“Fuck off!!”

Leading a balanced lifestyle necessitates release and relaxation alongside work and structure — changes in mental state that often correspond with shifts in how we use words to express ourselves.

Thus, we take our language from the workplace and out into the street. The Thesaurus series from New York-based artist, Mel Bochner, proves that words can be just as colorful as images.

The vocabulary words Bochner employs evolve (or devolve) along a gradient from the more refined to the more crude, providing instead of a color spectrum depicting say, the various shades of red, its rhetorical equivalent.

You could conceive of millions of such pieces, considering the abundance of signifiers in the English language — (as opposed to the six colors of the rainbow that make up the visible light spectrum).

The latter words in the rhetorical progression often afford a certain release when uttered — “Fuck off!!” or “Hot ‘n’ Horny” or “Bitchin!”

Perhaps they activate the more visceral animalistic sides of who we are — those more receptive to pleasure and sensation — a brief catharsis from adherence to the codes of conduct that structure polite society. Studies have shown that cursing helps people to alleviate pain.

Ben Strauss-Malcolm, director of the Quint Contemporary Art Gallery representing this series, finds himself captivated more by the shocking, crude variations of these popular expressions.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Strauss-Malcolm.

“Shear Madness”

If you want shock value, take a massive amount of sharp pointy objects, amass them together in burr like structures, and hang them from the ceiling with aircraft cable. That’s Shear Madness for you, an installation by artist Steve Maloney.

Photo Credit: Helen Zhao.

It’s made with over a thousand pairs of scissors confiscated by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) from eight California airports. After much digging around, Maloney managed to buy them off eBay at a dollar a pound.

An item confiscated from your travel bag usually plunges into a mental “black abyss” of stuff you’ll never see again. Otherwise, it’s like a message in a bottle tossed out at sea that you find miraculously turned up on a foreign shore. Shear Madness begs the question — where do confiscated items go?

Maloney’s “lost and found” of scissors suggests a possible answer — “To art, of course.” It’s fun in its multiplicity of colors, but simultaneously threatening, considering the context they come from.

After all, objects that pass through airports in the post 9/11 era inevitably harbor a subtext as potentially life-endangering weapons. Anything that can be used for sinister purposes might.

These items, easily attainable from any supplies store, become so much more interesting when they come with a certain status — “forbidden.”

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