the planet and the misfortune of others? I wish this art patron would spend a million dollars on developing some new green technology instead of a purchasing a couple of bronze busts (in the likeness of the dead guys) to put over some fireplace or beige couch. There will be lots of laughs and toasts for all, “Forever Yours,” hoorah!

On a lighter note, I am astutely reminded by one of my bubba friends, “Why should you care anyway, you don’t have any kids and you’ll probably be dead by then.” I guess I’m not allowed to have kids any time soon and I’m not allowed to live past sixty?

Here’s how I’d rate The Art Guys from 1 to 5 on the People’s Critic Meters. You would probably get a 0 out of 5 on the Bubba Meter, ‘cause there ain’t no real bubba who would be dumb enough to pay five cents for anyone’s ashes, accept for some rich oil bubba. However, if you let the regular bubbas attend the cremation event, and there will be lots of fire involved, I’d give you a 3 on the Bubba Meter, because bubbas love fire. Plus, bubbas love anything dead that you can mount over a fireplace. If the dead guys skinned and stuffed themselves, or even got up to being freeze-dried, then we might be able to bump that up to a 5.

As far as the Art Biz Meter goes, I’d give them a 5; that is, if they get a million dollars! If they can suck that kind of cash out of anybody in this screw-all-of-you-get-as-much-as-you-can society then kudos to them. That’s the American way, right? I myself would have asked for at least euros instead of dollars. All you art lovin’ oil conglomerates out there are going to love this auction — get there early and bring cash, they don’t take checks.

On the Aesthetic Meter I give them a 3 for content, context, and conversational effect, that oughta count for something. But I have to knock that back down to 1 because I’ve seen this dog and pony show done a couple of times before and well, lets admit it, if you are going for a gimmick, for this kind of big kitsch, you’ve got to do it big and you’ve got to be first. Nobody likes a derivative. Just ask Andy Warhol or Damien Hirst. Oops, I’ve also got to take back that 1 ‘cause they gave me a worm virus and blinked out my computer screen. The rule is: You can piss off your audience as much as you want for art’s sake, but don’t cost them money. Check on your tech, before the rest of us you wreck.

Only the Couch Meter is left and well, I have to give them a 2. I would have given them a 3, but I didn’t like their patina. I don’t think they even used one on their bronze portraits; it looks like the pale copper color straight out of the sand blaster, unless the virus they hoisted on my monitor screwed up all the color. If they picked that out, it’s just a bad choice. Had they used another color, they could have extended their couch-color selections to black or white or even mauve. As is, it looks best over just a beige couch. When I was getting my MFA in sculpture, we were taught that if you ran out of patina to simply bury the bronze work in a chicken yard and let the chickens urinate on it for six months. I guess the dead guys could have done this themselves. Hey, here’s a thought, they could have plopped those heads in the toilet and urinated on themselves, all the while uttering some gibberishistic words and voila! They could have totally reinvented Dadaism. I’m sure that would be worth at least 2 million dollars.

Signing off — power to the people!

 Dolan Smith, The People’s Critic, is an artist and director of Houston’s Museum of Weird.

Also check out: 

Dolan Smith’s "The Worst Piece of Art I Ever Made: The Drawing that Doomed Dan Rather "

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1 Response

  1. Baloney Jones

    Whoa nellie! Kain’t seem to look at nuttin’ else but money, Dolie. The F’art Guys is deader than a doornail anywho so who gives a blank? Dang, Dolie, money ain’t nuttin’ to sneeze at but it seems to me that’s all you kin think up about. Duller ‘n dirt if ya aks me. Git it?

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