The artist that has made rounds in the news has been, to my reading pleasure, one of my favourites – the eccentric Paul McCarthy. The irony and deprecation of the green “butt plug” that he recently erected on the Place Vendome did not invoke libido but quite a considerable amount of serotonin which led to the artwork and artist being savagely assaulted. No one has been coerced into giving it try on the “Tree”, the preferred euphemism, but the anger might not have been an impetuous spur to take a swing at the artist. In fact, Paul McCarthy has long been a provocative clown, who painted with food, ketchup, mayonnaise, and his own feces. Compared to his grotesque book of works, Parisians were lucky to get a stream-lined, simple in geometric shapes, a green butt plug because it really could have been worse.
Take the “Santa Claus” statue for example, for which McCarthy received a permanent spot in 2008 to display a Gnome holding up a 3 leveled butt plug with suction base in the Dutch town of Eendrachtsplein. It was never met with malicious attacks like “Tree” but polite invitations for it to relocate. How the butt plugs were received revealed more about its audience and their capacity to tolerate than how the artist was assertive. The Parisians appeared to be a bit more anal on what constitute contemporary art it seems.
The Brits however as one would expect love McCarthy. The Phallic Pinocchio, aka, Blockhead was a subversive interpretation of a Disney Character that stood outside Tate Modern for a solid 5 months. As a Guardian journalist has noted that “Britain is muffled by a middle-class, bland consensus of approval” for modern art, we have lost our rights to be offended. The over exposure of manipulations of iconographies and the tiresome gimmicks of blending the sacred and the profane have made us into products of lethargy.
Coming back to the artist himself, I’ve always appreciated the eccentric behaviours of them regardless of what critics think of their art as from formal aspects or maybe I’ve just given up on resolving the problem of not knowing what my own taste is. But for a guy like McCarthy who once threw himself around a ketchup spattered classroom until dazed and injured to eventually throw up and shove a Barbie doll into his rectum, just like how Damien Hirst put out a cigarette on his penis during an interview, that makes me like them.