Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This little piggy went to market

I'm glad Arnold Zwicky decided to post about the "Figures in Speech" sculptures by Marsha Tosk, because I've been watching them for months (several have been advertised in the NYT Magazine) and wondering if I had anything to say about them. Not really, I decided -- the literal renderings of phrases like "Pig in a Blanket" and "Hot Dog" (the dog is in front of a fan) are kind of cute, but basically they're fourth-grade wit; I couldn't imagine spending $1,000 (plus or minus, depending on the item) for a permanent embodiment of a fairly obvious witticism. (My imagination is clearly deficient; apparently plenty of customers believe the joke will never get old.)

Zwicky, however, was more appreciative than I, and in fact he has launched a solstice orgy of visual puns, with follow-up postings here and here. As I savored this bounty (the "chillin' wif ma peeps" cartoon is priceless), it dawned on me that my very own home boasts a pun-art installation, an assemblage my husband created from (once) easily available materials for a total of less than $20.

What's his homemade sculptural pun? It starts with this lineup:

These are "talking" mugs with the likeness and voice of Bill Goldberg, erstwhile pro wrestling champ. Push a button on the cup, and Goldberg emits one of his signature battle cries. So when the Goldbergs are properly primed,* you can push their buttons in succession and hear three different bellows: "THIS IS GOLDBERG," a threatening "BAHHH ...," and Goldberg's victory roar, "WHO'S NEXT?" These are, of course -- ta da! -- the Goldberg Variations.

True, Paul's little showpiece is harder to dust than a plastic pig, and it does require AAA batteries. But then, the Scottish wool blanket on the high-priced porker is surely not maintenance-free either. I'd been hoping we might get rid of the Goldbergs, but what did I know? Turns out they're not tacky souvenirs at all, they're witty pop art.  

*As I wrote this, I realized that in fact, any one of the Goldbergs can run through the entire repertoire of Goldberg Variations; the three make a formidable array, but they're not strictly necessary to the joke artwork. So if a Goldberg (variations included) would make your life complete, do make an offer; I'll be sure to pass it on.


Unknown said...

I don't understand these sculptures. I've been seeing them in the magazine too, and this morning's ad, "Peeking Duck", finally got me to google her and find out what others (who know more about art) think. Everyone seems to love them! Which confuses me further.

Conceptually they seem one dimensional. You know when something is funny, and gets funnier the more you think about it? I can't imagine returning to look at my new 19-inch duck-wearing-a-monacle and finding anything that I didn't see the first time. Also, the artist and others call them literal interpretations of witticisms. Peking Duck is not a witticism, or even a thought. It's a dish. It could be a visual pun, except the duck is not even peeking. He's just ... seeing things through a monacle. I wear glasses, but I don't "peek" through them. I see things. I might peek through my fingers, or a keyhole, but...oh, what's the use.

Usually when I google something, I can find at least one like-minded person who is better at articulating my thoughts. But everyone seems to accept them without question. And even love them. Apparently unironically. It occurred to me that maybe the WHOLE THING is a joke. The sculptures, the rave reviews, the awards--and that would actually be kind of funny. But I don't think that's the case here. So I'm confused. Are they just really awesome in person? What am I missing?

Unknown said...

Also, one other thing. Tosk says they are a response to the economic downturn, but they seem very expensive for what they are. A quick search tells me I can buy a personalized resin trophy starting at 24.90. If my order goes over 100 dollars, they'll ship it free. She charges 35 dollars just to ship it. I guess we could say she's charging the additional 900 dollars for the Idea, but as I said earlier, I'm not sure it's worth that much. Are we just paying for the artist's name? My partner says there is a QVC show, regularly featured on The Soup, called the Quacker Factory. These (kind of) punny sculptures could easily be a featured product, priced more reasonably and available in installments. And then her statement on the economic downturn would make more sense.