Paul Outlaw proclaims, “who puts us in a museum?” in the video that promotes the Brooklyn Museum’s annual Brooklyn Artists Ball, which is tonight! If you are familiar with his and partner Jennifer Catron‘s artwork, you might say maybe he’s right. Over the past few years the two have dipped themselves in gold, created an ostentatious food truck that served live crawfish, and have hosted a dinner with live chickens as part of their performances.
Last week I visited their studio while they were frantically preparing for their newest installation/performance piece for the Brooklyn Artists Ball and they gave me some insight into what they were preparing for the privileged couple hundred guests that will be attending the event. As part of a group of twenty artists that will be featured at the museum that night, Outlaw and Catron will be performing a piece that investigates exclusivity and celebrity – they will be hosting their own exclusive dinner on top of the dinner tables. The structure that they were preparing during our interview will be placed on top of the dinner table, offering an even further feeling of exclusivity in an already privileged event. The two will feast on a decadent feast and will even have their own personal entertainment, all the while wearing giant heads and flamboyant clothes. “We want everybody to see us”, Outlaw says. By making themselves clearly visible to everybody at the event, they are investigating the theme of celebrity, one of which is not unknown to the art world.
Since they first rolled out their food truck in 2010 in Bushwick, Jen and Paul have come a long way to be invited to the Brooklyn Artists Ball, but food has always been a central theme of their work. On the one hand, they use food in the form of gluttony and on the other as a participatory tool in their performances. “In everything we do, we are always creating a spectacle,” Jennifer Catron says, “and a unique experience for people.” She continues to say, “We really can’t get away from public participation. We like that element of engaging with the people.” On that note, Paul Outlaw traced the path from the food truck to the exclusive dinner by comparing these two performances as “fighting cousins that haven’t seen each other for twenty years.”
More so than food and engaging with the audience, Catron and Outlaw’s performances are an intimate conversation with the audience on their Sisyphean quest to achieve fame and fortune as artists. “There is a critical element in our work,” said Catron, “but we are not looking down on wealth.” Outlaw adds, “Everybody hates rich people, but everybody wants to be one.” The artists’ performances are an investigation on being rich, as they put themselves through that painstaking cycle of excess that always brings them into the harsh reality of being an artist. For their honesty of their desires, their efforts will be put on display in the museum, this time in front of an audience quite different from that in Bushwick. And, as they told me, everybody will be able to see them that night. For all of us who aren’t able to fork up the $1000 for a ticket to attend, we will be seeing more of them in the near future.