Trend in sight

The banana and the "duct tape"

Contemporary Art | As soon as it appeared, a yellow banana taped to the wall with silver adhesive tape, it caused a stir on social media and in the press given its $ 120,000 price tag. The work signed by Maurizio Cattelan, an edition of three copies entitled Comedian, was acquired twice on the first day of Art Basel Miami at the stand of the Perrotin gallery. The controversy thickened after a performer, David Datuna, detached and ate the fruit certified as a work of art. Let’s go further.

Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian, 2019 © Photo: Zeno Zotti © Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin
Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian, 2019
© Photo: Zeno Zotti © Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

« Duct tape » in art

Panamaremko has just left us. Scotch Gambit, his famous piece, reminds us how scotch tape, chatterton and nowadays « duct tape » are used by artists.

Panamarenko, Scotch Gambit, 1966-1999 © Courtesy MUKHA / Collection: Private Collection Mark Deweer, Otegem
Panamarenko, Scotch Gambit, 1966-1999
© Courtesy MUKHA / Collection: Private Collection Mark Deweer, Otegem

This tool is wholly linked to American history, it was initially created to isolate crates of weapons during the Normandy landings while its silver version was developed during the post-war construction boom to patch up faulty boiler room ducts. It had its heyday during the Apollo 13 mission by being used to repair carbon dioxide filters in outer space and was also used to isolate a vehicle on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission.
Here the meaning of the silver-colored “duct tape” differs from the meaning of the “scotch slasher” that Claude Lévêque uses in his work Verdun, summer (2018) by applying a croissant to a landscape photograph of Sambre and Meuse.

Claude Lévêque, Verdun, summer 2018 - Photographie © ADAGP Claude Lévêque. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris
Claude Lévêque, Verdun, summer 2018 - Photographie
© ADAGP Claude Lévêque. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris

Remembering the overlooked sacrifice of thousands of Algerians brought to the trenches. It also differs from the « amalgamating » chatterton used by Thomas Hirschorn. Only the artist Michel François has been using it for several years in his sculptural work, to introduce the material ambiguity of a hole without an edge, of a mass without a limit.

Michel François, Pieces of evidence. Installation, Ikon Gallery, 2014 © Photo: Stuart Whipps
Michel François, Pieces of evidence. Installation, Ikon Gallery, 2014
© Photo: Stuart Whipps

Bananas in art

Long matured in the head of Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian « slashes » a real banana on the wall, leaving its renewal to its owner (a practice widely established today and drawn from 1970’s conceptual art).
Well-known as an essential reference for desire since pop art, the real banana recalls another emblematic installation that the French artist Gérard Titus-Carmel presented in 1969 at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. La Grande Bananeraie Culturelle (The Great Cultural Banana Plantation), consisted of fifty-nine plastic bananas, set up on the wall, « dapper, bursting with health”, while the only real banana appeared more and more « defeated, curved, blackened, de-figured” over the days (in Revue Texte-Image). The poet Bernard Noël wrote of this installation : « Morality : nothing can guarantee that appearance is reality, that likeness is a guarantee of identity ».

Perspective and virality

The notion of identity is also found at the heart of Comedian by Maurizio Cattelan. A comedian by function does not have one, or takes on multiple ones.
The Carrefour brand made no mistake, replicating at the speed of light the type of semantic inscription created by Cattelan in an ad, thus marking the maximum distance possible between the end of Art and the hunger of men.

It is clear that Cattelan’s work appears to be a financial product, apparently more delicious than toxic; it spreads through the collective unconscious and social media in the same way our contemporary revolutions do, with spontaneity, rizhomatic horizontality and unpredictability (in Twitter and tear gas by Zeynep Tufekci). In the viral emotion of networks, Comedian went so far as to provoke a demonstration of underpaid workers scandalized by the difference between their less than $ 10 an hour wages and the value of the famous banana. Thus it becomes a contemporary allegory on the deepening of inequalities in the globalized era.

The length of the controversy is worth noting, the UN1K media site noted the “buzz” lasted two weeks (source : L’Observatoire Social Media - Smiling People) ; an exceptional phenomenon in the life of the Web. On the other hand, the blooming of avatars is already part of a contemporary aesthetic, but reveals only one thing with regard to the analysis of the philosopher Barbara Steiglier in her criticism of bio-politics : the « duct tape » is a « marvelous” crystallization of an injunction to adaptation, the very symbol of the homo-economicus’ pragmatism.

Sophie Boursat
Publié le 17/01/2020
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Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian, 2019 © Photo: Zeno Zotti © Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

Maurizio Cattelan, Comedian, 2019
© Photo: Zeno Zotti © Courtesy of the artist & Perrotin

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