Whiskey, Poetry, and Witty Banter, All in the Name of Art
'Shout, Recount, Get Drunk' studies whiskey and human interaction via poetry and public performance.
Photo by Etienne Frossard. “Shout, Recount, Get Drunk: Instructions for Drinking with a Friend,” 2016. MK Guth, Cristin Tierney Gallery
Quality alcohol is the spark for a new series of performances—some private and some public—at the Cristin Tierney Gallery in Chelsea. MK Guth: Shout, Recount, Get Drunk is the first collaboration between the gallery and Guth, a sculptor and visual artist known for incorporating public interaction and multifaceted terrains into her projects.
The private performances Dinner for Remembering and Dinner to Plan a Revolution were invite-only and not publicly observed, but Instructions for Drinking with a Friend involved mid-day consumption of whiskey in the gallery’s front room and was open for volunteers. On a Saturday afternoon, I got a one-hour slot of the four per day.
No stranger to the eclectic and provocative, the Portland-based Guth's work ranges from interactive terrains dependent on public participation, to paper braids bearing written feminism perspectives entwined with Guth’s hair, to New Yorkers bringing their old fabrics to Guth for a sculpture in Lower Manhattan, to a magic ride called The Red Shoe Delivery Service.
Both Shout and her previous projects share similar motivations. “I’ve been creating interactive projects with the public that would mount objects or images, used to prompt interactions and activity,” Guth tells The Creators Project. “We engaged in a very physical and interactive way, and the work depends on the objects to incite the possibility of something new.”
One such object is alcohol, in this case, 80 proof Chute Eight whiskey. The artist says, “Alcohol changes your ambition,” and I wondered if being a part of a display would change just how ambitious I’d get.
There were just a few rules: I had to bring a friend I’d spent time with more than twice, we had to talk about something we’ve never discussed before, and we had to read the Charles Baudelaire poem "Get Drunk." I invited my coworker Ting. We typically talk about cheese or cookies, various methods of office stress relief, and most recently the Brexit.
When we sit at the table in the center of the gallery, I immediately realize how this designated space changes the way we “get a drink.” There's no bartender nor other patrons, no music, chatter, fizzy liquid to dilute the alcohol, and no comfy furniture. The table and chairs themselves, crafted by Guth and a carpentry student, were built just high enough to keep diners sitting just a bit straighter than normal. The whiskey bottle and glasses were also handmade by Guth. It feels like an experience carefully tailored for tuning in, for focusing on talking.
Though we're allowed to drink as much of the bottle as we want, being in an experimental space with rules makes us just a bit more ambitious. Which, in turn, makes us a little nervous.
But the second I taste straight whiskey, our conversation starts flowing:
12:01 – Our first straight alcohols (Jack Daniels for me, and Malibu rum for her).
12:05 - The drinking age. The legalization of weed. How Colorado could learn from Amsterdam.
12:15 – Online dating. The fetishizing of Asian women is just really bad for everyone.
12:20 – Tinder date red flags. As a non-Tinder-user, I take mental notes.
12:30 – What does love mean? bell hooks is brilliant. The world could do better at feminism. Young American women have a daddy complex.
12:35 – When you don’t have sex for a while it becomes less of a necessary thing.
12:40 – The sad state of urban dating has led to more and more women freezing their eggs. The lamentation of abortion is real yet there is a desperate need for women’s health and issues reform.
12:50 – We both have parents that are still together. We both want to be actual parents. Epiphany.
On the surface, we drink as much as we physically can in an hour and aren't hindered by what typically interrupts the conversations we have at the office (like other people, or the need to actually get back to work). The concept of being activated by specific objects is something I “get” near the end. It's completely different from grabbing a drink at a bar.
To the casual observer, the space and show itself may seem sparse, but by participating, I see it from the inside. We fill the work with the kind of instigating content we’d expect to find in a gallery showing, titled with a command we are rarely given outright. It makes me want to recreate it in my home with other friends. It also nearly convinces me to pack up and follow Guth to wherever her public experiments will happen next. Cheers.
Shout, Recount, Get Drunk by MK Guth took place at the Cristin Tierney gallery. To learn more about the artist click here.