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To Subvert With Pomegranate

Phoenix's picture



Play in the City 028

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

To Subvert With Pomegranate

As a player in the city, I “explore what is permissible and what pushes at that boundary between rules and expectations” (Flanagan 13). For a long time now, I have understood instinctively that art, to me, is a way of surprising people. The first person who put this sensation into words was Dorothy Allison in her essay, "This is Our World." Allison described art as a way to challenge and to cause people to think about the ideas that they prefer to shove aside and pretend don't exist. My reaction to this was an intense sense of "I'm not the only one." According to Mary Flanagan, not only am I not the only one, I come from a long line of artists who see art as their tool to shock and surprise—their instrument of Duchamp’s “spirit of revolt” (3). “As the connection between art and critical play continues, artists will further explore embodied play and situations in and efforts to ‘unplay’ preconceived notions of…everyday living, and rework them” (Flanagan 148). Preconceived notions are exactly what I have been fighting, armed only with a pineapple and a pomegranate.

I take pictures of pineapples in ordinary places. The juxtaposition between the pineapple, a most peculiar looking object that has become normal, with a familiar location, reminds the viewer of the oddity a pineapple really is. A pineapple in bed, on a shelf next to books, answering the telephone, all have been ways I have performed critical play with a pineapple. I was not sure, then, what I was trying to subvert or what I was trying to say, only that I wished for viewers to wake up to the real world if only for a minute.

My reaction to my assignments in the city has been much the same. On the first day, I tried to think what would make taking dozens of pictures of landmarks in Philadelphia more interesting. Immediately, I remembered the uses of the pineapple, and decided that taking pictures of famous art with a pineapple would be far more interesting than without, for then I would be taking an existing piece of art and making it part of my own, rather than merely recording its existence. “The introduction of art objects and performance into public spaces, for example,” says Flanagan, “is a way that artists appropriate the cognitive space of public space, of everyday space, and functions in an interventionist fashion” (11). With an ordinary object, I can appropriate public space for a moment, and, photographing it, record it.

Unfortunately, I had no ready pineapple. I expressed the desire to my Philadelphia play-mates, and Thea suggested I try a pomegranate. Like a pineapple, a pomegranate is surprisingly colored and rather durable, and it has the added advantage of being rather more portable. In preparation for our next trip into the city, I dropped by the local supermarket. They had a row of pineapples. They also had three rows of pomegranates. I decided it was fate and bought a pomegranate to take with me.

At first, I did the same thing with the pomegranate that I have always done with a pineapple. I balanced it on a bicycle seat, a normal thing, and photographed it. Then, as we began to wander the mosaics, I began to place the pomegranate inside the mosaic. Sometimes, I could merely balance it on a wall or other object near enough to the mosaic to still be in the picture. Other times, I photographed it reflected in one of the mirrors comprising the mosaic. And finally, I was able to actually put it inside several of the pieces inserted into the mosaic--jars, bottles, statuettes, bowls, plates, and more. Any of these items easily held a pomegranate, allowing me to create and photograph my own art within Zagar's. In this way, not only was I able to subvert the ordinary, but the extraordinary, and make it my own.

Flanagan defines intervention as a direct act of subversion that “engages with social or political issues” (11). The more I work with this brand of photography, the more I understand that my purpose is to subvert people’s perception of things, to cause them to realize that the world is a truly strange place, and we are merely used to it. If this can be defined as a social issue, which I believe it can, then I am proud to call myself an interventionist.


Cathy Zhou's picture


Phoenix's artical is about her experience in the magic garden: how she came up with the idea of adding a pomegranate in her photographies, how she displayed it in different ways by adding them to parts of the mosaics.

She considered the act of putting a pomegranate in the normal view a kind of "subversion", and connected with Flanagan's texts about how the art is to intervene in the ordinary and create some new sense.

Her work of adding something new really breaks the norms and added fresh feeling in a normal scene for me.

Yancy's picture

a critical play

In the beginning of the article, Phoenix quoted some sentences from Flanagan's book and I think she caught the point of creating. She was a artist in her trip in the city. She expressed her feeling, her social issue by ‘subverting’, by a pomegranate. The fruit changed the existed mosaics and created something new. I like the photos with the pomegranate because its existence breaks the views I saw in the garden. The world is changing every day, bringing surprises. I think keep the preconceived notion is useless and Pheonix's work gives me the fresh feeling and deeper understanding of the importance of subversion. Her work is a critical play.