Actor Rainn Wilson, best known for his portrayal of “fascist nerd” (Wilson’s own words) Dwight Schrute on NBC’s “The Office,” took over the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Twitter feed from Friday afternoon, August 6th, to just before midnight on the following Saturday. What could have been an interesting opportunity fizzled out like the fart jokes Wilson sent over the LACMA feed.
I don’t know what I expected Wilson (@rainnwilson) to do with the LACMA Twitter (@LACMA), I understand that he himself is an art collector and his father is a professional artist, a painter. So I guess I (@AbrahamRitchie) was hoping for something. What Wilson delivered on the LACMA Twitter could be summed up in the actor’s own tweet: “Pfffftttt (fart noise).” And lots of it.
Perhaps I am taking it too seriously, as a Chicago Tribune writer suggested. I don’t think so. Wilson’s tweets reminded me of the worse parts of Roger Ebert’s recent writing on Modern architecture; it reinforced public stereotypes of artists and art, it seemed to spread misunderstanding, and was annoyingly puerile for one of the nation’s most important encyclopedic museum.
So let’s look at a few examples.
If you stand in a gallery of Abstract Expressionist work you will likely hear something like “I could paint that,” which seems to be the standard way for people to make themselves comfortable around challenging art–by knocking it down. Wilson did the same thing: “Me.
LACMA.. today, 2 p.m. – I’ll be next to the painting w/ the pretentious
name that looks like a goblin threw up on the canvas #rainn”
Then there was Wilson’s tweet: “My new scupture is displayed in the 2nd floor mens room. It’s made of feces & shaped like a big poo. #Rainn“. Most of us know the stereotype that this reinforces: that artists are sick and lazy people; that new art is obscene and not as glorious as the art of the past. This could have been an opportunity for Wilson to add a kernel of knowledge while even keeping the poop joke, appending something like “wait, Piero Manzoni did it first? And 90 times?“ or “nevermind, I guess Paul McCarthy did it bigger and his poo threatened orphans.” Instead Wilson just stayed at the level of jokes I found funny in third grade.
Wilson’s posts that were also occasionally confusingly vitriolic, like “Hey LACMA, how’s it feel to know that 9 year olds on field trips resent having to visit you? #Rainn” until he signed off saying “Hey, LACMA, I hate you. I hope you’re swallowed by a tar pit. Rainn out. #rainn” Again, this adds absolutely nothing, it seems angry and disaffected. Perhaps he was going some direction like Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, but he never got there, and Ruscha, Rainn is not. Not even close.
Wilson did have a couple (literally two) funny tweets like “LACMA fully supports the ‘Birthers’ & demands to see Prez Obama’s signed birth certificate! Show up @8PM for BIRTHER RALLY @LACMA. #Rainn” If birther conservatives had really shown up at LACMA (again relying on the perception of the museum as a bastion for liberal artists) for a rally that would have been kinda funny.
But ultimately this was a stunt and LACMA seemed to be willing to risk anything (dignity, public trust) to get access to Wilson’s 2+ million Twitter followers. It’s just too bad this was a damaging stultifying stunt rather than anything remotely enlightening. In Twitterspeak Wilson on LACMA was a #FAIL.