By Ken Tucker
Updated October 20, 2011 at 05:31 AM EDT

Work of Art

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The second week of Work of Art: The Next Great Artist was a mess; assembling the hour must have driven the show’s editors crazy. The hour started out with a demonstration of parkour, the strenuous, French-derived, running-climbing-leaping exercise done by daredevils on city architecture. The idea was to give the contestants and viewers a kinetic image for the week’s task: create “a piece about motion.” The artists were divided into two teams, told to come up with a theme, and put together two competing group shows.

The artists immediately proceeded to over-think “motion” to the point of stasis. One group wanted to do something about digestion, how something eaten moves through the body. The idea came from Michelle, last week’s winner, who had immunity and said pretty airily that she wanted to do something about “poop.” It was as though she could have cared less. For some reason, her team went with it.

The second team’s idea of motion boiled down to “migration,” something about moving various cultures along… oh, it doesn’t matter, because mentor Simon de Pury arrived for his studio visit and pronounced both concepts the pretentious sillinesses they were. After scornfully asking, “So ‘poop’ was the key word?” he advised them all to start over.

Therefore Work of Art‘s competition didn’t really begin until after the first commercial break — Bravo might as well have cut that section out, except for the way it illustrated what an odd combination of stubborn individualists and sheepish sheep this bunch is. Even the ornery Sucklord was ready to create some intestine for the poop to travel through.

Suitably abashed, Team 1 decided to make art for a playground under the exhibit title “Play With Me,” while Team 2 became mass-hypnotized by circles and crafted stuff for a presentation called “Loop.”

Michelle dropped her poop and went with something dirtier: a semi-abstract wooden sculpture of a man getting an erection in a park. (The necessary “motion” to fulfill the original task was that any observer had to yank on a pair of splintery testicles to make the wood rise.) (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.)

Dusty made a life-size photo of himself and afixed it to one end of a teeter-totter he built. He called it “Playing With Myself.” These artists seem to have two modes: Pretentious, or infantile.

The “Loop” team came up with objets d’art such as a big ball of shredded paper (thanks, Lola); a garden hose wrapped around a bucket next to a circle with a rubber hand stapled to it (er, okay, Tewz); and Kathryn pursued her obsession, established last week, with representations of guts (which actually looped back to the digestion thing). It was also revealed that Kathryn has Crohn’s disease, which she said she was suffering from during the competition (again, not to make light of a disease, but this was more in keeping with the discarded digestion theme).

Let’s just cut to the chase with this sorry excuse for a competition, shall we? The winner was Bayete, who — get this — made a video of himself spinning around in a circle. I kid you not. Judge Jerry Saltz found it “strangely mesmerizing.” Judge Bill Powers was “impressed with the simplicity.” (Um, Bill, do you remember just last week? When Bayete made that bold statement about Old South racism by festooning a picture of a black Scarlett O’Hara with dollar bills, and you nearly evicted him for such a simplistic piece? Simplicity is this guy’s fall-back position.)

The loser: Kathryn, who immediately burst into hysterical tears which struck the judges as excessive even by the standards of reality-TV evictions, and that’s really sayin’ something. Clearly aware of her medical condition, host China Chow asked Kathryn whether she was upset or sick. “It’s a mixture,” sobbed Kathryn. I had pretty mixed feelings myself.

Let’s conclude with some mind-clearing parkour, shall we? Pay attention, Work of Art contestants: It’s called motion!!

What did you think of this week’s undulating Work of Art?

Twitter: @kentucker

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Work of Art

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