Rainn Wilson and the LA County Museum of Art

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.


Rainn Wilson’s Twitter avatar. Going for the Nick Nolte look.

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.


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  • The man is a comedian, which is an artist of it's own trade. He was just enjoying his own type of art, and you being stuffy and anal, cannot see that. Art comes in all different shapes and sizes, and you are partial to the serious art, he is not. You are insulting his art just at much as you think he is insulting yours. Remove head from ass, then type.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    Thanks for the advice, re: head and ass, Heather.

    In the interest of *actually* making this a productive exchange I'd like to hear more about why you LIKED Rainn Wilson's tweets. I've outlined why I disliked them.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    I agree with Heather. He is a comedian. Art and artists are often not approachable by the masses because sometimes they do take themselves too seriously. Do you realize how many people were reached because of Rainn's silliness? We came to you through him. That you wanted more depth is understandable, but like you said, he collects art, was raised by an artist and but what you didn't say is that he has learned how to reach large numbers of people, which was his gift to people such as yourself and artists who might not work so well with people outside their field.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    Someone has a bit of a bee in their bonnet, don't they? The only thing this article is accomplishing is to tell the universe that you, my friend, are a pretentious snob. It doesn't matter if Wilson's tweets were entertaining or not, this article didn't need to be written. Some things just aren't worth ranting about, sorry bud.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    Have you even seen "The Office?" Rain pretty much tweets in character. Almost all his tweets are meant to be entertaining. The fact that you don't get the joke means the joke is on you. BTW, Rain's character on "The Office," Dwight, wouldn't have got the joke either.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    Also I would disagree that Wilson is disinterested (or "not partial") to what you call "serious art." As I stated, his father is a professional artist, he's an art collector, he writes on pop culture. But as your post evidences, that never came across, which is a shame. And that's my point, it was a missed opportunity.

  • In reply to heatherannrice:

    To bohubbard: Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree that Wilson did reach more people, but my point here is what was the result of that reach? Were people more inclined to visit LACMA or did Wilson's tweets simplify solidify a feeling that there was nothing there worth seeing? I believe his tweets spread misunderstanding and contempt for visual art, as I stated. Ironically, by opposing Wilson's tweets and calling them as I see 'em, I seem to also be spreading contempt. But for me. Which is fine.

    To WritingInsomniac: I can blog about whatever I want, this involved culture and I felt like commenting. That's reason enough to write. But more than that, I'm opposed to voices that spread contempt and misunderstanding of visual art, there's enough of that already out there. As to the snob comment, that's your call, but, yeah, I guess I don't find fart and poop jokes as instantly funny as I once did. I guess getting older sucks like that. But I still love South Park.

    As to his Twitter account, it's simply untrue that he tweets in character. His tweets from yesterday (9/6) referenced his actual father and son. He blogs in character for NBC (Dwight).

    And yes, I watch "The Office." I've seen every single episode and yes, Wilson as Dwight is hilarious. That's undeniable. But that's also not the point here. Rainn Wilson could have choosen to Tweet as Dwight but he didn't.

    I would still like someone to write about WHY they liked the Twitter stunt.

  • In reply to Skeptical:

    Why I liked the Twitter stunt:

    I follow Rainn Wilson on Twitter. He announced he was taking over their Twitter profile. I then followed LACMA because of it (I assume LACMA's following grew simply because they had a celebrity tweet for them, increasing awareness of the Museum). Wondering why Rainn was tweeting interestingly AGAINST the art museum made me look up the reasoning behind it. After a quick Google search, I learned that it was a LACMA stunt. I found that to be clever, and a unique idea. Knowing that Rainn is an art fan makes the whole situation ironic, and more humorous. He brought attention to the museum, and as 2,000,000+ people follow Rainn Wilson, myself included, I'm sure some of them are now more inspired to visit the museum because he joined with LACMA to (in an interesting manner) raise awareness about it. I plan on visiting soon simply because of learning more about LACMA. Maybe I'm weird, but I can't be the only one.

  • In reply to SeyYes:

    Thanks for your response SeyYes. I'm glad that it worked for some.

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