by The staff of STIM

Question: What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs, hanging on a wall?

Answer: Art!

Art. What is art anyway? This is the riddle of postmodernism, which has succeeded in undoing the fiction of the masterpiece while cementing the creative spirit of the artist. Duchamp's liberating "Fountain," [DATE TK] dared to ask the question, Which objects are art, and which aren't? But Duchamp never left any doubt as to who the artist was.

Nowadays, in an era in which ready-mades and borderline events qualify as artworks, the need for the presence of an artist to authenticate our experience is still very much in evidence.

We here at STIM seek to destroy that last remaining icon of art, that final sacred cow, the sanctified, sanctimonious concept of the so-called "Artist." If Jeff Koons can thumb his nose at prevailing mores, so can we.

We are not Artists, say we. Yet we make art.

To celebrate our muse, we recently held a little art reception at the STIM office for a few of Manhattan's cognoscenti. The title of the exhibition, "The Fluorescent Life," was intended to represent not only the brightly lit reality of our day jobs, but also the otherworldly glow of our brows as we worked late into the night, attempting to transform our corporate habitrails into something more fit for human contemplation.

We were lucky enough to have artist BigTwin on hand to judge the exhibition with all the gravity it deserved.

Below are some of the winning pieces and their accompanying artist's statements.

WINNER, "BREADWINNER" AWARD
PAIN/PAIN, Alice Bradley, 1996
Mixed media: baguettes, white and rye bread (toasted), toaster, ink.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT
By substituting a toaster for a computer and toast for paper, the artist subverts our expectations and casts a cold eye on a hegemoniacal society that values productivity above all. Here we see a cubicle manned by an absent drone, a worker single-mindedly driven to make toast—better and more rapidly than any other toast-maker. While the viewer gazes at the empty cubicle, the smell of burnt toast fills the air, a reminder of the consequences of our indentured slavery to the invisible and compassionless Man.

WINNER, "I LIKE THIS ONE, BUT PLEASE SHAVE" AWARD
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET, Margie Borschke, 1996.
Mixed media: mirror, pubic hair, Jolan's Bleach, Persian Hair Remover applicator strips, red circular saw photo, a Judy Blume pocket novel, tweezers, hairless adult doll, doll heads, bead curtain, ribbon, and Belgian lace.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT
"After my bath I was supposed to go to my room and rest so I'd be in good shape for the party. I went to my room and closed the door—only I didn't feel like resting. What I did was move my desk chair in front of my dresser mirror. Then I stood on the chair and took off my robe. I stood naked in front of the mirror. I was starting to get some hairs."

—from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Interviewer: What is your worst fault?
Job applicant: I work too much and I have body hair issues.
Interviewer (nervously): What kind of issues?
Job applicant: I hate body hair but also hate that you don't want me to have any. Have I mentioned that I'm a perfectionist?
Interviewer: Would you be able to contain those issues to, say, a corner of your cubicle?
Job applicant: Why yes. I work well under structural limitations.
Interviewer: Good. This cubicle is your public/private space--emphasis on the public. We're happy to have women around the office, as long as they don't draw attention to their sex too often. You'll be a good neutered girl won't you?
Job applicant: I'll try to keep the ribbons and leg wax to a minimum.
Interviewer: Well then, welcome aboard!

Job applicant (to friend on the telephone): I got it!

WINNER, "BEST CUBIST CUBE" AWARD!
CONTAINED, or WHAT'S THE DIFF?, Georgia Rucker, 1996
Mixed media: playpen, toys, average office cubicle, average office cubicle contents.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
Why is the habitat for many of today's humans cube-like? Do containers contain or restrain? We learn early on that four walls equals normalcy. And that filling one's four walls equals living. Furthermore, the mere existence of a container necessitates "filling" it, often with useless items, duplicate files, disliked toys. Is "filling" the sort of activity that one should see as "living"? When one switches the contents of an infant container (playpen) to an adult container (work-place cubicle) are they really any different? How can one "grow up" when one is put in the same sort of space throughout the majority of one's life?

CYBERSPACE: BLACK HOLE, Greg Kuchmek, 1996
Mixed media: paper, computer, scotch tape.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
The media has promised us far too much. Hollywood makes “cyberspace" seem, to the uninitiated, a place where we can fly around and have lots of virtual sex. In reality, cyberspace is just another job. You go to the office and sit in front of a monitor until your eyes bleed and your wrists hurt. Before cyberspace, you did half as much work because it took longer to do that work. Now, you do twice as much work in half the time. Cyberspace in its current form is a sham. A lie. It's just like the future that was promised to us in the 1950s, a future that never came to be.

WINNER, "BEST ROOM TO SMOKE IN" AWARD
POWER, Steve Raymond, 1996
Materials: video camera, security mirror, sunglasses, cardboard IBM box, television.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
We live in a world of supposedly boundless access to free information. We are addicted to synthetic experiences, imagining ourselves augmented by them. But technology becomes increasingly transparent as we wallow in sensory overload. Being critical about what we see, hear, and feel is our right—especially when our "reality" has become increasingly commodified. This interactive multimedia installation invites the user to stand in front of a mirror. The "reflection" is the user's face, framed in a television monitor.

WINNER, "NICEST SMILE" AWARD
COMPUTA DENTATA: THE PUBICLE, Mikki Halpin, 1996
Mixed media: pink sheets, teeth, hair, tongue.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
The work I do in my cube is simultaneously pleasurable and dangerous, like the Freudian trope of the Vagina Dentata. Plus, the damn thing shed, and I got to hear Ed Bennett say, "I have Mikki's pubic hair all over me."

WINNER, "CRAFTY" AWARD
GRAFFITI IDIOTS, Morgan Nöel and Wellington Fan, 1996
Mixed media: twine, waxed paper, velcro, and lots of electrical tape and funky-smelling markers (and one paper Parrot).

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
The Visitor is enveloped by a dark mass of gently swaying blackness. The void is punctuated only by the random bits of matter floating idly by, suspended in their orbits by nearly invisible threads. Real freedom? No. Each bit of matter is bound tightly to its locus, held there by another, higher up in the hierarchy. Those satellites, too, are held in their orbits by meta-satellites, and the meta-satellites by meta-meta-satellites. My friends, this monumental piece begs the question: Are any of us really free? Does anybody really know what time it is? And does anybody really care? Or like the Raven, will we remain stationary observers, stuck, nay, suctioned-cupped to the Observation Table of Life as the paper cups orbit endlessly about their meaningless orbits?

WINNER, " I HATE CATHY" AWARD
FATTY OFFERINGS, James Barnett, 1996
Mixed media: aluminum foil, candles, food, Cathy.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
Concept: A shrine, complete with offerings, to the Dark Office Goddess--the cartoon character Cathy, created by prophet and seer Cathy Guisewite.
Execution: Over a base layer of fire-resistant aluminum, an inverted pentagram was painted in flammable yellow Rustoleum® paint. Red candles were placed at the points of said pentagram and lit with the same match. Inside the pentagram lay a selection of offerings: Oreo cookies, Hershey's Almond Kisses, and three selections of "Lite Cuisine" packages ( Smart Ones® Lemon Herb Chicken Piccata, Lean Cuisine© Bow Tie Pasta and Chicken, and Weight Watcher's© Double Fudge Cake). A stand-up effigy of the Dark Office Goddess, prepared carefully in cardboard, paper, and Cray-Pas©, was placed at the head of these offerings and back-lit by a standard office lamp, symbolizing the light that awaits those who follow the Dark Office Goddess's prescribed path to enlightenment. Passersby were encouraged to pray silently and allowed to share in the offerings.

WINNER, UNABOM AWARD
YOU'RE NOT STALKING...YOU'RE JUST OBSERVING, Stephanie Brown, 1996
Mixed media: phone, computer, butcher paper, crayon.

ARTIST'S STATEMENT:
People talk about obsession like it's something scary or mental...something that makes you a walking time bomb...something that puts the object of your obsession at risk. I like to think of obsession as the highest form of flattery that one person can bestow upon another. Only those whom you truly admire can infest your every thought, taunt you with their every move, seduce you with their every restraining order. I mean, this person deserves your undivided attention! He still loves you! He is just confused! And that is why you must take him out....excuse me. For those of you who would like observe the object of your "admiration," I have a few very important tips I would like to pass on to you, the future obsessed:

  • Beware of Caller ID.
  • Night Vision...should be your vision.
  • Always use a rifle scope.
  • When you watch him sleeping through the hole you've made in the wall of his closet, don't rush him with a pillow.
  • Bring a snack.
  • When they find you, just close your eyes. That way no one can see you
  • When you're out "observing" for the first time, just keep repeating to yourself the phrase that got me through my first bouts of nausea:
Sly like a Fox,
Sneaky like a mouse,
In a few seconds I'll be in your house.

Like Daddy always used to say, "Obsession is a tradition that should be passed on like a kidney stone."

Up Talk!