Sunday, September 23, 2007

MMoCA's Favre exhibit: pandering, pompous and patronizing

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is like a god to me. Much of my childhood conditioning has worn off, and I'm no longer that fond of football -- and, as the Iraq war drags on and on, the attractions of this quintessential war game have begun to pall. But Favre keeps me watching -- the Packers at least, especially in this, perhaps his last, season. He's about to celebrate his 38th birthday and just today had another monster game against San Diego, complete with one of his patented come-from-behind scoring drives to win in the closing minutes.

In his 16th season, the Packers are off to their best start in years (3-0) and, for the moment, there's a at least a theoretical possibility that he will lead an otherwise mediocre Packers team to a last hurrah at the Super Bowl, or if not that, at least make the playoffs one more time, through strength of will and sheer, aging athleticism. At an age when most quarterbacks have retired, Favre is off to his best start in years, is playing with joy and exuberance, and is an inspiration to those people everywhere who are supposedly over-the-hill.

So does that mean I think it was a great idea for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to put on a big show this fall celebrating the career of Brett Favre, with an installation that adds another piece for every game (that circular installation in the photo is made up of little , blank plaster TV sets, and one will be added for each game Favre plays)? Um, no. I think it's pandering, pompous and patronizing. Some examples from the web page for Tim Laun: Sunday, September 20th, 1992:
Pandering: On September 20, 1992, Green Bay Packers quarterback Don Majkowski was tackled to the ground and suffered a strained ligament in his ankle. Louisiana-born Brett Favre took over as quarterback. Initially, Favre’s novice colors showed through his green and yellow Packer uniform as he fumbled the ball and threw interceptions, but he soon took control. The Packers won the game, and Favre has started every game since.
Pompous: Laun says his role in creating Tim Laun: September 20th, 1992 was akin to a curator’s, honing and packaging Favre’s career for the thinking fan. Using scale and seriality, Laun asks the viewer to consider new questions about how we experience, perceive, and adore sports—to be at once believers and critics.
Patronizing: Express It! Workshop, Friday, October 5, 6–8 pm: The Superbowl is a pinnacle of achievement for a football player such as Brett Favre. Players from the winning team receive a special ring to commemorate their triumph. Adults and kids ages 8 and up are invited to stop by the museum’s classroom to make a “championship ring” to celebrate their accomplishments at home, work, school, or on the playground.
Call me a grinch, but I just think this is the most cynical and exploitive museum show in Madison in recent years, or should I say wannabe cynical and exploitive? Judging from the size of the crowd (nonexistent) this weekend, maybe it's not even working for them.


Dr Diablo said...

MadMan, it saddens me to learn that the deadly games of Coach Bush and his sinster team have dulled your appetite for football, making you feel like you're watching the Bagdhad Packers. This melancholy frame of mind seems to have colored your view of the Favre exhibit. I find nothing to justify your scorn--only the frothy prose typical of sports journalism or, for that matter, art criticism. If your budget software allows it, please highlight in yellow the passages that you find pandering and pompous.

I don't know about patronizing either, but I will grant that the fashioning of "Championship rings" is fatuous. I always hating making those lanyards at camp and will not be on hand to make a fake Super Bowl ring for myself. If it were a Lombardi Trophy for my mantel, maybe.

Favre is the Nolan Ryan of football--so gifted that age can claim 25% of his skills and still allow him to be a great player. He has been a joy to watch for many years. If he reaches the playoffs, though, it will only be because he competes in the NFL's lamest division. The Bears persist in starting Rex Grossman. The Vikings have turned to a journeyman, Kelly Holcomb, after trying to win with no-talent Tavaris Jackson at QB. The Lions are run by ex-player and broadcaster Matt Millen, whose drive to lose is as intense as Favre's drive to win.

In one of his off-season grabs for attention last winter, Favre denounced the Packers for their failure to beef up the offense. His words glowed with the fire of Truth. The lack of a running game ensures that the Green and Gold will not advance very deep into the playoffs. Too bad. However, I expect Brett to play for five more years, so he will have other chances to claim a 2nd Super Bowl ring--or make one at a museum workshop.

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Diablo, yes, Brett Favre is unbelievable. Nolan Ryan indeed. And watching Favre in the twilight of his career is wonderful -- but other than that, the allure of the game has been fading for years. It;s all so overproduced now. But that's just me.

But the MMoCA is another matter. Unless they want to rename themselves the Madison Sports Hall of Fame and change their mission to match, MMoCA should probably leave sports to the sports fans. Meanwhile, they could have showcased some local artists in the space where Tim Laun will be adding little, tiny blank plaster TV sets -- one for each Favre game -- all autumn long.

Bud Diablo said...

Overproduced? You bet. This year's NFL opener was such a painfully otusized spectacle that I averted my gaze, electing to just check the score periodically on the internet. A while back, a Weekly World News I read at the checkout described an experimental drug called Revivitol that could reanimate a corpse for 10 minutes or so. I expect the NFL to get ahold of some and resurrect Abe Lincoln just long enough for him to toss the ceremonial coin.

In the League's defense, it is simply acknowledging the reality that NFL football is show biz. An NFL game has more in common with a WWF match or production of "Showboat" than with the Harvard-Yale game.

There is a reason why most local artists have remained local phenomena: No talent. I just attended a wine-and-cheese reception for a painter who, all aglow, fielded questions from friends and family about the symbolism of his paintings; no one asked why the people appeared taller than the shops in his Italian street scene, or why he didn't take the online Art 101 class that I believe covers perspective. I would support your proposal to showcase local talent if the artistes were as talented as they are local.

By the way, I think the Favre exhibit was deserted because its intended audience would naturally have been at home this weekend watching the Badgers on Saturday and the Packers on Sunday while drinking continuously. They'll flock to the Favre-a-rama during Green Bay's bye week.

Madison Guy said...

Well, that was a night game Saturday and State Street was just swarming with people looking for a little entertainment and diversion that afternoon.

And isn't the Packer fan's normal response during a bye week to stay glued to the sofa, beer in hand, to see what Da Bears are doing?

Dr Diablo, #11, Punter, 6'0", 190 lbs said...

During the bye week, we don't care how the Bears are doing as much as we care how our Fantasy Football teams are doing. We don't watch Rex Grossman stumble around, a spectacle easily visualized anyway; we watch the stats update live on

Favre needs one TD pass to set a new career record, and he needs to throw three interceptions to break George Blanda's record for career picks. Packer fans will return to Earth this weekend. Since the Viking defense is hard to run on and the Pack finds it hard to run, Favre will be slingin'; put the opportunistic Minnie defense down for those three interceptions and a defensive TD. Always classless, I think the Vikes may stop the game to announce Brett's record-breaking interception and perhaps present him with the ball. Vikings 27 Packers 10.

"Thrifty Ted" Thompson must swallow hard every time he sees the monster stats Randy Moss puts up for New England. Despite intense lobbying from Favre, Thompson declined to sign Moss to a Packer contract. Because of Green Bay's fluky 3-0 start, Ted has a reprieve, but he will soon be reluctant to go to the Green Bay Red Owl without pepper spray in his jacket pocket. When those redneck inebriates turn on you, you fear the loss of more than your popularity.