Comparing Acorns to Turtles: Media Misses the Point in Duke Riley Artscapade

As we know, on Friday artist Duke Riley launched a self-made vessel, the Acorn, into the Buttermilk Channel in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The plan: launch a conceptual art incursion against luxury cruiser Queen Mary 2, which had just docked in the harbor. Videotape self-made vessel against said ship, producing documentary footage for upcoming gallery show. The result: much sought after detainment by the NYPD or the Department of Homeland Security or whoever as his gallerists, Alberto Magnan and Dara Metz, cheered him on and offered to post bail. Balls out.


Image courtesy David Winter/ The New York Times

Duke and his co-conspirators tipped off the media before their departure, thus Saturday’s pre-game coverage in the NYT, replete with a professionally shot slide show and video (can’t stand how the Times struggles to adopt the hyperlink/ Flickr/ YouTube mediums!). The news-breaking blogs covered it, and a Flickr photostream was quickly established. Riley’s spectacle was a smashing success; the Acorn’s market value increased exponentially, and will no doubt sell at his upcoming show. Both of the aforementioned are moot points, however. Warhol, 60/70’s performance, Cattelan, Debord, Bourdieu, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…the spectacle thing has been covered in practice and in theory. The horse died. Like, a long, long time ago.

What I find curious (predictable, obvious, and yet still somehow surprising to me every time) is that folks bought the show before the object. Riley’s obsession with obscure, antiquated sea vessels is so much more interesting than what came of it. As was mentioned only in passing by the press, the Acorn is actually a Turtle, a submarine designed and built in 1776 by Yalie David Bushnell. It’s a fascinating contraption, and Riley actually has as much in common with engineers, inventors, and maritime enthusiasts and historians as he does with Chelsea. So why diminish that aspect of the project up by enacting the same tired formula: performance, photographic/film/ video documentation, sale of said performance relics and documentation. Lame!

cross-section of the Turtle submarine; image couresty Wikipedia


1 Comment

Filed under Contemporary Art, Criticism, Media, Performance

One response to “Comparing Acorns to Turtles: Media Misses the Point in Duke Riley Artscapade

  1. Eliot

    Yes, but: hidden invisible leg weights.

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