Biting the Hand That Feeds Them


A growing number of artists are poking fun at art-world inequities in their work—even as they participate in the system they critique

The premise behind Joe Sola’s 2005 video piece Studio Visit is simple. Over a period of two years, he invited collectors, curators, and critics to his Los Angeles studio to talk about his art. He would turn on the video camera, chat amiably for a few minutes, and then take a flying leap out the closed window in an explosion of shattered glass. His guests would dash to the window, only to find Sola chortling on top of a pile of strategically arranged cardboard boxes eight feet below. “People would scream with fear and pleasure at the same time,” he recalls. He repeated this act 22 times.
Studio Visit brings together Sola’s interest in performance art and in Hollywood filmmaking. (He trained with a stuntman to prepare for the piece, and the window glass was the breakaway kind used in action movies.) But the work also serves as a way of inverting the social dynamics of the art world. During a studio visit, power and authority usually rest with the curator or collector, whose decisions can determine the course of an artist’s career. By rocketing out the window, however, Sola seized the upper hand. After his jump, he says, visitors would remain wide-eyed for the rest of the meeting. “It made the studio visit an exhilarating process,” he recalls.