Performance Art as a Reality Show?

5 Aug

I don’t know how I got hooked on Work of Art. I’m generally anti-Bravo programming and I’m not really interested in competition based reality shows, especially ones that judge people on their chosen craft. Yet somehow I’m obsessed. Honestly, I feel a little dirty when I watch it, but that’s what reality television is all about.

What I like most about Work of Art (and I use the word “like” very, very loosely) is that it exists in this weird place in the reality show world. It’s a competition that’s in the same vein as Top Chef and Project Runway — a group of artists with vastly different personalities live together, have challenges with short time frames and face eliminations each week. However, most of the cast didn’t seem to buy into the reality show conventions. Sure, they all fit certain stereotypes (Erik as the fish-out-of-water without formal training, Jaclyn as the pseudo-feminist who only takes pictures of her tits, Ryan as the hip chain-smoker that I would definitely hook up with if we ran into each other in a dark bar, etc.) but they were all only about, well, creating art. From what I’ve read about art school, shouldn’t they have been crazy and quick-tempered and fucking each other and making pottery with ghosts?

Then there’s Miles. While the rest of the cast seems to focus solely on creating pieces to impress the judges, Miles took the extra step by playing into the reality show game. And honestly? I think, I HOPE, that Miles is actually a performance artist and this entire show is one of his pieces. How perfect would that be? It’d be genius! I think it would actually kind of validate Work of Art as a somewhat legitimate show about art.

Miles has created a character.  He hams it up for the cameras while talking about his OCD, his insomnia, and his weird personality quirks. He toys with the idea of mustard gas and sets things on fire. He plans sabotage (well, he uses someone’s tar? In the art world, I imagine this is equivalent to The Situation stealing Vinny’s girl on Jersey Shore). He offers unsolicited negative commentary while the judges are doing their critiques. He harbors a crush on a fellow cast mate, Nicole, and talks about how he’s just so intimidated by her beauty but there’s no way she would ever talk to someone like him who is just a shy, silly nerd! He knows how to talk, how to play the judges, how to form a character that his fellow artists will hate. He’s created quirks in himself that seem to disappear as quickly as they come. Plus, it helps that he’s young, cute, and actually pretty talented.

He does this in the latest episode where he, unsurprisingly, makes it into the top three — along with Abdi (you go, Abdi!) and Peregrine (eh, I’ll take it) but I think he was at the top of the reality game last week. Last week’s challenge involved him pairing up with Jaclyn to create pieces with an opposing theme: male vs. female. Yep, totally not rigged at all. Whatever you say, Bravo. At first Miles is disappointed that he’s not going to work with his crush, Nicole, but then quickly changes his tune when he realizes that he can convince Jaclyn to get naked for the sake of art (“Who can’t convince her to do that?” asks everyone in the world). They want to convey a man losing his control by punching through a wall and a woman gaining control through masturbation. Sure! They win, of course, but the best part? While Jaclyn is making this painting all about gaining control, Miles immediately and easily takes control over her. He does get her to take off her clothes, to abandon her idea in favor of his although she previously stated that she knows how he is but is “DEFINITELY” going to make sure it’s a collaboration. When she suggests adding a mirror to the piece, he agrees that it’s a good idea but then at the last minute, he makes sure this doesn’t happen. And the entire time he gleefully basks to the cameras about how easy it was. See, THIS is the kind of reality show that I like! Kudos on creating art, guys, most of it was pretty great but I like my reality shows with backstabbing and assholes and tension and very little reality! I’d love for it to turn out to be performance art because it’d be a smack in the face to Bravo. Going into the finale, Miles is a cunning bastard or a performance art genius and either way, I’m on board.

“Art.”

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