Just a couple of days ago, I posted yet another entry about Antony Gormley's enigmatic sculpture installation, "Event Horizon," currently unfolding over on Madison Square. At first, I was entirely captivated by the concept, and I loved how it was furtively spreading like some mysterious guerilla-styled phenomenon with the slight air of menace. Of course, I would later learn that it was all part of some big, city-funded project (just like those stupid Gates in Central Park a few years back), and that diluted my enthusiasm a bit. I suppose I'm being entirely unrealistic to think that this sort of stunt could have been pulled off without the consent and financial assistance of the city, but I really wanted it to remain enigmatic and unexplained. Unfortunately, that's not the case. At their website, not only is the whole thing explained (complete with a fun-ruining map that points out exactly where all the figures are), but there's also an online shop, where one can buy "Official Event Horizon apparel ." Once again, commerce and art prove inseparable.
The whole project, though, initially reminded me of the work of another artist, albeit one of an entirely different aesthetic. Self-styled insurrectionist Peter Missing left his own cryptic mark on Manhattan several years back with his amorphous band, Missing Foundation. I've written about them here before, actually (and you can hear some of MF's music in this entry I penned for The New York Nobody Sings here). In any case, back in the early 90's, I was similarly captivated by Missing's cryptic graffiti campaign and his notorious reputation for inciting confusion and hysteria (in today's world, he'd doubtlessly be branded a "terrorist"). After being adopted by/becoming synonymous with the squatter's rights movement, inciting the odd riot and being entertainingly branded a Satanic cult by an imaginative television reporter, Missing Foundation's "career" as "recording artists" almost became incidental. It was hard enough finding their releases anyway.
Missing de-camped NYC for Berlin sometime in the 90's, although MF's signature upturned cocktail glass recently started making a revival on the walls of the East Village. I still have my copies of Ignore the White Culture and Demise (although I've still never gotten hold of their arguable meisterwerk, "1933"). In any case, today I fielded a note from a label called Humanity Records, informing me of a new box set of Peter Missing's work. Beyond the fact that "box sets" used to seem reserved for the likes of more respectable and revered acts like Eric Clapton, Abba and Queen, I can't get my head around how antithetical to the fabled, anarchic Missing Foundation mythos it all seems. Once again, at the Humanity Records homepage, you can now buy an impressive array of – wait for it – official Missing Foundation apparel. Maybe this sounds disingenuous from a guy who recently spent entirely too much bandwidth harping on about the pristine sanctity of band t-shirts, but Missing Foundation never seemed like just another band. The notion of Missing Foundation merchandise seems entirely contrary to their very nature, but perhaps I'm just buying the hype.
If you spend any time listening to what Missing has to say these days (witness these mystique-immolating interviews from as recently as 2008), it's pretty clear that the man's not exactly a stranger to changing his tune (both literally and figuratively). He now preaches an agenda about the power of art and "love, love, love." Hard to believe it's the same guy that struck horror in the hearts of the landed gentry all those years ago. Anyway, the guy's gotta make a living, I guess. At least now maybe I can get a copy of "1933".