Last night we attended Tom Marioni’s on-going installation at the Hammer Museum, Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art (1970). Rather than focusing on Object as art, Marioni probes Action (and its evidence) as art by bringing together specific music, furniture, lighting, people and general ambiance to create an environment he feels is appropriate for an art experience. This was not just another art reception, we were actually the art participating in a planned space acting as we pleased.
As we walked into the installation we were greeted by two wall drawings, a bar, shelves of beer, and of course Ed Ruscha (who was tending bar). We approached the bar and Ed Ruscha asked us what we would like to drink. I guess that was a silly question and hilarious in the fact that he opened a refrigerator full of only Pacifico beer. The bar-back happened to mention that Ruscha use to only drink Anchor Steam, but made a switch to Pacifico because it’s lighter in taste and he loves the label.
At first I will say, we felt a little awkward. We were at the Hammer Museum, so we naturally were expecting to look at something and read about it, but there were only two wall drawings and a TV with a static depiction of a gurgling beer, and of course Ed Ruscha hamming it up at the bar. Talking with our friends and strangers quickly felt ironic. Cameras and video cameras were documenting our every move. But the ice broke quickly when Tom Marioni stood upon a soapbox and played a pre-recorded trumpet announcement into the microphone. Laughter. A series of jokes and quotes then followed:
“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Benjamin Franklin
“Why is abbreviation such a long word?”
“Amateurs borrow, professionals steal” – Pablo Picasso
After ten minutes of jokes (he did ask us to tell him when his ten minutes were up), everyone seemed to have forgotten where we were and began to really let loose. I finally sat down, talked to new people and forgot about the cameras. As I talked to friends while Frank Sinatra played in the background with a Pacifico in my hand, I could not help but to be at ease.
The installation runs from August 28 – October 3, 2010. For more information please visit the Hammer Museum website.