james powderly and eun-jung son | the lickers

Ljudmila hosted two fantastic artists – F.A.T. Lab‘s James Powderly and Korean artist Eun-Jung Son on a residency from January 6th to February 26th, 2012 in cooperation with Tobačna 001 Cultural Centre. Their final work was presented at an exhibition The Lickers, which was exhibitet at Tobacna 001 between February 23rd and April 8th, 2012. The curatorial board by Alenka Gregorič of the Ljubljana City Museum, Robertina Šebjanič, programme manager of Ljudmila and curator Ida Hiršenfelder had agreed with the artists that they may conduct artistic research of a very strange and peculiar phenomenon of painting licking. The artists traveled to most renowned museums in Europe to record and present this illegal activity in a documentary film. As a curator, I produced two texts. One was presented to the public and the other was kept secret, for there is no fun in revealing the true extent of artistic genius.

The documentary The Lickers by James Powderly and Eun-Jung Son presents the phenomenon of painting licking. Painting licking is a growing underground scene with a diverse membership including graffiti counterculture, museum cura- tors, activists, and art enthusiasts. They connect challenging aspirations regarding sports, artistic involvement in a reinterpretation of art history, and technological hacking of the surveillance systems of museums and galleries. This highly engaging documentary suggests another form of appreciating artworks, subverting the ocular-centric world view. One of the symbolic functions of licking paintings is the power of nomination. interestingly, the Latin word lingua and the Slovene word jezik can mean either language or tongue, therefore licking a piece of art proclaims the piece as worth licking, talking about, or viewing. The choice of the playful lickers is based on various interests and reasons. Some choose a particular work of art according to its monetary value. coming from graffiti culture, some lickers choose to express their admiration for the artist that inspired their own work, while others prefer a challenge, choosing instead the most well guarded masterpieces. The lickers have been extremely wary of surveillance cameras, sensors, and museum personal, hence this behavior had not been previously recorded. one of the reasons for this is that, much like Fluxus, the lickers do not see the importance of documenting their actions (they often don’t see it as art and they are rarely aware of the larger community of lickers). They attempt to undermine the sanctimonious manner of behavior in museum spaces that often demands silence and ritual behavior. The documentary contains maps, essays, and interviews with the lickers, security guards, art conservators and other professionals sharing their experiences of this highly peculiar behavior. What do the lickers experience when they come into contact with a painting? Why are they exclusively interested only in paintings? The tasting of the painting goes beyond the divisions into particular genre or style. When one licks a painting the known categories must be entirely adjusted to other categories; not just to understand the tastes such as bitter, pungent, spicy, sour, sweet, salty or just bland, but more accurately to interconnect the categories and keywords to produce descriptions like “gripping, sharp, overwhelming” or “silent, bitter, slightly monotonous”. however harmless or malevolent these acts may be for the painting, they produce humorous and poignant revelations regarding the absurdity of the legal and social ideas of ownership, originality, and property rights.

[artists] James Powderly and Eun-Jung Son
[title] The Lickers
[curator] Ida Hiršenfelder
[producers] Alenka Gregorič and Robertina Šebjanič
[production] MGML – Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana City, Ljudmila – Digital Media Lab
[duration] January, February, 2012

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