Top 10 WTF moments of the year
From cyborg ears to a nude painting of Stephen Harper — WTF, 2015?
Sometimes, truly great and imaginative art is worth a WTF, but that's not what this list is about. This is about what made the headlines in 2015, whether on CBC Arts or elsewhere — the viral-video slip-ups you had to watch, or the outlandish stories you need to read to believe. Here are 10 of our favourites.
Who hasn't been there, right? Twelve years old and so painfully awkward that you're tripping over your own legs… and falling through 17th century masterworks. Puberty is pretty much the worst, especially if you're the kid in this surveillance video, recorded at a Taipei museum in August. The painting he fell through, Still Life of Flowers by Paolo Porpora, is valued at $1.5 million (US). It was immediately repaired following the incident.
Maybe you can't stand that print of Girl with a Blue Ribbon that's been hanging in your nana's living room for 50 years, but do you hate it enough to join a public protest? Renoir Sucks is the cause for you.
Founded by Massachusetts man Max Geller, what started as an Instagram account (10.6K+ followers) is now a full-on grassroots movement. Geller's protest outside the Museum of Fine Arts Boston was the first, but others have sprung up at locations including the Met in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
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CBC Radio's As It Happens spoke to Geller this fall. "When we bring our children to art museums, we are telling them that this is the best we have to offer. This is the zenith," Geller said on the program. "And to dilute that zenith with empty calories and treacle that's rife in Renoir's work, I think it does a real disservice to our collective cultural wealth."
Da Da Vinci is mine!
I don't know what your local supermarket cashiers look like, but the ones around the CBC Arts office aren't known for wearing elaborate snoods and 15th century gowns. Still, this fall, Shaun Greenhalgh claimed that La Bella Principessa, which experts have attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci since 2008, is actually a portrait of a Co-Op checkout girl whom he painted in 1978.
As Greehalgh told the Sunday Times: "She was a bossy little bugger and very self-important." Greenhalgh's work has shown at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, though the exhibition was called The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries. Imprisoned between 2007 - 2012, Greenhalgh was part of an infamous art forgery team who, according to the Guardian, made nearly $1.5 million (US) off counterfeit art.
Just like 1920
It's a textbook situation (Man Ray's Lampshade, anyone?) but still deserving of a WTF. When cleaners at Italy's Museion Bozen-Bolzano tidied up one night in October, they bagged an entire exhibition up with the trash. The piece, by Goldschmied and Chiari, was called Where shall we go dancing tonight? — an installation meant to represent the hedonism and corruption of the '80s through an avant-garde pile of party garbage. The artists themselves told papers they were appalled by the incident, which sparked some conversation as the museum set about salvaging the exhibition.
If at first you don't succeed, submit the footage to a major art prize
If there's a lesson to be learned from this story, it's not of the literal, instructional variety. Or maybe it is. Maybe you regularly video yourself nude, hanging upside down in trees. Seems like the sort of thing that requires a manual. In any case, Hilde Krohn Huse attempted that particular activity, hoping to get a couple seconds of footage for an art project she was developing.
Huse made it into the tree, she tied herself up — and then she was stuck there. After struggling for half an hour, while the camera kept recording, a friend eventually came to her rescue. But instead of just deleting the footage and reminding herself to Google a few more knot-tying tutorials on the next go 'round, Huse put the video on YouTube and transformed this potentially dangerous blooper into a work of art, Hanging in the Woods. It won the Bloomberg New Contemporaries Award this summer.
For the duration of the play, please turn off your cell phones. Please don't crash the set to charge your phone, either. This summer, during a production of Hand to God on Broadway, one dude in the audience jumped the stage so he could plug in his phone. Maybe he was expecting an important text message from the President. Or maybe he just really digs Candy Crush. Whatever his deal, the situation — which was, of course, captured on video — turned into a world-wide lesson in the rules of theatre etiquette, with even the show's Tony-nominated cast members getting into the shame game.
Now ear this
Somewhere in Australia, there's a man with a third human ear growing out of his arm. That information's enough of a WTF without adding this little detail: he grew the ear for the sake of an art project.
Stelarc is the name of the man in question, and he's a professor and performance artist based in Perth. For 20 years, he's developed the project (it's called Ear on Arm), and when it's complete he'll be able to broadcast whatever the ear senses via WiFi, essentially sharing whatever he hears with an international audience. This summer, Stelarc announced that he needs funding for the final, er, leg of the project. The ear itself was created out of biocompatible scaffolding, then implanted on Stelarc's left arm by a team of doctors. The process was featured on an episode of Discovery Channel's Medical Mavericks, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald, a London production company paid for the operations.
Who wouldn't want their art to stop traffic? Calling in the bomb squad is taking things a step too far, mind you, but that's what happened in Atlanta this February.
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Some art students at Georgia State University, working on a photography project, placed pinhole cameras around the city including a major downtown bridge. That's where an anonymous tipster saw one, calling it in to police as a suspicious device. As a part of the operation, traffic on two interstate highways was blocked for two and a half hours as authorities moved in to investigate, and eventually detonate, the mysterious device. Too bad. Would've loved to see those pictures.
It's one of those things that's more FTW than WTF, but we're mentioning it here anyway, just because it got plenty of attention this October and also, well, it's the best thing to come out of Homeland since Claire Danes' face turned into a meme.
For a scene set in a Syrian refugee camp, the show hired a group of graffiti artists to tag. Their job? Tag the set in Arabic to give the set some authenticity.
For the artists, though, the assignment turned into an opportunity for protest. Tagging walls and buildings with phrases like "Homeland is racist" and "Homeland is a joke and it didn't make us laugh," the group blogged about their handiwork once the episode aired, and the news went viral.
The show's producer Alex Gansa issued a statement in reaction to the subversive prank, writing that the show "can't help but admire this act of artistic sabotage."
"Every time I look at it I burst out laughing." That's what Frederick Gharahmani told CBC News after purchasing Emperor Haute Couture, a.k.a. the best, and possibly only, painting of a nude Stephen Harper.
Danielle Potvin, a retired public servant, purchased the piece by Margaret Sutherland in 2012. At the time, she paid $5,000. The Vancouver-based Gharahmani bought it for $20,000 after significant interest (and LOLs) from the public, including this story from CBC Radio's As It Happens. As Potvin told As It Happens of the painting, "I think it belongs to the Canadian public." For those who continue to get a laugh out of the work, Gharahmani has good news on that point. As he told CBC Radio's Ontario Today: "I can't wait to get it out in front of as many people as possible." Something to look forward to in 2016?