Exit Through the Tasmanian, Professional Gambler-Funded Museum's Gift Shop
April 4, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

"It was always about the intersection of creativity and chaos." So said Kirsha Kaechele, described at Wikipedia as an "American contemporary art curator, artist, and practitioner of sustainable architecture," of the avant-garde Life is Art Foundation/KKProjects art happening that she carried out via Katrina flooding-devastated homes in the St. Roch area of New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward. These homes now lie in ruins, as they did before. She owes back taxes on the homes, and city has placed tax liens worth $28,000 on two of them. While she can afford the back taxes, she says, the liens are beyond her means. A medicinal marijuana farm created to fund Life is Art failed to make enough money to fund the projects. In any case, she has spent the past five months in Tasmania with her boyfriend, professional gambler and art curator David Walsh, where he has established something called the Museum of New and Old Art. (Pause.) I believe that connects all the most relevant dots as succinctly as possible.

From 2007 to 2009, by contrast, she was the toast of many of the city's cultural elites, as well as national media and art world observers, etc. The Life is Art Foundation/KK Art Projects (detailed in the article, projects which included a home whose face was replaced with with a bank vault door) won her a write-up in the New York Times' T Magazine (blog link, article isn't showing up). And a 2009 banquet she had for 250, which required the streets in the KK Projects area to be closed to traffic, attracted patrons including Uma Thurman.

But after the credit crunch hit in 2008, she says now, the money started running out. By 2010, she showed up in the New York Times Magazine, this time in a feature on plans to fund her art projects, including the St. Roch homes-as-art, via the growing of medicinal marijuana. Now that's over and, again, she's spending most of her time Tasmania. However, she suggests that she will come back to NOLA from time to time.
posted by raysmj (23 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
A medicinal marijuana farm [...] failed to make enough money

Ur doing it rong
posted by kcds at 1:33 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Damn, it reminds me of the near-riot that almost broke out at the 2007 US Social Forum in Atlanta. A NOLA resident basically said "You privileged white people didn't care about us before Katrina and we got along fine then and now all y'all want to come down and tell us how to rebuild our city and to that I say "stay home" we didn't need you then and we don't need you now." It flipped out all of the white privileged people in the audience who defined themselves by their willingness to briefly visit a ruined place they could leave whenever they wanted.

Now, ironically, the site, between Music and Arts streets, is worse off than it might have been... “We had a beautiful summer,” she said. “We made art and lived on the land.”
posted by fuq at 1:46 PM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's certainly an uncomfortable place she has put herself in. On the one hand, the lifeisart installations seem quite beautiful. On the other hand, it feels like New Orleans was just a convenient place for artists to get that 'third world vibe'. It's some form of poverty tourism/exploitation. These are people's homes, afterall.

A poverty canvas, perhaps?
posted by Think_Long at 2:08 PM on April 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

However, she suggests that she will come back to NOLA from time to time.

Hey, don't put yourself out or anything.
posted by penduluum at 2:13 PM on April 4, 2011

I haven't been to MONA yet, but hope to soon. Pretty amazing for Tasmania to have such a place. Interesting note - they provided iPods to the public for the audio tour. So far 60 of the iPods have gone missing.
posted by Jimbob at 2:15 PM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I really would have thought that a pot farm was a can't-fail business.
posted by Forktine at 2:49 PM on April 4, 2011

The citation in wikipedia for the assertion that she co-founded the "first sustainable architecture major" is enlightening, because the school didn't/doesn't have an architecture program. The link for the citation goes to an article that doesn't say anything about UCSC, and only has the author of the article saying she "started a sustainable architecture program", but it doesn't say where. Yay for crappy wikipedia articles that are cited everywhere as if they are gospel.

Oh and this quote is hilarious:

While Kaechele described herself as an “avid gardener,” she said she never has tried to grow marijuana before.
“I trim the plants the same way I prune my roses,” she said.

posted by oneirodynia at 3:36 PM on April 4, 2011

While she can afford the back taxes, she says, the liens are beyond her means.

This doesn't make sense. The liens should not exceed the back taxes and incidental expenses, unless they also bundle in other unpaid municipal obligations (e.g. water bills). Or is the city billing her for demolition that has not occurred?
posted by dhartung at 3:42 PM on April 4, 2011

It's possible that the liens also include stacked fines for code violations.
posted by ofthestrait at 3:49 PM on April 4, 2011

MONA looks amazing. Their opening had free performances by Jon Spencer, Grinderman, Amanda Palmer and others like that. I didn't go, as it was too far away. Brian Ritichie from the Violent Femmes lives in Tassie now and curates the MONA/FOMA festival (and plays surf rock with members of Midnight Oil).
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:06 PM on April 4, 2011

At the entrance to eccentric, self-made billionaire David Walsh’s subterranean Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), just opened in Hobart, Tasmania, in January, you’ll find a bar. “I like the idea of people having a couple of beers and looking at art—then having more and changing their opinions,” he says. With a goal to “shock, offend, challenge and entertain,” the new museum houses Walsh’s eclectic personal collection, valued at $100 million and ranging from Roman coins to mummies to pieces by Damien Hirst; there’s even an entire room filled with Wim Delvoye’s “Cloaca,” an installation that simulates the human digestive system
A billionaire who can't afford $28k?
posted by delmoi at 4:21 PM on April 4, 2011

Brian Ritichie from the Violent Femmes lives in Tassie now and curates the MONA/FOMA festival (and plays surf rock with members of Midnight Oil).

He also runs a tea shop on Elizabeth St, and can be seen from time to time sitting in the window, playing his shakuhachi.
posted by Jimbob at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now, ironically, the site, between Music and Arts streets, is worse off than it might have been.

post needs the acheapholidayinotherpeoplesmisery tag.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:47 PM on April 4, 2011

Interview mag interview. More than enough rope.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:41 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

After reading the Interview magazine interview, I have to agree with you Ideefixe...at first she came off as an "artistic" flake, but after reading the entire thing she comes off as just a garden-variety flake with a rich boy friend.
posted by motown missile at 8:18 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The important part about this article is the comments! Everyone agrees she sucks! The city has achieved consensus for the first time about something!
posted by goneill at 8:35 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just saw MONA a few weeks ago!

Pretty amazing museum, one of the most entertaining I ever saw. Full points to Walsh for doing it...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:33 PM on April 4, 2011

Her entire life is clearly a subtle yet devastating piece of performance art deconstructing the vacuity of talentless trust fund artistes who wouldn't know real art if Michelangelo's David fell on their head from a helicopter. Hats off to her.
posted by joannemullen at 4:19 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

In addition to being a poseur and a flake and all that, she's freaking boring. I couldn't sustain my interest beyond the first few paragraphs of that interview.
posted by parrot_person at 4:56 AM on April 5, 2011

posted by vitabellosi at 5:32 AM on April 5, 2011

" Yes, and there is also the agenda of the do-gooder. And that's one that doesn't work. Agendas in general don't work. The agenda is a thing that is perpetually destroyed. "

Damn. I read the interview too. This woman desperately need to be really poor, like, poor for real and not just visiting-poor. She's pretty much everything I dislike about modern art all in one person who has nothing interesting to say. She's so empty-headed in that interview.
posted by fuq at 5:56 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm reading through the interview right now, and this bit really encapsulates the whole Kirsha Kaechele experience for me:
KK: I had very romantic ideas about untouched native culture, so I went to a truly remote village to see an ayahuascero shaman. I wandered in after a long canoe ride down the Amazon. Towering above the tiny thatched huts were these enormous solar-powered streetlights-I'd been beaten there by the missionaries. Then I had my first meeting with the shaman. He walked out to greet me-I swear he knew I was coming-and he led me into his hut and handed me a leaf-covered branch and motioned for me to shake it over some fevered body. He then took out a dried snake's head, shaved a few flakes from it, and blew them on me. I thought, This is really great. He then busted out a bottle of Eternity perfume and started spraying me! I was crushed. That was the perfume I wore every morning in junior high school, and the old fool thought it was sacred. It was the sudden intrusion of everything I had rejected, the completely banal coming to taint my pure, exotic experience.
Up until that point, she didn't give the slightest clue that she'd done anything as prosaic as go to junior high or wear mass-market perfume--it was all about romping around naked in Topanga Canyon and her dad "rolfed [her] every day from the day [she] was born"(he knew Ida Rolf, you know!), and so forth--the same sort of crap that you hear from every name-dropping narcissist that you've ever met. I bet that she still denies her deepest, darkest secret: that she practiced signing her name "Kirsha Bon Jovi" in her Trapper Keeper every day.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:30 AM on April 5, 2011

Yeah, that part of the interview was the part where I realized just how big a fraud she was. If you're into shamanism and magical thinking and those sorts of ways of being, it really is all about intent. Magical symbols are just symbols, they aren't magic in and of themselves, so it doesn't matter if the shaman uses Eternity or 500 year old jasmine absolute that's been stored in the skull of a hummingbird. She just demonstrated her lack of knowledge of shamanistic working, her desire to exoticize other cultures, and her immediate dismissal of that culture when it doesn't meet her preconceived notions, all in a single anecdote. Not to mention calling a shaman an old fool because he felt differently about some object than she did.* She's the perfect colonialist.

* I bet he just didn't want to waste anything particularly special or sacred on some dumb dilettante who was just there to have a Hollywood shamanistic experience.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:16 PM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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