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Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn

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Work of Art: Episode 2, Jump! Jump!

Posted: 10/18/11 06:27 PM ET

It was fun to be back, hanging with China, Bill and Jerry. The familiar non-descript offices temporarily filled with able bodies. Busy interns and earnest producers milling about, while in the judges lounge we are quickly made-up (money well spent), soon to be shepherded down to the "exhibition opening." Jerry is lamenting the dangers of the free catered food - as I grab out of the candy bowl.

The set is just below - with boom crew at the ready (a stylish tattooed band of gypsies traveling to and from various reality show sets), and the video village behind (haven't been invited in), ie: ground control. The gallery show, a mimic of an art opening, is peppered with curious onlookers, gawkers, and Bill's special guests- the one judge who manages to coral cool friends to the various challenge shows.

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China, Jerry, Bill and me, backstage with performance artist, Kalup Linzy

Today, the challenge is about movement. The day before China and Simon took the kids to the park to see a surprise presentation of Parkour. For those of you who do not know Parkour - it is a French form of street dance with acrobatic type moves, practiced in the city space. The practitioners are like Bruce Lee action heroes, minus the colorful costumes and villains. While non-competitive, one imagines that they have a "there are no limits" attitude. I'm officially obsessed with learning a flip off a wall, though it might take a decade.

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I am totally digging this challenge showcasing motion and the urban environment. The physical nature of making art is a great topic, from Calder giving sculpture flight and motion, to Jackson Pollock dancing around his canvases, Matthew Barney scaling walls, feats of endurance in Performance art, and on and on...

Without any grand gesture or gimmick, the artists were simply divided down the middle to make up team A and team B. The following sequence of the kids working in the studio was lively and fun to watch. And then came the judging. I had hoped that with one less permanent judge (me), there would be more TV time devoted to crits. Still, Bill delivers his clever street-smart quips and Jerry his art-smart jabs. Though glad not to have been cast as sidekick, our dialogue is over before I have time to make notes. The real time judging is comparable to a graduate school studio crit, to which I often liken this situation/simulation. (Ok- this is a bit more sped-up.) This season's young cast furthers this analogy.


It is fascinating to learn the construction of this TV genre. Its editors are like unreliable narrators (so, the best storytellers), who tailor and highlight mere moments to carve out a drama. Suspense is found in facial expressions and delayed deliveries, repeated as commercials breaks. On his blog, Jerry deconstructs what it is like to be on WoA - lamenting, celebrating, apologizing, deriding, ok-ing everything in his wake. His popular online "conversations" form a new kind of oral history. This dialogue, open to all, places Jerry in a new interactive line of fire.

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But, now onto our confused contestants. Team B went from bad (migration) to worse (circles). Leon's collection of trash that he reduced to a formal study on balls- and then circles, lead the group towards its formal, lifeless doom. Young's earthquake memorial flag in humble metallic (bling) was beautiful and redemptive, bringing back good memories of those by Reena Spaulings. Lola's shreds should have been shredded, more. Street artist Tewz's inert coils and "clock", sprang from a studio practice rather than anything urban or springy. He was very nearly gone. Kathryn, who suffers from Crohn's disease, was perhaps too physically weak to compete, but more was not flexible enough to get beyond her good start. Remember, this is also an endurance game, where youthfulness and fitness play a part. I would have liked to see what her Ivy league art school (Yale) training could have brought. But, annoyed even when an employee cries, I could not pull out a sympathy card for her.

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Still wondering how Team A gleaned "digestion" from Parkour? Kymia's team description of a digestion machine was cringe-worthy, if not comical. Thank goodness for Simon - the true hero of this episode, who brightly re-galvanized both teams. Sucklord got the challenge intuitively, and though he did not want to listen to Michelle ("she has immunity"), understood that the guys jumping around were the starting point to the challenge. And, ba-bam- the playground. I still did not like the character he played, and was glad we did not call upon him to defend himself in a crit. Playground was ultimately too tight and didactic in presentation, but thankfully Michelle wrought a pervert to the scene. And so, while the orange that threaded the works together was handsome and team savvy on and off TV, for my taste - Playground played too clean. (Dusty and his Dusty seesaw was lucky to be on the winning side.) Finally, Bayete's swing from the bottom to top was well earned by simple means. As Einstein once said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Note: This post has been updated from its original version.