a plastic German mask.

a pile of ruby feces.

the Kent state shooting

Mark Mothersbaugh uses these elements, along with a horse with double hindquarters and a hoard of bird whistles, to make up the fantasy playland that is his exhibition “Myopia”.

The term “myopia” refers severe nearsightedness. Mothersbaugh shared this fact at his live music performance at the Woodward Theater. He elaborated on the difficultly he had seeing as a child and how this obstacle had enabled him to appreciate the beauty of seeing the world in a slightly warped way.

Starting with his experience as an ungrad , Mothersbaugh had been raised in a time of domesticity with anxiety running rampant below to surface due to the Vietnam war. While on the campus of Kent State his fellow classmates were gunned down by The Ohio National Guard, members not much older than the students themselves. This  turning point in American culture gave Mothersbaugh and his newly formed band, Devo, a break from art school and a chance to hone their act. It seems as if this horrible and violent act inspired a sense of childlike rebellion akin to the Dada movement.

In order to cope with the death and destruction around them the band came up with the theory of “de-evolution” and did everything in their power to break out of the dark, mature reality of war. One of the results of this was that Mothersbaugh had taken to wearing a plastic mask he called “Booji Boy”. While the mask was on Mothersbaugh felt free of his everyday anxiety and once wore the mask for an entire cross-country tour.

In the entrance to the exhibit you can see the influence of this war. The first glimpse is the film that uses actual Kent State video to focus on victim Allison Krause. The second was a faux-memoir supposedly written by Booji Boy, Mothersbaugh’s alter ego, with the title “My Struggle” which is the English translation of the title of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” manifesto which he wrote while imprisioned. Although Mothersbaugh makes this literary leap a little tongue in cheek, it stings none the less.

Moving towards the sound and darkness in the room next door there are 3 works in one room. The first is a loop of early Devo music videos and performances that even feature Booji boy. A set of black light posters that Mothersbaugh made later in life, and look like an attempt to recreate his Kent State college accommodations is on display there.  Last, is a large ruby rock shaped and sculpted to appear like a magnificent ice cream cone. In reality Mothersbaugh originally crafted the ruby into the shape of an emotji poo and only decided to mount it to a cone after the fact. This whimsy continued throughout this room and the next.

The playful sound of sound of whistles blaring through the room served two purposes Mark Mothersbaugh would appreciate. First this sound installation made up of hoarded bird whistles seemed to mock the “speak quietly please” nature of the sacred art museum, and secondly the docents who were arranged to learn about the curated thought behind the retrospective were frustrated and flustered to have to yell over this contemporary contraption. It was a small stretch of the imagination to picture a young Mothersbaugh finding a way to blow these same whistles while in school and driving his teachers wild; I have no facts to back up this idea, just an intuition based on his art and live performance.

Mothersbaugh’s “Myopia” exhibit is a feast for the eyes. In addition to all of these works there are also carpets with cartoon characters, mutant daguerreotypes,  thousands of sketches, and even an entire car! The elements of strange that are brought together to celebrate this surreal world make this exhibit worth coming to more than once, as you never know what might catch your eye if you look a little closer.

–Katie Dreyer

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