Meme Theory and Disembodied Heads: New Work by Don Renner

The art we choose to hang in the Museum is always thought provoking – any good piece of visual art can do so many things to get your noodle working. It can grant you as a viewer a depiction unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It can interrupt your space and make you realign your opinion of your attachment to objects and your surroundings. Or, it can simply please because it pleases. But this new show, this is something else. Here’s why.

As the communication guy here at the PAM, I’m often in the difficult position of trying to wrangle the broad and challenging concepts that come through in our exhibitions into a paragraph or two of “copy” or “content” (other terms I throw around are “verbiage,” “descriptors,” and “language”) that attempt to relate the exhibition and its significance to our audience. After viewing Don Renner’s new ArtView exhibition, Encoded Solutions, and becoming acquainted with Renner’s central theme, the difficulty of communication through disparate social and ideological systems of thought, I realized that a part of my job in talking about this exhibition would require me to engage in the same processes that he depicted. I would have to be one of his subjects and you, dear reader, would be too.

It was all very meta.

So, anyway, here goes: in the above painting (entitled Bang Head Here), I’m the Museum communication guy and I’m one of the disembodied heads with a “!” on their forehead because I have something exciting to tell you and it is this: “stop by and see Don Renner’s show, Encoded Solutions, on display at the Museum through May 22 in the Xcel Energy Gallery.” And you, dear reader, are one of the people with a “?” on their foreheads because you’re curious about this message or maybe a little confused (perfectly understandable, and exactly Renner’s point). And then the other heads, I suppose, are others in our respective groups, all talking about Renner’s show and with messages alternating between curiosity, persuasion, enthusiasm, and confusion. And this blog post you’re reading? I guess that’s one of the blue arrows connecting the disembodied heads. The meme of “go to Renner’s show!” passes among us, through various media, with the result that maybe you get in your car, maybe you drive to the Museum, and maybe you stop up on the second floor to check it out.

And, maybe you leave a comment on this post, at which point you become one of the “!” heads and I become one of the “?” heads.