It DOES Get Better Than This—Bulging Joy and the Infinite Potential, John Barlog and John Burtle, Project Room G3, San Pedro, March 21–April 13, 2010
On a day when I was feeling unbelievably crappy, having had a too-close encounter with someone that I can most charitably describe as psychotically self-centered, I found myself stumbling into the opening of Johns Burtle and Barlog’s exhibition, It DOES Get Better Than This—Bulging Joy and the Infinite Potential. It must have been some kind of divine providence that ordered events in such a fashion, because there is probably no other day in recent memory when I could have appreciated this show more.
More than anything else, this show was about generosity and giving, manifested in a steady stream of silly but sincere efforts to make the world a better place. The small Project Room G3, located in the Angels Gate Cultural Center complex, was filled to the brim with suggestions for civic engagement and opportunities for fun moments. One wall was dedicated to Bubble Fountain Internationale, an organization committed to making public fountains everywhere bubbly. A pink banner decorated with a fountain logo was surrounded on both sides by newspaper clippings documenting real-life bubbly incidents. On the floor, a small replica of a fountain sitting in front of a state building frothed happily away. In another corner, you could enter a small padded room, pull a switch, and find yourself covered in a shower of feathers.
A series of colorful pamphlets put out by MTA (Making Transit Amazing) offered tips for how to make your ride on public transit enjoyable—dress up for the occasion, use the bars to do pull-ups, leave stuff behind for others to use, etc. Three issues of a zine by Citizens Promoting a More Pleasurable Public were also available, filled with stories of attempts by members to enact pleasure in public, ranging from a lotion and massage giveaway in a mall to a horny woman’s masturbation sessions in ladies’ restrooms. On yet another wall, you could sign up to participate in the Mutual Backscratch Circle.
The Two Johns’ practice is typically ephemeral and performative in nature, so this exhibition of objects was something of an experiment for them. The objects are anything but static however, as they either recall past events or sprout into present and future interventions. Rather than inert artworks, these pieces function more like connective tissue, or better, live flowers that you hold in your hand for a moment before letting the wind take it away.
In the center of the room was a large pile of gift boxes. Visitors were welcomed to either contribute to the pile, or take from it. Feeling that if ever I needed a gift today was the day, I reached for one of the boxes and opened it. I was amazed to find a bottle of wine, a box of candy, two beautiful insta-pockets that can be sewn into any garment, several packets of vegetable seeds, a lighter, and a marbled rubber ball. This was one generous takeaway gift! I left feeling a little happier and quite impressed. In accordance with the instructions on my gift box, I’m planning on consuming its contents and then refilling it to gift to another person, who will hopefully do the same, and so on and so on.