Training Ground for Democracy
September 11, 2007 1:51 PM   Subscribe

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was to have been the home of Christoph Büchel's first major US installation, "Training Ground for Democracy". But disputes over budget overruns and missed deadlines led the museum to cancel the project. [NYT registration required] The incomplete installation is now tied up in litigation, and covered by tarp.
posted by silby (11 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He ran overbudget, behind schedule - sounds like his installation was a good understanding of American democracy at least.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:58 PM on September 11, 2007

Yeah, are we sure that this wasn't the installation as planned?
posted by Pollomacho at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2007

This is interesting, especially regarding the rights of exhibitors and creatives, but has there been any news on this since May?
posted by ardgedee at 2:03 PM on September 11, 2007

I like weird art as much as anyone, but what few pictures I saw look like he's just re-creating chunks of abandoned and/or rundown industrial buildings. Sounds pretty dumb.
posted by notsnot at 2:39 PM on September 11, 2007

Jesus, doesn't anybody paint anymore?
posted by rocket88 at 2:43 PM on September 11, 2007

I've only been to Mass MoCa once, but I was was pretty impressed by the space and the exhibits there.

That kind of art tends not to be my thing, really, but what they had was pretty interesting.

Jesus, doesn't anybody paint anymore?


Art can be pretty much anything the artist chooses to create.

But, from the NYT article...

Mr. Büchel... left behind a list of additional objects that he wanted the museum to find. The list included one item that Mr. Thompson described as a final straw: the fuselage from a large jetliner, like a 767, that Mr. Büchel wanted to be burned and bomb-damaged and then hung from the ceiling.

...which sounds not so much like an artist creating, but more like an artist subcontracting. Especially the part where the museum was supposed to do the actual distressing of the fuselage while the artist was thousands of miles away.

Maybe that's how this kind of installation art works-- I wouldn't have any idea-- but I personally don't find it very impressive on the artist's part.

It smacks of laziness, arrogance, and a results-only, damn-the-process attitude, frankly.

Wait a minute, though: "Training Ground for Democracy...", laziness, arrogance, and a results-only, damn-the-process attitude, and it's tied up in litigation...

Maybe this isn't an installation piece at all. Maybe it's performance art writ large...
posted by dersins at 2:56 PM on September 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe this isn't an installation piece at all. Maybe it's performance art writ large...
That's my guess, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2007

I've seen the tarp-covered installation. You can peep through places where two pieces of tarp meet. What is there already is really something to see. It is an entire town constructed from very large industrial items taken from the junk yard --- entire trailers, bunkers, etc -- it's amazing! There is a full sized merry go round that looks like it's from the set of mad max II. I would have really enjoyed seeing the completed installation. The idea seemed to be that america is a wasteland comprised of junk that is a result of 9/11, the war in iraq, katrina, etc. There were FEMA pamplets in places and the scene looks like a war zone. I didn't click on the links above, but the final disagreement was that the artist wanted an entire 757 fuselage burned and hanging from the ceiling, clearly evoking images of 9/11.

The museum has placed in the adjoining room an list of previous installations in that room and some text about just how hard it is to pull this kind of stuff off. But the implicit statement is clearly, yes this is hard, but we've done it umpteen times before. The problem is this guy basically screwed Mass MoCA out of money by taking up their space and by not being a draw for museum-goers.
posted by about_time at 6:14 PM on September 11, 2007

Thanks for a great post, and a very interesting subject. Having been involved in sponsoring art events around our little burg, it seems to me that the budget, if it really was $160,000, was woefully inadequete. Even the 300K seems suspect. I love artists but IMHO budgeting is not usually their strong suit. Hopefully this project can be resurrected as it sounds phenomenal.
posted by HappyHippo at 7:16 PM on September 11, 2007

I was there a few weeks ago; the list is of the stuff which makes up the exhibit.
posted by brujita at 9:53 PM on September 11, 2007

Thanks for this, it's fascinating. I've never seen a museum show with a living artist that didn't have its share of misery, miscommunication and budget fuckups, but this is on a huge scale. That said, HappyHippo is right, 160K is a ridiculously small amount for an installation this size - it does make you think that the whole thing is a giant performance piece and I kind of hope it is.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:35 AM on September 12, 2007

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