Is Swimming in a Dumpster Art? Sure. Why Not?

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Rhombi Survivor

It was unbearably hot on Saturday. A friend of mine says people shouldn't be allowed to complain about the weather in August. "It's supposed to be hot in August," he says. "If it's this hot in December, then you can complain." You know what I have to say about that? He can go swim in a Dumpster.

At the Design District Market Saturday, several hundred people sought solace from the fierce rays of Texas sunshine in the air conditioning of the Dallas Contemporary or outside in the tepid waters that filled a Dumpster pool. It was an odd sight; adults hanging over the side of this trash receptacle lookalike. I stood on wheelchair ramp outside the art space, sipped a Topo Chico and watched the public swimming. Is this art?

It's not that the market indicates an intention for it to be viewed as art, but it's a question you start to ask yourself about everything the longer you spend in the contemporary art world.

Earlier that afternoon, I attended a talk at the Nasher Sculpture Center from sculptural installation artist, Liz Glynn. Her research-driven practice centers around deconstructions of history, unrehearsed message-driven performance pieces and immersive experiences. Most of her art is performative by nature, revealing that her interests lie more in the work's impetus than output. She started her career with "The 24-Hour Roman Reconstruction Project," during which she and a handful of volunteers build a city to very small scale, only to destroy it. It was a clever statement referencing a cliche she was hearing in the news about six years ago: "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Recently at the Frieze art fair in London this year, she turned the experience of a speakeasy into an interesting commentary on exclusivity and perceived value by distributing a limited number of keys at random. She then placed a bouncer at the door, so that no one could talk her way in on the premise of entitlement.

Relocating from Glynn's talk to my perch overlooking the Dumpster pool was altogether fitting. What Glynn does is take an philosophical question about art, history or sociology and propose an artistic interpretation, following through with a physical output of some kind. Almost without exception, art requires physicalization of an idea. And here, I thought, at the Design District Market's Dumpster pool was a strange interpretation of exactly how hot it was in Dallas on Saturday: So hot that people would swim with strangers in trash bins.


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