The Whitney Museum generously stayed open for three days in a row last week, though only at the expense of trimming down Michael Asher’s plan to keep it open for a week. Understandably, the Museum didn’t have the resources to support such a marathon, though it did announce last week its imminent, multimillion-dollar migration. Curiously, that spotlight-swiping announcement surfaced just two days after MoMA PS1 opened Greater New York 2010.
Sharing Asher’s ambition to use the entire Museum is Zefrey Throwell, a NYC-based artist “investigating honest communication, in all its varied plumage.” And though curators Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari didn’t invite Zefrey for this Biennial, someone “higher up” at the Museum did. The Whitney insider from on high “thought I should be in the Biennial,” says Zefrey.
And so he was, at least for five minutes. Zefrey summoned, then directed, 75 friends and fellows through a multi-tiered blitzkrieg of 25 simultaneous actions scattered throughout the entire Museum premises. The super-scene was called Entropy Symphony. No bystander saw it coming, but nearly all got a piece of it.
The scene downstairs: Several party poopers, no pun intended, reported to guards that the men’s bathroom in the basement was a rockin’ with a heterosexual couple having noisy sex in a stall – within earshot of the Museum Shop and Sandwiched, the temporary cafe.
Meanwhile, the elevator belched malodorous fumes, which began to smell sulfurous, resulting in a very temporary bomb scare, quickly downgraded to “stink bomb” status.
In the stairwell – the only alternative to the elevator – a nude woman sauntered down, a live-action Duchamp; and a nude man strolled through the galleries accompanied by a fully-clothed friend.
On the third floor, just outside the Kate Gilmore struggle, a young woman on crutches tripped and fell over her friend’s foot. “You did it on purpose,” she shrieked! Mutual blame escalated to shouting, shoving, wrestling, and then valorous guards: “Break it up, ladies!”
Meanwhile, an earnest lovers’ quarrel around the corner hit its zenith when the girl began chasing the boy past the Pae White tapestry and around Thomas Houseago’s colossal Baby. And downstairs, a gang fought over a frozen chicken found on the floor near the Robert Grosvenor sculpture.
Outside, a giant paper airplane battle sent folded Fighting Falcons into the sculpture garden. And on the fifth floor, two sweethearts (a recent Columbia MFA and his girl) spooned on the floor, admiring Mike Kelley’s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid and The Wages of Sin.
In the most confrontational performance, a clumsy visitor spilled his hot coffee on a woman clutching a newborn baby in her arms. The woman wailed that her baby was burned and permanently disfigured. Catastrophe! The man panicked and dumped the rest of the cup down his white shirt and khakis pants. Guards swarmed, crying, “What are you doing, bringing coffee into the museum?”
The man pleaded, “What is she doing, bringing a baby into the museum?”
And in the most athletic performance, Zefrey himself snuck in a counterfeit Charles Ray painting – a “floppy flower,” as he calls it – and stuck it to the wall. Then he yanked it down and bolted.
-A woman alerted the guards: “He’s stealing the artwork!” They chased, but at their slow pace, Zefrey easily escaped downstairs – until the commotion caught the attention of a vigilant witness, who sprang into action and tackled Zefrey. The guards pounced after that – and ripped up the artwork, pistil from stamen.
Gary Carrion-Murayari was in the third-floor galleries giving an intimate Curator’s Tour to a wealthy couple when the quarreling lovers raced by. Spotting him, and not yet in the know, I asked him if this was a performance. “Not one that’s authorized,” he mumbled.
And after five minutes, it was over.
The burned baby was really a doll. The sulfurous smell? Just fart spray. The Stop-Thief woman: Zefrey’s mother, visiting for the weekend. All just props and actors. -But the nudity was real, as was the bathroom sex: those f*ckers were forcibly ejected (and photographed).
Epilogue: Afterward, the performers met at Central Park and “had some beers.” Zefrey got his hair and beard cut, and then returned to the Museum, undetected, and struck up conversation with a guard who, an hour earlier, had pinned Zefrey to the floor. “It’s been a hell of a day,” the guard sighed.