No VBKW title for Vanessa Beecroft’s latest performative collaboration with Kanye West? Last Friday at the Deitch Projects in Long Island City, Beecroft used only her initials and the cataloguing number to label her piece, where as the artist’s last effort with West in October 2008 included the musician’s as well. Of course, that particular piece, which involved approximately forty nude women, most wearing masks made of lamb’s wool standing in Ace Gallery’s darkened space in LA was executed specifically for the launch of West’s album 808s & Heartbreak. This time around West promises only to produce the filming of the event, which presumably means hiring someone to shoot the show, since the musician was no where to be found.
As far as Vanessa Beecroft performances go, the event unfolded more or less as expected. The usual giant opening exhibition crowd for Deitch projects formed fairly early, and moved around the gallery at about the same rate as a cafeteria line. Twenty women painted entirely in white lay still on the floor and bases along side similar looking casts, all in a formation resembling a highway. All this, according to the press release was supposed to create “tension between life and death”, a light-weight concept had Beecroft even achieved those goals; you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to identify which figures were alive and which were sculptures.
Meanwhile, why these works need to take the form of performances at all remains a sticking point for the art. What you see is what you see; the durational aspect of these works adding little to the viewing experience. But, such events do a good job at drumming up a lot of publicity the documentation on its own would never receive. After all, the Kanye West launch party and performance in 2008, hit a number of news sources, the use of nude models in masks deemed “shocking”. Not that much critical thought was devoted to any of the thornier issues Beecroft’s art brings up — she isn’t exactly propelling women’s rights into the 21st century — but the impact of a few naked women in public is clearly enough to propel popular media story. Separate the buzz from the art itself however and it becomes quite clear there’s about as much to this work as any fashion ad. In fact, considering the assets are all for sale, there’s hardly any distinction at all.