Pope.L’s fanciful etymology of ‘hospital’ as ‘stranger’ is only one of this show’s missed metaphors. The centrepiece is a crumbling scaffold on which the nearly naked artist ate the Wall Street Journal in 2000. Reading the Journal is said to increase a person’s wealth. It didn’t for Pope.L and there was no budget to test this thesis again today.
This monumental detritus confuses correlation with causation and forces accord with the now naïve staging of Wall Street as the main enemy. To make matters plainer still, the artist invites visitors to sprinkle “white stuff” onto his crumbling edifice, only to laugh behind their backs later.
The replication crisis continues in a 2008 video performance in which chickens and goats graze on and then topple the US Capitol building. This confounds the sources and forms of power and lands in the joke section of Animal Farm and not as a prophecy of the Jan 6th insurrection as the show guide would have it.
All this is as though the artist didn’t trust the audience to make meaning in his absence. The less performative parts of the exhibition – installations of wine bottles and hospital paraphernalia stained by decay – are free from this anxiety.