Dada Garbáge?

James Herman, Lookout

Ever since I blogged Brooke Borcherding’s Encroaching Shadows and she responded by saying “It isn’t ‘trash’ art, although it does contain trash remains,” I’ve been thinking about this idea of garbage art in general. I mean, why ISN’T it ‘trash’ art if it’s made out of trash? Is the label “garbage art” really offensive in modern art?

That’s when I discovered this monstrosity (it’s a compliment, I swear!) in the courtyard of the AAA building on campus. It’s a sculpture called Lookout by undergrad artist James Herman. The piece is a precariously balanced tower of bolted-together wood, with various other media wedged between the boards (a book about Buddha), balanced on top (a potted plant) or hanging from its sides (rope swings). One board says “No climbing,” which is probably good advice.


I’m not sure Herman was thinking of it, but his piece is a throwback of sorts to the original “garbage artists,” those crazy Dadaists. That’s not to say that the ideas behind Herman’s piece have anything to do with the anarchy and absurdity that characterized Dada work, which was a reaction to the chaos of World War I.

No, I’m just talking about the way Dada artists like Kurt Schwitters used recycled and unconventional materials to create elaborate architectural constructions. Schwitters’ Merzbau is a crazy feast for the eyes that shows just how cool “garbage art” can get-if you’re willing to spend years on it like Schwitter did. So stop being offended by the “trash art” label, dear artists!

I bumped into one of Herman’s teachers while I was looking at Lookout, and he told me that Herman constructed the piece using about 5 bolts, and that it’s in danger of falling apart at any moment. I get that feeling with most Dada pieces, too.

P.S. What do you bet Lady Gaga goes from Baroque to Dada in her next incarnation? Mark my words!

*Herman is currently exhibiting in the Laverne Krause Gallery, where you can see his impressive Shack constructed from wood squares and rope.


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