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Paul McCarthy

Pinnocchio Pipenose Householddilema, 1994

Video installation | Pinocchio dress and video | color



For a good many years now the artist Paul McCarthy – painter, sculptor, video maker, draftsman and photographer – has been creating work that mounts a scathing critique of the models of consumption of American society and the mass-media culture, together with the behaviours associated with them. In particular, the video WGG (Wild Gone Girls) is structured as a compilation of stills from Hollywood horror films and television news footage of atrocities from such as the massacres committed in the former Yugoslavia. However, the bloodbath thus evoked, disturbing to watch, is totally illusory, a simulation fabricated with all the accessories of which Paul McCarthy is so fond: ketchup, chocolate syrup or food colouring. The very excess of the scene underscores the desolation experienced by the contemporary subject in the face of gratuitous violence, be it commercial, social or political. In Painter, McCarthy addresses the desolation of the artist skewered by the anguish of creation in parodic mode, in a corrosive deconstruction of the myth of the artist. In Class Fool and Wall Whiphe puts on make-up, paints with his face, smears himself with paint, ketchup, excrement, mayonnaise… and thus turns his body into an instrument of representation.

In the many experiential performances he has carried out since the nineteen seventies, which explore the realms of the body and sexuality, as also in the videos of the nineteen eighties (many of them shot with Mike Kelley), which revisit televisual culture and pop culture, the artist chose closed domestic spaces – the kitchen, the living room – and their accessories as his theatre of the absurd and of parody, in the manner of TV sitcoms and soap operas.

What is more, the installation is a mechanism that both accompanies the video and at times involves the participation of the public. This is the case of the video Pinocchio Pipenose Household Dilemma, which should be included in the category of McCarthy’s video performances. The video reminds us of the recurrence of Pinocchio in the artist’s work, as an autistic and irresponsible figure, symbolized by the infantile character that the Disney culture disseminates on a global scale, for all that Pinocchio has a place in European culture in its own right.

Inside a house-shaped black box with a number of different-sized circular holes, the paradoxical size of a model on a scale of almost one to one, a burly puppet-like character wearing a little-boy mask, red shorts, a yellow shirt and outsize clown shoes paints the interior. With a large red tube in place of a nose, utterly unhurried yet busy, thisPinocchio engages in a series of repetitive, inconsistent domestic tasks involving a variety of materials – liquids, objects, organic matter (mayonnaise, chocolate…) – before going on to tyrannize a newly arrived second Pinocchio, with no legs. These bodies without organs incarnate the fundamental alienation, the psychic and physical dysfunctions that are the essential themes of McCarthy’s work through the evocation of infantile, malevolent characters whose only concern is with their own body.

At the same time, the viewers are invited to don the Pinocchio costume to watch the filmed performance through the eyeholes of the mask, in an inversion of the perspective and the point of view on the representation.

Pascale Cassagnau

(Text originally published in the catalogue of “Barcelona col·lecciona”, Fundació Godia, 2012).




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