This is sublime. Watch.
In her new installation at the Winkleman Gallery, Jennifer Dalton picks apart the lack of female guests on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, among other programs. (Image courtesy of Dalton and the Winkleman Gallery.)
Jennifer Dalton’s latest exhibit began with an inkling. She was watching the Daily Show, in which some male guest was expounding at length about something when she realized she couldn’t remember the last time a woman had sat in that place. “I thought it was me, that I was just looking for that,” she says. “Then I went into the archives and I was like, ‘No fucking way.’” Dalton counted up all of the guests listed on the program’s online archives for all of 2010. During this time, 79% of the Daily Show‘s guests were men and only 21% were women.*
She then went and performed the same exercise on a bunch of her other favorite programs. All of them featured an overwhelming majority of male guests. The Colbert Report had a guest line-up that was 82.5% male. Charlie Rose came in at 80%. Bill Maher had 74%. And Rachel Maddow — Rachel effing Maddow! — featured dudes 80.5% of the time. Public radio fared somewhat better: Leonard Lopate‘s guests were male 66% of the time, while Brian Lehrer came in at 68%. Fresh Air, however, which is hosted by a woman, checks in with a low lady-guest ratio. More than 79% of Terry Gross’s guests are male. (Bands and other groups were counted as single guests, hence the fractionals.)
“My gut is that it’s entropy,” says Dalton. “It makes me think that people are lazy. Like they’re just reblogging the same stuff.” The artist, who has previously charted the ways in which female cultural figures have been visually portrayed in the New Yorker (hint: cheesecake), has used this research to create new works for her latest solo show at the Winkleman Gallery. The central piece (shown at right) is devoted to the Daily Show, the program that spurred Dalton’s recent quest. In it, she has organized the guests by subject areas (authors, athletes, etc.) and placed the men in gold frames and the women in silver ones. The colors say it all.
Dalton says the piece was born of equal parts rage and glee. “These are heroes of mine and I think they’re doing really important work,” she explains of figures such as Stewart and Colbert. “But I just end up confused. It’s like are you with me or against me? I think of you as on my team, but maybe you don’t think of me as on your team?” She hopes that her work might get someone in some aspect of the media business to think a little bit more critically about what they do: “I would just love for these producers to be like, ‘Here’s a pile of women we rejected. Did we reject them too quickly?’” In order to do that, some of these programs might have to start by hiring a few more.
Jennifer Dalton: Cool Guys Like You opens today, at the Winkleman Gallery, in Chelsea.
*Update: Made a small correction to the Daily Show figures above. I previously had them as 78/22 male/female. The correct figures are actually 79/21.
**Further Super Duper Important Update (9/12 at 8:50pm): Some of the discussions I’ve seen on the internet about this piece suggest that Stewart’s male/female ratios are skewed towards men because he interviews so many political figures and most politicians are men. That is not the case. According to Dalton: only 18% of Daily Show guests are political figures. Of those 25 guests, only one was a woman (for a male/female ratio of 96/4). Just so you can draw some sort of comparison, the 111th Congress, which was in session when Dalton created the piece, was 17% female.
It’s actually authors and actors that make up the majority of Stewart’s guests — not political figures, as is frequently assumed. Together, these two arts-related categories make up 63% of the Daily Show‘s guests. And within these, the male-female breakouts remain nothing short of depressing. Of all the authors featured on the program in 2010, only 25% were female. Of all the actors, only 33% were women. In several categories (chefs, military figures, and filmmakers), the line-up was 100% male. Though, to be fair, he only featured one chef. What does this mean? It means that culture, as viewed through the Daily Show lens (as much as I love many parts of it), is heavily male. And don’t make me go to the gallery to count the minorities. ‘Cuz I’m sure that area is probably a hot mess, too.
Because we don’t have cable television, Celso and I often spend our evenings flipping through the variety shows, telenovelas and dubbed-over ’80s action films on one of the four Spanish-language channels our digital converter allows us access to. Needless to say, it’s a phantasmagoria of bright colors and histrionics (not to mention, dubbed-over Rob Van Dam movies). And, it probably goes without saying that the roles women are cast in are total crap. But galling sexism aside, the visuals are always worthwhile, if not bordering on surreal. Herewith, a record of some of the finer moments of our last few months of TV viewing. Buen provecho.
El Saltzino with Work of Art contestant Peregrine Honig’s nails, which read “Jerry Saltz.” Awesome. Click on the image to see it large. (Photo by C-M.)
As is customary, you can find my New York City Datebook over at WNYC. (Don’t miss the kissing skeletons.)
Plus, the Not at all Brief #workoFart Recap: Lordy, they saved the drama for last. Though maybe it all just seemed more intense because I was watching the whole mess in the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby, with the contestants running around getting schnockered in the background. Anyhow, onto the recapping business…
In the final episode of the season, Simon de Pury toured the country in a puffy parka visiting contestants. The three finalists toured “the world famous Brooklyn Museum” visiting art. (A friend commented after the show that the museum’s lawyers must have had a requirement in the contract that every episode contain at least ten uses of the phrase “world famous.”) Each finalist — Peregrine, Miles, Abdi — was given $5000 and three months to work on a show that would be shown at De Pury’s auction gallery. It was the most interesting episode out of the bunch, showing a less frantic, more personal process — and more of my new boyfriend Simon de Pury (Be Bold!). The gallery show at the end was all kinds of awesome, mainly because Sarah Jessica Parker ran around clutching her head as if it might fall off and groaning “wow” repeatedly. In the end, Abdi won.
El Saltzino has an extensive recap over at New York Magazine, in which he has some interesting things to say (towards the end) about how the show — for some viewers — may have pried the lid off of the insular, self-involved art world. While I think the program overall could have been waaaaay more interesting (the judging panel desperately needed an artist and the challenges needed to be a lot smarter), overall I’d have to agree.
Beyond that, I found Work of Art interesting because it was a reflection of the art industry in more ways than anyone would probably care to admit. First, it showed that being a socialite with connections is more important than being articulate about art (China). Two, that half the battle of art these days is being able to come up with a good story to go with it (Miles, Nicole). Three, performance artists are crazy (Nao). Lastly, it showed that the process of creating and showcasing art isn’t as pure as anyone would like to believe it is. There is a vast art world bureaucracy of art dealers, public relations specialists and art writers who create storylines around art and artists. And ultimately, it’s these storylines, not necessarily the art, that the vast majority of people are following.
This was a point that painter Richard Phillips made in a really smart way when I interviewed him for my article in Time. (Unfortunately, his quote ended up on the cutting room floor.) But he put it this way: “I’ve been to the Venice Biennale and there are always these huge displays where the artists seem like subcontractors to the celebrity curators in charge,” he explained. “Their work is being seen in this falsified synthetic world. What’s exciting about the show is that we are seeing this process in action.” And with that, I couldn’t agree more
Hasta pronto and see y’all at the world famous Brooklyn Museum…
As is customary on Thursdays, I’ve got my New York City Datebook up at WNYC. Check it out!
Plus, the Incredibly Brief #workoFart Recap: This episode was all about nature — bleak, dreary Munch-style nature. Jaclyn had a cold, Peregrine shot evil death rays of hate at Jaclyn (who was trying to cheat) and Abdi spent the show operating in an impossible vortex of positivity. Miles, in the meantime, generated his most art school project yet. (Seriously dude, lay off the process.) Nicole and Jaclyn are out, which means materiality and titties will not feature prominently in the grand finale. El Saltzino, in his most impassioned recap yet, describes the nature setting the artists have to use as right out of the Sopranos kill-Adriana episode (so true). He also talks about poodles.
On a sort of related note, the award for best quote out of the entire season goes to Saltz, in Episode 2, who describes a piece as having, “self-referentiality up the wing wong.” Somebody needs to put that on a T-shirt.
Until the finale next week…
Read it here.
Well that just explains everything, don’t it? (Screengrab by C-M.)