|LET'S CALL A SPADE A SPADE
by SUSAN SAKASH
|THEATER OF THE ABSURD
In April of 2006, five teen-aged girls were arrested in Ravenna, Ohio for placing 17 replicas of Super Mario Brothers question mark power-up cubes throughout the town on April Fools Day. The cubes, composed of cardboard and gold wrapping paper, were placed in conspicuous areas throughout the town of 12,000 people and instilled enough fear within residents that the bomb squad was called.
On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, the city of Boston was significantly paralyzed due to a similar series of events involving conspicuously placed Light-Bright like reproductions of Ignignokt and Err, two characters from the Cartoon Network’s animated television show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The reproductions, due to their unfortunate resemblance to “hoax devices”, caused a terrorism scare and public outrage in a narrative which unfolded like a South Park episode.
Sean Stephens and Peter Berdovsky, who installed the devices in a guerrilla marketing campaign for the forthcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force feature film, were the initial scapegoats of the entire debacle. They were arrested for “placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct” and at their subsequent press conference, refused to answer any questions unless they were about hair. This countered the condescension and mockery by the members of the press, who asked them whether they were “taking this seriously.” In our humble interpretations as art critics, Stephens and Berdovsky probably saw how absurd their situation was and set out to respond to it with a farce of their own, yet their approach was too surreally humorous for the mainstream press to comprehend. Later that week, they were labeled “clowns” by Dan Kennedy, who is apparently one of the best of what Boston has to offer for media critics, on the WGBH program Greater Boston’s Beat the Press. If you don’t participate within the limited, terror-induced discourse of the mainstream press, you won’t be treated fairly, but then again, it’s not as though the actual issue will either.
Big RED and Shiny’s position as an arts journal in Boston gives us a unique position from which to examine current events, and we recognized the need for a wider public debate on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Terror Scare. Different segments of the same public occupy vastly diverse cultural contexts and we realize that not only does the work of artists often transcend those contexts, but it even more often offers insights into our culture that the “mainstream” is not prepared or willing to consider. We invited the “artist, floraphile, guerilla gardener and exterior designer,” Pixnit, and public art administrator and curator Susan Sakash of the Berwick Research Institute, to weigh in on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Terror Scare events and their aftermath.