L.H.O.O.Q.

November 25, 2012

Scottsdale Fashion Square (aka Scottsdale Quarter) is one of Arizona’s most upscale shopping centers in the state. Scottsdale is ranked fourth in per capita income with a median family worth of $73,846.00 only to be outranked by its neighbors Rio Verde, Carefree, and Paradise Valley topping the list at $164,811.00. Scottsdale is also the “whitest” and “cleanest” city I have ever lived in (not by choice I might add). Incidentally, this is where a majority of the contemporary art collectors live and house their collections. You might also discover a majority of these residencies are second and third summer/winter homes making the per capita income figures misleading. It is not surprising then that Scottsdale Fashion Square can sustain a comfortable living amongst all this disposable income. I live and work in Scottsdale, the wealth it generates keeps the line of work I’m doing not only possible but entirely dependent upon it. I cannot afford to shop at Scottsdale Fashion Center. But if I can’t shop there, I can at least intervene in some Occupy Wall Street sort of way, artistically speaking of course, through some fashionable and blatant uprising of free expression and corporate bashing. The problem is, would anyone understand? My impetus… Fashion Square’s corporate logo is a curious design; obtuse and uninspired it may be but entirely to blame for my inspired determination. After all, desire I’m guessing is responsible for nine-tenths of my most stupid behavior and calls to action. Why should this be any different? Anyway, I’m not sure who the poor bastard was behind the layout let alone the committee approval, but it is as secular and codified as the people who shop there. The logo is comprised of four “O’s” in a square pattern with the bottom right circle replaced by a “Q” or something like this: OO OQ I must admit, it took several weeks to figure out what it meant. I pondered its cryptic message during my daily drives to and from work. Finally it occurred to me the logo’s square format signified of course Fashion Square and the “Q” meant “Quarter” or small neighborhood (of shops). Such relief! A discovery which inevitably led me to this… In 1919, the French artist Marcel Duchamp created the work entitled “L.H.O.O.Q.” – a readymade – comprised of a cheap reproduction of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee penciled in by Duchamp himself. Symbolic vandalism at its best if there is such a thing disguising itself as a very bad pun. The letters don’t mean anything by themselves, but if you pronounced each one individually and more importantly in French, you’d get what sounds like “Elle a chaud au cul” or “she’s got a hot ass”. My French friends tell me it can also mean someone (typically a woman) who is extremely horny. I have no proof of this. I always thought it translated to “lèche au cul” or roughly “kiss (lick) ass” which phonetically I believe is better suited to the sounds made when the letters are pronounced. I also believe it explains the smirk on Mona’s face as everyone enjoys a good ass tickling. But I digress. It also reminds me of the expression “lèche vitrine” or “window licking” as something you do when you go shopping but cannot afford to buy anything – like me. And now for the dilemma and minor confession: I doubt Scottsdale Quarter has anything I want or need. I don’t despise the people who shop there either – conspicuous consumption and all. With lawyer’s fees up the wazoo (divorce), I doubt I’ll ever have the luxury of liberal spending and that’s ok. Why then do I feel compelled to vandalize their façade? Because it’s funny. Like Duchamp, I’m punning on a readymade, situation or object that in itself is harmless and banal. I’m negatively commenting on a human compulsion to shop in hopes of having a few laughs with my art savvy friends – who doesn’t know Duchamp after all? And herein lies the problem. Duchamp’s readymades are not as revolutionary as they may seem, clever yes, funny definitely, they only provide us with a brief moment of “ah-ha I get it” and a smirk on our face. There is nothing wrong with that. However, they are liberating in their ability to randomly comment, poke fun at, or otherwise opinionate or “make” in terms of artwork, works that have no sense of purpose or meaning. The freedom to do so without constraint or objections from the peanut gallery (aka the art world) somehow transformed them into iconic status and liberated a whole generation of artists with lame ideas to venture forth with their creations. The imperceptible difference between Duchamp and these artists is the degree of seriousness and intent they manifest(ed), and for the artists, the lack of inspiration. Just because someone opens a door for you doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to walk through. My point is this: if I climb up on a ladder one night and somehow manage to change Scottsdale Quarter into Duchamp’s Quarter with a few letter changes, what will I have accomplished? Who is my audience? Who will even get the reference, certainly not the judge I’m sure? Is this a crime of passion or an art crime? Who indeed will have the last laugh?

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