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Chug Chug Chug

Shotgunning 24 ounces of beer is hard to describe.
December 1, 2003, 12:00am

As a means of breaking down walls in the video-art medium and getting people wasted on camera, New York artist Jay Kaplan has created The Ultimate Challenge, a series of four shotgunning tasks that begins with the eight-ounce “pony can” of Bud and culminates in the fearsome 24-ounce “tall boy.” Along the way, the challenger must also tangle with the traditional twelve-ounce can and its mean older brother, the pint. Despite this machismo competition being predominantly a male pursuit, I tried it myself and did pretty well, up until the last one. Shotgunning 24 ounces of beer is hard to describe: There are moments when you feel like you’re drowning; moments when you talk to God; and, ultimately, the moment when your chest cavity swells into a barrel and you fight to remain intact. As challengers struggle to make their way up the Bud ladder, Kaplan lends support from behind the camera and captures the whole arduous process on digital video. “It’s not just about downing beers,” says Kaplan, standing next to sculptures like a glazed Chewbacca, a cast-iron video game, a fellated robot, and a six-thousand-piece Rubik’s Cube. “It’s about individual style, technique, focus, perseverance, and the will to be the best you can be. It’s about fulfilling your potential. With a lot of these sculptures I’ll be working on the same thing for months and months before Ihave anything tangible. With The Ultimate Challenge, I get the here and now of it, the definitive results, the agony of defeat, the ability to dust yourself off after a bad round and go out there and do it again, the grit and grime of spilling, and the ever-present threat of puking.” After having a few beers himself later on, Kaplan seems to change his tune a little bit: “To be honest, I just want to fuckin’ party a little bit, you know what I mean? Since I became a dad I can’t really go out ’n’ shit. If I call it an art project I can get away with it.” MARCIA STERNER