A French artist who recently opened an installation at a contemporary art institution in Dallas made headlines last week when he sent a female critic of his work a series of emotional Facebook messages recommending that she study art and get a boyfriend — preferably one who took steroids. (I wrote about the whole kerfuffle here.)
Now Loris Gréaud, the artist in question, is saying that the messages to Dallas Observer critic Laurent Smart were a calculated part of his installation at Dallas Contemporary.
"For over a decade, I have been using rumor as a medium, word as virus, as well as disinformation and illusion," Gréaud told Scott Indrisek at Blouin Artinfo.
He then describes the Ophiocordyceps fungus in ants, a type of zombie parasitism that allows the fungus to control the ant's movements (leading to the insect's eventual death). Gréaud likened his project to a parallel "virus," which he seeded through the media.
"The idea," he tells Indrisek, "... was to send personal messages to the first critics or journalists who propagated doubts about the project and in turn to use them as hosts for the virus. Send them all low rhetorical messages, triggering enough anger to make these messages go public. The journalist would become the 'host' of the virus, with the potential to recreate the self-destructive paradigm of the physical show."
Were the messages all part of some master plan? Or is this revelation a way to save face after sending a string of adolescent insults? (Brian Boucher of Artnet asked these very same questions — and provides some interesting context for work of this nature.)
Either way, it's uncomfortable, writes critic Ben Davis, in a thoughtful essay on the subject:
The tide of abuse that women have to put up with on the internet is no joke, and Gréaud would be joking with it — in fact, looking to capitalize off of it. We would be dealing with not the off-color outburst of a bruised ego, but calculated viciousness done in the name of advancing artistic fame.
Bad boys being bad boys? In the art world, nothing could be more predictable.