The Therapeutic Hour: Art and Art History Explained

Seminar Room, Otago Polytechnic School of Art, Dunedin

02/04/2009 - 04/04/2009

Production Details

What makes great art great? Why do we love it, or loathe it? An illustrated lecture in rhyming verse that deconstructs and demystifies theories of Art and Art History. The abstruse is clarified, the obtuse explained. Myths and metonymic contiguities are exposed, revealing the inner-spatial dialectic and the inter-contextual possibilities offered by an analogue of reason.

Dates: 2, 3, 4 April 2009
Venue: Seminar Room, Otago Polytechnic School of Art 
Time: 6.30pm (2nd, 3rd, 4th) 2pm (Fri 3rd)
Prices: Koha  



Eccentric and erudite ‘art history for dummies’

Review by Sharon Matthews 04th Apr 2009

Part of the excitement of a Fringe Festival is the extension of theatre into non-traditional spaces. So I happily make my journey in search of the "inner-spatial dialectic" promised by The Therapeutic Hour produced by Art Hysterical Productions. I travel from the boarded up frontage of the old Otago Polytechnic School of Art via carpark, corridor and wrong door, and am rescued by two very helpful men in blue overalls carrying black rubbish bags, to arrive at last at the seminar room in the new building.

Here I am welcomed by a towering figure on stilts in an academic robe faced with hot pink, like a more benign Ralph Steadman cartoon. The characterisation immediately signals the tone of the production: this mock tutorial is intended to reverse and debunk concepts of academic status and high art.

The history of Art History is explained in rhyming verse, performed in a seminar room lit by flouro tubes, with slides: a list of recommended reading and a quiz to hand in. Sounds incomprehensible and deadly dry? Not at all!

This is performance poetry at its most accessible. The language is fluid and funny, colloquial and abstruse. Metonymonic contiguitys rub shoulders with dreadful puns, including a memorable recipe for elephant soup. Complex artistic philosophy is clearly and concisely explained.

The sheer scale of the project is dazzling; a towering epic forty minutes of tight and listenable rhyme, delivered with style and flourish by a confident and charismatic solo performer. The illustrating slides are an intriguing and thought-provoking mixture of artists from Michaelangelo to Andres Serrano.

However I feel that the venue and the setting do not do justice to the dazzling scope of the verse. The use of a real seminar room with lecture chairs gently mocks the pomposity of the topic but using the existing fluorescent lighting only detracts from the experience. As the evening progresses and the natural light fades outside, shadows gather in the corners obscuring the figure of our litterateur. An unobtrusive spotlight would not have detracted from the intended mock academic effect and would have given a greater focus without compromising the design aesthetic. Characterization and content are both delightfully extreme and deserve an equally eccentric platform.

How to categorize it? Performance art? Performed poetry? Mutated academic lecture? Certainly the pun contained in the name of the collective strongly indicates their intentions. Gloriously wonderfully erudite, ‘art history for dummies’ certainly, but immensely watchable whether you are interested in art or not.

Demand that this lecture comes to a hall near you!
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