Weekly Wire

Arts & Leisure

July 28 - August 4, 1997

From time to time somebody comes along and asks that annoying question, "What is art?" Nobody wants to think about the answer because, well, doesn't that take the fun out of it? Art is for thinking about life, not the other way around, right?

Not for everybody. Comedian Andy Kaufman provides a prime, and too-often forgotten, example. When not portraying a cutesified Eartern European as Latka on TV's Taxi, the late Kaufman crafted wildly anarchistic "comic" stunts that kept people perpetually on-edge about the relationship between performer and audience. I remember seeing Kaufman disturbingly lose his temper on an episode of the ABC live comedy show Fridays, then come back a week later to apologize, announcing he had become a born-again Christian and singing a boringly lovy-dovy song with his "wife." It seemed very, very real -- but it all turned out to be fake.

Kaufman's intention, I presume (since he never revealed it to anybody), was to make us look at the false cameraderie and warmth generated by professional TV and stage personalities. He wanted people to ask, "Is any of TV's reality really real?" And he succeeded, though not without ruffling a great many feathers, including his own. An inquisitive article about Kaufman's strange, violent wrestling shenanigans details just how well he succeeded in blurring the boundaries between art and life.

Other performers find less confrontational ways to make us re-think our realities. One such person was Charles Kuralt, the recently-deceased TV personality and author who made it his business to discover parts of America that you can't find in tourist guides. Kuralt, like Will "I never met a man I didn't like" Rogers of decades earlier, realized that people are just as interesting, if not moreso, than the places they inhabit. That sounds like a piety, but as this writer explains, Kuralt lived that sentiment, setting an inspiring example for would-be travelers who might esteem geography over local personality and tradition.

So how do other artists challenge the norms of art's form? If their medium is visual, they might begin by scrapping the ideas of ownership and authorship and mailing out their work for free, thereby divorcing it from the snooty confines of galleries and auctions. That's just what a number of "mail artists" have been doing. An article gives their premise -- that it's the process, not the end result, that matters -- a full examination. The conclusion? Perhaps art about art isn't so annoying after all, as long as it keeps asking questions worth answering.

News In The Art World

Weekly Wire Xtra
We're christening our new Xtra section with an essay by poet Martin Espada, who learned the hard way that not All Things are Considered in the halls of National Public Radio.

The Comic and the King
Fifteen years ago, Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler blurred the line between reality and pretend with their strange wrestling feud. What really happened is still anybody's guess. [2]
Jim Hanas

A Great Voice Silenced
A heartfelt farewell to Charles Kuralt, who knew America better than anyone. [3]
Paul Gerald

Messages Received
Vanderbilt's mail-art exhibit raises some interesting questions. [4]
Bonnie Arant Ertelt

"What I Wanted"
A look at obsessive art collector Chuck Cooper. [5]
Rebecca S. Cohen

Counter-Culture Lite
Inspired by "Up With People," "Have A Nice Day" exposes the soft underbelly of '70s pop music. [6]
Hadley Hury

Through the Looking Glass
WebCams give glimpses of things faraway. [7]
David O. Dabney

Documents from the Dream State
Photos from "The Times-Picayune" archives at the New Orleans Museum of Art through Sept. 14. [8]
D. Eric Bookhardt

Family Matters
A new show at the Center for Creative Photography celebrates a photographer who's come a long way. [9]
Margaret Regan

Headed In the Right Direction
Young directors show talent beyong their years at the Adobe Theater. [10]
Julie Birnbaum

Reviews of Austin art: Seven Keys to Baldpate at The Acting Studio, Guys & Dolls at Zilker Hillside Theatre, and Flame Failure 03 at The Public Domain. [11]

Magic of the Highlands
Coverage of New Orleans' local theatre scene. [12]
Dalt Wonk

Now What?
A Web link page chock full of resources, recommendations, and staff picks pertaining to the subject of this section. [13]

Talk Back
Tell us your favorite medium, and we don't mean that in the Shirley MacLaine sense of the word.

From The Vaults

Two Women: Helga and Divine
New Orleans Gallery and Artist reviews. [06-20-97]
D. Eric Bookhardt

Local Talent
The Tucson Museum of Art hosts an all-Arizona show. [07-02-97]
Margaret Regan

Worlds Apart
Two new photographic exhibits reveal the malleability of the medium. [06-06-97]
Margaret Regan

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