Hennessy Youngman had no prepared remarks

Alaina Stamatis

Hennessy Youngman, E-Z 2 Luv via YouTubes

Electronic Arts Intermix

Jayson Scott Musson stepped onto the speaker platform of his sold-out screening at Electronic Arts Intermix and was handed a microphone to introduce a series of his Hennessy Youngman videos. Hennessy Youngman (“AKA the Pharoah Hennessy, AKA Mr. Museums”), a character of Musson’s invention, is a street-wear-collecting, expletive-employing (literally, every sentence ends with “and shit”), high art critic/theorist/authority whose “ART THOUGHTZ” YouTubes decrypt the complexities of critical theory and explain the impacts of contemporary art giants through absurd and reasonable tangents, like so:
“You be like, God Is Good, and Post Structuralism is like, God Can Suck My Fucking Dick. You be like, Maury, I Am Not The Father Of That Baby, and Post Structuralism is like, You Are The Father Of That Baby. You be like, The Sky Is A Beautiful Blue, and Post Structuralism is like, Nigga That’s A Deep Cerulean, Get Your Shit Right, Get Your Colors Right, Man.”
Now amplified in a room full of hungry fans, Musson explained that he had nothing prepared to say before the shorts screened, and then thanked everyone for being there, and then apologized.
EAI screened 10 ART THOUGHTZ, including “How to Be a Successful Artist”, “How to Make an Art”, “Post Structuralism”, “Beuys-Z”, and “The Sublime”, and debuted “The Studio Visit” and “Grad School”. EAI also played Musson’s short titled “At the Shoe Shine Stand”, which combined black face (or painted face) as it often appears in performative work with the look of a tourist portrait stand (different black celebrities’ photographs under a clear plastic sheath, mounted on an upright board, organized by skin tone) beside a shoe shine chair. Did the short stand out? Not really. It was the same length as anything else, and ART THOUGHTZ, in debunking art world hysteria, also diagnoses the racism of the typically unvaried art world:
“If you want to become a successful artist: 1. Ummm be white. Alright, being white helps ‘cause ummmm, white makes the world go round… Umm, 2. Be a white male. Being a white man, your voice is a universal voice, therefore anything you make won’t be burdened with any kind of like, cultural labels that niggas and bitches have to deal with.”
During the talk after the film, moderator Josh Kline of EAI, who knew Musson from Philadelphia (where the artist attended Temple and UPENN for his MFA), noted that Hennessy Youngman is a YouTube anomaly because he’s actually discussing art in one of the most public forums, when the environment of art is exceedingly narrow and exclusive. The Hennessy Youngman project began as a response to Musson’s extensive digestion of critical theory from his MFA courseload. Initially he performed it as a standup routine at a Philly bar, alongside Spank Rock, as a “Def Comedy Jam '90s comedian talking about art”. Musson had founded rap group Plastic Little and was making posters and drawings that dealt with his experiences being black in close-minded Philly and his interpretations of corporate hip hop culture’s deep-seated racism (with three solo shows titled “Too Black for BET”). Deciding that the footage of the standup routine was unusable, he re-filmed a neater version of it seated at his computer, and the rest is recent history.
For me, the subtext of Musson’s relationship to Youngman is: “I’m not really famous, I’m just garnering attention in a small, insular community for doing a thing that requires the least amount of my talents and soul. And everybody celebrates it with a love and fervor that I had wished to obtain through my painting and musical pursuits. And now people are going to call me Hennessy but he’s just an outlet for ideas, MY IDEAS, and we’re not the same. But actually it’s a pretty good outlet, and I do put a lot of energy into this shit, and the opportunities I’m afforded are amazing.”
He recounted a few losing battles he had with YouTube regarding censorship. One of his videos had reached 100,000 views, which was a milestone at the time; later, at a party, he received an email from YouTube that the video had been removed for language. A censored version could not be uploaded in its place, and no representatives from YouTube would respond to his attempts at contact. A handful of Hennessy videos are on Vimeo, including one titled, “The Female Gaze,” which shows a lot of views of dicks from below (it wasn’t playing properly when I tried to watch it). Still the majority of his videos are on YouTube because of the audience it reaches. Musson also takes some pleasure in interacting with viewers in the comments section, imploring perceived haters to meet with him and talk it out – WWHD. (During the Q&A he asked if anyone was familiar with his videos’ comments, but when the majority didn’t raise their hands, he moved on.)
In the Youngman video about grad school, he rants:
“That’s hogwash, Internet. Who gives a fuck about Michael Fried when ya desperately scouring NYFA job listings for any job that pays more than $12/hour and has the remote presence of art in the job description.”
Musson spoke of his disassociation between art world success and receiving an MFA, and then plugged his very real DVD with PDFs of many of his grad school readings, which Kline advertised as, “An ivy league education for $4.99.”
To which Musson replied, “Plus shipping.
Rating:

MUSEUM

The museum I work for hosted its annual benefit on Thursday night. The evening’s guest-of-honor and performer was Patti Smith with her daughter Jesse Paris Smith on piano. Michael Stipe was in attendance, in a sport jacket with a sheer black runner picking up wind as he crossed the galleries, striding in pair of New Balances with a strip of neon green as their athletic support.
The sound design was the product of Jim Toth, who I met at Market Hotel when we threw a house party and invited Alanna Heiss over, and then I saw him again, engineering a Light Asylum show I was working at in Chinatown in 2010.
Patti Smith is an American treasure. Her dynamic with her daughter was funny and pleasant, and you can tell that they have a happy life together. She incorporated the work of the museum in the performance through poetry and a new song inspired by the final years Frida Kahlo spent, bed-ridden, painting on her ceiling, covered in butterflies. Take any opportunity to see Patti Smith.
Rating:

DESIGN WEAK

Sami and I went to a few furniture stores and drank champagne and ate strawberries. One furniture store had cucumber vodka, which zen’d me out so hard that when they gave me a piece of coconut cake (they were handing out slices cake without plates in an astronomically expensive furniture store), I spilled my drink. The most crowded furniture store smelled like Axe and pulled pork, which meant that people were sweating their lunch out and ready for love. Design Week is not really my holiday.
Rating:

CRAXXTAPUSSY

I bumped into a bunch of homies outside of Anthology Film Archives, like Diwa + Alana, and Ben Kellogg from my high school, and Dora Budor + Maja Cule, who are the current Showpaper cover artists. Sami and I followed the latter three to a pregame in SoHo.
We sat on a couch in the dark listening to music from an Apple computer. Ben Kellogg and I talked about a time we wandered around a park in our town; we’d crept to separate areas to pee when he supposedly saw a ghost on a small footbridge and began to scream. Ever-the-youthful-naysayer, I ran across the bridge, through the ghost, and then we both ran home. Then a girl at the party made an authoritative announcement: “Sources tell me that (the rave) is getting crowded. It is time for us to leave!”
We all walked over to the rave on Greene. A woman was pleading with kids who were outside, sitting on the random wrought iron platforms common to SoHo side streets, to come inside or move along so as not to get the party shut down.
I was planning to meet my Internet friend Lexie Mountain for the first time at the rave, and texted her, “Im entering da rave, look for the yin yang bandana.” Just then I saw Max Eisenberg, and as I gave him a happy slow wave I saw he was talking to Lexie! And we hugged and jumped around cheering, “IRL,” for a while.
The rave was in a large space with high ceilings, decorated with crappy American Apparel mannequin shells, adorned with trashy bathing suits. I spent 20 minutes on the bathroom line with my girls, watching projections of 3D sluts in weird cleavage outfits. Seva Granik swooped in and lead me to the basement, just as Pictureplane was starting!
Logan, Leia Jospe, Shams, Nathan Ritholz, tons of fools were in the corner of the basement that I wedged into. Pictureplane had two dancers on short podiums with their faces painted blue, one of whom was Tumblr star Molly Soda.
(pictures of Molly Soda + friend from her Tumblr)
There were some slight feedback issues, but overall he held it down and played his optimistic pleasure music that everyone was sweating to see.</div>

Rating:

DEATH BY AUDIO

Rating:

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