Matt Kenyon crossed lines and revealed hidden meanings of the seemingly ordinary with his presentation in the “Humor in Art: The Fall Art Colloquia for Critical Inquiry” series at the Katzen Arts Center on Oct. 9.
Kenyon’s presentation was a medley of pictures and video. When he started off his presentation with a visual identification “quiz” on plants and large company logos, it was plain to see that he does not prefer to stay within the confines of ordinary.
The University of Michigan professor goes to great lengths for his art and experiments, even if it means driving through McDonald’s more than 50 times in one morning or stabbing himself with a needle repeatedly.
He and his partner, Douglas Easterly, founded the Studies of Work Atmosphere on Mass Production (S.W.A.M.P.) 12 years ago and have been working on projects together ever since. One of these projects involved Kenyon puncturing a hole in his cheek and feeding a wire through it, attaching a monitoring device on the roof of his mouth and taking a food inventory of an entire Walmart.
Kenyon showed multiple, well-crafted videos of his projects. They range from making sheets of lined paper encased with micro writing to creating multiple spider-like robots whose only goal is to drink Coca-Cola, a goal which ultimately leads to each of the robot’s demise. During his presentation, he said that the Coca-Cola project is “designed to demonstrate the routine destruction that we do to ourselves each day by drinking Coca-Cola.”
Some of Kenyon’s new work includes innovative ideas with a similar message to his old projects such as a circle of money counting machines that spit continuously into the next in the circle which he describes as a “human centipede of finance.”
Another experiment that Kenyon plans on bringing to life is a machine that creates clouds in the form of houses. He wants to bring his future contraption into public spaces and start the machine at random times.
Although at times the point of Kenyon’s projects seemed questionable, he explained them with such conviction and enthusiasm that one cannot help but feel excited alongside him. But that is the point of Kenyon’s work. He wants the viewer to question and think about his work and to ultimately find the larger meaning within, a meaning that may be different for each person.
As a whole, Kenyon’s projects and ideas are innovative and thought-provoking. His projects are meant to defy conventional living and cause you to question the effects that companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have on your health.
Though confusing at times, Kenyon truly gave a presentation as unique as the man himself.