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Paul McCarthy: “Central Symmetrical Rotation Movement”


Episode #142: Artist Paul McCarthy discusses his interest in art as political theater and his sculptures as akin to amusement park rides. Featuring the works “Bang Bang Room” (1992), “Spinning Room” (2008), and “Mad House” (2008) in the exhibition “Paul McCarthy: Central Symmetrical Rotation Movement, Three Installations, Two Films” (2008) at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Paul McCarthy’s video-taped performances and provocative multimedia installations lampoon polite society, ridicule authority, and bombard the viewer with a sensory overload of often sexually-tinged, violent imagery. With irreverent wit, McCarthy often takes aim at cherished American myths and icons—Walt Disney, the Western, and even the Modern Artist—adding a touch of malice to subjects that have been traditionally revered for their innocence or purity. Whether conflating real-world political figures with fantastical characters such as Santa Claus, or treating erotic and abject content with frivolity and charm, McCarthy’s work confuses codes, mixes high and low culture, and provokes an analysis of fundamental beliefs.

Paul McCarthy is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Transformation of the Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes (link opens application), or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.

CREDITS | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Bob Elfstrom & Richard Numeroff. Sound: Doug Dunderdale & Merce Williams. Editor: Joaquin Perez. Artwork Courtesy: Paul McCarthy. Special Thanks: Whitney Museum of American Art. Video: © 2011, Art21, Inc. All rights reserved.

Spinning Room, 1970/2008. Installation view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Show control, video equipment, steel, Servo motors, industrial motion controller, electrical components, plywood and lights; 132 x 744 x 744 inches. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. © Paul McCarthy. Photo by Ann-Marie Rounkle.

Bang Bang Room, 1992. Installation view at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin. Wood, steel, electric motors, linoleum, and wallpaper; 98 1/2 x 342 x 342 inches (open). Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. © Paul McCarthy. Photo by Uwe Walter.

Mad House, 1999/2008. Installation view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. Steel, aluminum, electric cabinet, plywood, and chair; 138 x 168 x 168 inches. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. © Paul McCarthy. Photo by Ron Amstutz.

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