As Minneapolis burns to a crisp after the murder of George Floyd by four homicidal cops (charge and arrest, and then, convict and sentence all of them already!), cities across America see police forces violently spiraling out of control at protesters, including arresting and shooting beanbag rounds at journalists, Trump goes to war with Twitter over his psychotic, blood-thirsty, white supremacist-plagiarizing tweets, and more than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19, some engaged members of the art world have responded powerfully this week by…checks notes…posting piles of fortune cookies. Look, sometimes the art world pulls a stunt that is so ill-advised and ill-conceived that it ends up becoming a pitch-perfect representation of the monetary and social capital-obsessed society that an influential segment of the art community has become.
Launched on May 25, this tone deaf idea…I mean, global art installation…invited a thousand “diverse” members of the art community–read: anyone important enough to be on Zwirner’s blue-chip rolodex–to create a pile of 240 to 1000 fortune cookies in a location of their choosing. Running for six weeks, each participant is required to refill their cookie mountain on June 14, replacing the cookies that were swiped by the hungry public.
The best part? These blessed participants were “invited” to buy their own damn cookies! According to the email posted to Twitter by The LA Times’ Carolina A. Miranda: “Each participant within the total ‘site’ will source and choose the fortune cookies that they use. Gonzalez-Torres stated that whenever possible, fortune cookies with optimistic fortunes should be used.” Lucky them! Buying shit on Amazon you don’t want or need! Perfect timing during a pandemic when package delivery is overrun, and Amazon employees are being dangerously overworked and underpaid!
And you can’t have any negative fortunes while America is going down in the flames of its own white supremacy and drowning in the OTC cough medicine of its own broken healthcare system!
I first heard about this global installation after reading Miranda’s tweets and thought to myself that this couldn’t possibly take off. But, boy was I wrong! All week I saw fortune cookies everywhere with honored, humbled, and proud participants who filled their social media profiles with fortune cookies littering parks (I guess the unnamed participants will be the parks workers who have to clean up that trash), swanky looking homes, and even swankier private collections. Even people’s pets looked on in confused horror. And yes, they’re still posting–just have a scroll of #felixgonzaleztorres.
I’ll admit, Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner) isn’t exactly the most poetic of Félix González-Torres’ candy works. Fortune cookies as a glimpse toward an unknown and unknowable future aren’t exactly a subtle symbol. Being his first, we can cut him some slack for its hit-you-over-the-head, on-the-nose quality.
However, this piece, like the rest of the candy works, is meant to reflect on mourning, loss, and what remains after that loss. By making it a participatory piece, Zwirner and Rosen seemed to want to create a “we are the world”-type gesture of togetherness during our current socially distanced, self-isolated existence. But, naturally, being the blue-chip art world, the project ends up reading the exact opposite: it’s a monument to who has the clout and the access to get an invite to participate. Certainly not me.
Even more, it seems a little off asking folks to buy food in bulk only to scatter it in piles like a squirrel, especially as record numbers of people need the services of food banks or are going without in order to feed their families. With 40 million people now on unemployment, hoarding food for art’s sake is more than a bit gauche, even if nobody is subsisting on fortune cookie’s sugary premonitions alone.
And, of course, someone may argue there is an option to take a fortune cookie if you happen upon a stack. I mean, if you see a pile of rain-soaked, water-logged, early summer humidity-moistened, moldy fortune cookies piled in a park, feel free to take a bite! Yum!
While I have much more to say, words cannot express it alone so I’ve returned to GIFs. “Read” on: