Paul McCarthy

Puppetry Heroes: Mentors, Influences, Inspiration, + Legends

In 2015, I was nominated for Ronnie Burkett’s Puppetry Heroes: Mentors, Influences, Inspirations and Legends Challenge… And so began five days of writing on instagram and facebook about artists like Nancy Andrews, Paul Mc Carthy, JoJo Baby + Greer Lankton, Janie Geiser, and the style of puppetry known as kuroko.

Day 2 – Paul McCarthy

Today I draw inspiration from the world of contemporary art with the work of Paul McCarthy who uses giant masks, and animatronic figures in his videos and installations. I’m not sure when in art school I first encountered the Paul McCarthy’s work, whether it was in The Body and Its Excesses Survey, or in the History of Video Art?

Nonetheless, McCarthy addresses cultural taboos – the grotesque and perverse as a reaction to the absurdity of our heroes. Humor and playfulness can be seen through his dystopic portrayal of inner lives of iconic cartoons and fairytale characters.

In his performance/video, Pinnochio Pipenose Houshold Dilemma, McCarthy dressed as Pinocchio manipulates a nearly identical doll to reenact a sadomasochistic domestic drama. In this abject exploration of bodily fluids, ketchup and fudge transcend into blood and feces. McCarthy examines the symbolic contagion of identity by having audience members dress in similar Pinocchio masks and costumes, blurring the line between witness and participant.

In The Garden, the viewer sees a highly artificial movie set version of a forest. Upon closer inspection, a hyper realistic male animatronic figure becomes one with nature as he fucks a tree. Nearby, a younger automaton humps the ground. McCarthy also collaborated with another artist-hero of mine, Mike Kelley, for a radical retelling of Heidi using partial and life-size rubber figures to deconstruct the purity myth of Heidi and the media view of “family life, horror movies and ornamentation”, as McCarthy put it.

While in Los Angeles at REDCAT, I saw a multi-screen video installation, Carribean Pirates created by McCarthy and his son Damien. The projections included vignettes that might be found in pirate movies that examine ideas of invasion, plunder and depravity, using giant oversized masks and animatronic amputations.