Week in Review

by Dominique Pariso, Wilson Cusack & Dash Elhauge

published September 18, 2015

The Artist Formally Known as Roach

It is an unseasonably hot fall evening. Sweat drips down your back as you approach the gallery. White Cube is as intimidating as ever. You catch a glimpse of yourself in a window and cringe. 

The doors open and you are immersed in a crowd of usual suspects: art school kids decked out in all black, the sprightly gallerinas feigning boredom, the actually bored older set whose makeup is applied with more care than most of the paintings hanging on the walls.

You knock back some champagne a little too fast, get a little too drunk when you notice a large crowd gathered around one piece. You jockey for space and gaze up at the most beautiful painting you’ve ever seen. Your breath catches. The brushwork is primitive, almost animalistic. Just who is this artist who has drawn out your soul? The moment is rapturous but does not last as you peer at the placard. It reads:

Specimen #302. Gromphadorhina portentosa.

Untitled, 2015 

Acrylic on canvas

73.7 cm x 92.1 cm (29 in x 36 ¼ in)

Portentosa, a Madagascar hissing cockroach, made his gallery debut at the 2015 Oakland Zoo Art Show, a collective cross-species fundraiser, and has since risen to critical acclaim. Freedom, his second show, represents a departure from the restrained style that previously characterized his art.

Your mouth goes dry and you slowly back away. You didn’t believe anything could sink lower than Dismaland, but you were sadly mistaken. You begin to look around desperately for an exit and there you see the artist sitting atop his agent’s shoulder. He turns his dead, black eyes on you.

“Oh darling,” he hisses. “Haven’t you heard? Art is dead.” –DP


There’s Always Money in Fear

Big News! Sorry, sorry, *Big Announcement, as Infowars so nicely put it in their video title: “Big Announcement: Infowars’ Plan to Wake Up 400 Million Revealed.” I know what you’re thinking, “SIMULTANEOUS ALARM CLOCKS? 400 MILLION OF ‘EM?! R U 4 REAL?!” You’re wrong. We’re talking ideological wakeup here, you dum dum., which should be on anyone’s shortlist for alternative and far out perspectives on current issues, is the news site that conspiracy theorists and rightist militias can call home. (Remember those civilians with guns that showed up to the Ferguson protests? They said they were there to protect Infowars reporters). The site reposts Alex Jones’ XM Radio broadcasts, during which he rants about government plots to enforce marshal law and related concerns, and otherwise functions as an op-ed news site. Anyway, the video campaign was launched a little over a week ago—but come for the video, stay for the store, because holy moly is Alex Jones taking journalism’s merchandising potential to a whole new level. The New Yorker has desk diaries, calendars, and umbrellas, and Alex Jones’ has emergency survival food kits. Running along the side Infowars homepage are ads that redirect you to its store. Some are what you’d expect: a “Hillary for Prison 2016” t-shirt, ads for assault rifles, and the survival food kits. Others are unexpected. An ad with Alex Jones very seriously squinting at the viewer reads “What I’d use for any disaster.” There is a dark sky in the background with a lightning bolt that looks to be striking Jones’ left shoulder. Directly clicking, though, does not lead to a page for an emergency water purifier, nuclear bomb-proof radio, or anything else you might expect with such a dramatic endorsement. The product is called “Survival Shield X-2,” but is actually “Nascent Iodine,” which the product description confidently claims “may support healthy iodine levels,” “may support healthy hormone levels,” and will “support healthy thyroid levels,” among other levels. Jones is featured again in the middle of the product page, once more squinting, this time with nuclear power plants in the background and a quote reading “If you’re not getting prepared with nascent iodine, you’re crazy.” The item is number two on the store’s “Hottest Items” page, second only to “Knockout Sleep Support.” More of the same, listed next to assault rifle laser sights, make the store an odd mix of health food and apocalypse survival supplies, and the five-star product reviews abound. Anyway, glad Infowars has found a way to so capably meet the demand they are creating. –WC


Chip the Chicken

I can’t crack eggs for shit. My roommate knows it. I can see a flicker in the corner of his eyes when the shells fall down into pooling yolk at the bottom of the mixing bowl each morning. I can hear the crunching in his teeth when he bites into the scrambled mush and smiles. “Good tea,” I say. “Good eggs,” he lies.

I like to think my inability to crack eggs has something to do with a subconcious flinch that there’s a potential life in there. If the kindergarten class egg could flourish into an  admittedly ugly chick, why not this one? Couldn’t it grow up to be something? Don’t chickens dream?

Chip the chicken. Now there’s a famous chicken. Chip the chicken strutted between cars at Bay Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco this past week. Three people have already come to the Oakland Animal Shelter claiming ownership of the chicken. “Yeah,” I imagine they all said. “He’s always causing jams. But I love him, you know?” Now that’s a famous chicken.

Two rescue groups have also displayed interest in Chip, which, to my knowledge, is the first time a rescue group has ever fought over anything. Chip the chicken is living the chicken dream. He flapped his wings over a bridge, feathers ruffling in the Bay Area breeze. He raised his head and clucked at the honks and hisses of rush-hour traffic. Do famous chickens worry about whether they’re going to be killed? Do they wonder when to cluck and when to peck? Do they wonder if their Literary Arts degree will hold any weight in this economy? All this I wonder, staring at my shelly eggs each morning. 

Chip laid an egg on Thursday. The shelter is going to swap it out for a fake; they don’t want any more famous chickens. –DE