Benson will present a grouping of space heaters and air conditioners in separate rooms of the gallery. As the viewer moves through the space, they are confronted with both hot and cold sensations which begin as pleasant, then become uncomfortable.
The first part of this statement is true: Benson did indeed present groupings of space heaters and air conditioners in separate rooms of the gallery. The second part, however, is false: Those hot and cold sensations were never pleasant.
In theory, I get it:
Looking to visualize the natural desire to be comfortable, safe, and healthy, Benson examines a selection of everyday appliances and their significance in our culture. The objects and imagery used in Get the Flu reference the ways in which we aspire to control elements of our lives, from atmospheric surroundings to personal health. Control is a continuing concern in Benson’s work and is activated here by asking viewers to engage with objects such as space heaters, air conditioners, and the flu vaccine.
But he loses me by giving up real control. The gallery attendant was flipping switches haphazardly. The staging felt slapdash and shoddy. (Packaging as pedestals? Really?) Ever Gold says “the artist finds these appliances endearing in their design; utilitarian, and simultaneously tacky and attractive,” but I’m calling their bluff. I challenge anyone to explain how a Pelonis Electric Radiator Heater is “endearing”.
Alas, this is a challenge I will certainly lose. And it’s not Mark Benson’s fault. Get The Flu is conceptual art. In a gallery setting, the gallerist feels compelled to put forth a written interpretation. I will go to this gallery, and I will stand there and ponder (and photograph) the space heaters and air conditioners, and I will feel whatever I feel. But do not insult me by suggesting that a fucking remote-controlled Frigidaire is “endearing”.
Benson refers to his use of readymades as “setting up jokes at my own expense”. But when there’s a Dyson Air Multiplier and some green streamers being sold as an art object, who is the joke really on? But again, I digress. We are all descendants of Duchamp. And we are all DEVO.
More interesting than the readymades were Benson’s petri dish-esque canvases made with medicine cabinet mediums like Robitussin and BioFreeze. I also give him props for selling limited edition flu shots at $50 a pop. I declined to get one, but I might consider helping haul out Benson’s appliance-art in trade for a forged shot certificate when Get the Flu closes on September 27th.