For centuries, “installing” art meant screwing a painting to the wall or a sculpture to a block of stone. Installation wasn’t art, or even something unique to art. Then Marcel Duchamp hung a lot of art high on the walls of a pitch-black room full of ladders and handed out flashlights to the visitors, and the INSTALLATION was born. Today, Installation is hot and a lot of galleries call whatever happens an Installation, if only for want of a more accurate term. M M Murdock is not one of those, however. Unlike them, the (frankly) Mysterious M M Murdock knows that an Installation is a chance to combine what’s in the show with what surrounds it, thereby creating a slice of the world in place of a dry gallery of well-behaved art. And so we have Welcome to the Wigglestick.
The subjects of Welcome to the Wigglestick are many, and not just because each of the two dozen or so wall-hung panels has something different painted on it. Painted AND WHEELED, it should be said, for each panel is in fact the body of a theoretically functional skateboard. But for all the creativity invested in the board designs, there is also a lot expended on creating an atmospheric skateboard store, complete with a glass case full of crudely carved wooden wheels and other credible accessories, topped by a cash register (and not an i-Pad), a hard-wired telephone, and an actual, functioning Rolodex. Take me back to my childhood . . . or at least to 15 minutes ago. Other bits of relevance include a ramp and several televisions, endlessly showing skateboarders in action. Just outside — their presence as much as anything marking the division between “inside” and “outside” — are a couple of newspaper vending machines and a fireplug. One imagines that in another lifetime, the Wigglestick store might also feature some stair railings and a bench complete with those fins that are meant to spoil it for skateboarders, but actually just raise the level of the challenge. A “No Skateboarding” sign might also be a nice touch. With wheel tracks across it.
Whatever disrupts the capitalists’ need to ruin the things that people create for themselves is, after all, serving a sacred task, so M M Murdock’s store is also a church, in addition to an encyclopedic assortment of graphic strategies and tactics. It should on no account go unvisited.
M M Murduck: Welcome to the Wigglestick, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Salt Lake City, through Oct. 21.
Geoff Wichert has degrees in critical writing and creative nonfiction. He writes about art to settle the arguments going on in his head.