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Press Releases John Waters to take over Walker Galleries as Absentee Landlord

Provocateur’s Walker Engagement also includes performance of This Filthy World

Minneapolis, April 1, 2011—Pop culture provocateur John Waters will bring his exuberant impudence to the Walker Art Center’s galleries this summer as curator of the exhibition Absentee Landlord, running June 11¬, 2011 through March 4, 2012. Waters will also perform his monologue This Filthy World on Friday, June 10 at 7:30 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater.

Absentee Landlord

Absentee Landlord is Waters’ devious intervention into the Walker exhibition Event Horizon, which opened in 2009 and featured highlights from the Walker’s collection. Event Horizon was designed to change over time, with new curators adding to and subtracting from the existing layout. Incorporating a new set of works from the Walker’s collection, plus works from other collections and pieces he created himself, Waters will imbue the galleries with his trademark blend of subversion and insight.

In Absentee Landlord, Waters views the Walker galleries as analogous to apartments—artworks coexist like roommates, with relationships that range from belligerent to friendly, from supportive to indifferent. And as curator, Waters sees himself as akin to a landlord, choosing the works that live together in these sometimes uncomfortable associations. By installing specific works in proximity to others, Waters explores the tensions and connections between disparate parts of the Walker’s wide-ranging collection.

Absentee Landlord features some 60 objects, including work by Richard Artschwager, John Currin, Robert Gober, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Mike Kelley, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, and Willem de Kooning, among many others.

“John’s approach to the collection is classic Waters: a mix of brilliance and complete irreverence about intuitional ‘rules,’” said Walker chief curator Darsie Alexander. “As an artist himself, he is keyed into the subtle personalities and foibles of artworks as if they were people. Its effect is both hilarious and remarkably humanizing. He brings a unique tenor and layout to the permanent collection galleries.”

Intentionally making the cost of the exhibition transparent to visitors, Waters will install a vitrine containing all of the exhibition’s financial records (invoices, shipping records, check stubs, etc.). In addition to standard “Art on Call” audio didactics, Absentee Landlord will feature a track with Waters’ recorded voice speaking in Pig Latin about the work in the show. Visitors can listen to the recording on their mobile phones.

Waters’ work at the Walker will also include several additional “interventions” outside the galleries, including custom-designed admission tags; an audio installation in the Walker parking garage featuring sounds of car crashes and squealing tires; and a “blue plate special”—a limited-edition photograph of beautifully-plated but inedible food refuse like meat gristle and the ends of carrots—available for purchase in the Walker Garden Café.

This Filthy World

This Filthy World, part memoir, part lecture, is a “vaudeville” act that celebrates the film career and obsessional tastes of the man William Burroughs once called “The Pope of Trash.” Focusing in on Waters’ early negative artistic influences and his fascination with true crime, exploitation films, fashion lunacy, and the extremes of the contemporary art world, this joyously devious monologue elevates all that is trashy in life into a call to arms to “filth followers” everywhere.

This Filthy World is presented by the Walker’s film/video department. Tickets are $45 and go on sale to Walker members on May 3, 2011, and to the general public on May 10, 2011. Tickets are available at walkerart.org/tickets or 612.375.7600. Following the performance, Waters will sign copies of his book Role Models (available for sale in the Walker Shop).

John Waters

John Waters is a filmmaker, author and photographer. He was born in 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland and is currently based in Baltimore and New York. Generally regarded as the cinema’s premier purveyor of trash, Waters has elevated sleaze to an art form. Briefly enrolled as a film student at New York University, Waters was expelled and left to his own devices as an aspiring filmmaker. Waters began his exercises with a super-8 camera before making his first feature, Mondo Trasho. By his third feature, Pink Flamingos, Waters became a star of the midnight cult screening circuit. His newfound infamy continued as he made outrageous films, some with utterly disgusting yet very memorable moments. With Hairspray, Waters inadvertently made a family-friendly movie, which has gone on to become a Broadway hit. His last feature film was A Dirty Shame, made in 2004.

Since then he has continued to write, adding to his growing list of books with his most recent, Role Models. Waters participated in the Walker’s Regis Dialogue and Retrospective program in 2000, which included six of his films and a monologue.

For the past 20 years, Waters has been making photo-based artwork and installations that have been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums. In 2004, the New Museum in NYC presented a retrospective of his artwork curated by Marvin Heiferman and Lisa Phillips. His most recent exhibition was “Rear Projection” in April 2009, at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. Waters’ pieces are often comical, such as Rush (2009), a super-sized, tipped-over bottle of poppers (nitrite inhalants) and Hardy Har (2006), a photograph of flowers that squirts water at anyone who traverses a taped line on the floor. Waters has characterized his art as conceptual, saying that “the craft is not the issue here. The idea is. And the presentation.”


As part of the Walker Art Center’s Expanding the Rules of Engagement with Artists and Audiences initiative, this exhibition is made possible by the Bush Foundation.

John Waters in the Walker galleries