CHEW, DRINK AND SPIT: A BOOK REVIEW
Chew, Drink and Spit: A Book Review
Subsequent to the 2012 publication of the Last Art College (MIT Press) by Canadian conceptual artist Garry Neil Kennedy and his cross Canadian promotional tour that brought him to lecture at Simon Fraser University, I decided to score a response that would combine elements of a performance and a book review. Angered by Kennedy’s lack of critical and practical understanding of the contemporary issues facing our current generation in the academic institution, I felt the need to address the typical a-historical and nostalgic fashion with which Mr. Kennedy presented “his” period of conceptual art and pedagogy at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) as the height of Canadian conceptualism and arts-based education. This pompous posturing, along with other remarks suggesting that the publication was essentially a “way to make a penny,” led me to wonder what the Last Art College says about other existing art schools, departments and fine arts faculties struggling to situate themselves within the increasingly business driven model of the university. Furthermore, what does his laissez-faire attitude and endorsement of the art institution that he and his contemporaries so ferociously questioned in the 1970s mean for a generation of artists presently involved in academia and critical of the arts?
“Chew, Drink and Spit: A Book Review” was performed in my studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. Sitting at a table, I used red lipstick to write onto its surface all the page numbers where Garry Neill Kennedy’s name appeared in Last Art College. I then tore the listed pages one by one. After having partially chewed a page, softening it with water in order to reduce it to pulp while ingesting ink and liquid, I spat the paper back out into a plastic peanut butter container labeled “Last Art College.” A microphone attached to the drinking glass amplified the slurping and gulping sounds. Then, as the eating unfolded, I smeared each written page number with my fingers until it was consumed and erased. The action lasted a total of one hour, moving through different frames and registers such as an artist talk, a book review, an art performance or a storytelling event. Participation was central to this piece, as audience members engaged with the work in different ways, such as speaking with me throughout the performance, and most notably, joining me in eating Kennedy and the Last Art College.