Work of Art: now pooping on the art world, still great television

Work of Art‘s second season returned last week on Bravo, and after two episodes, it’s safe to say that the Magical Elves-produced show is on track to have another great season, with strong cast members (of course I have to mention “The Sucklord,” whose name describes well what he’s produced so far) to the challenges that inspire them to produce everything from absolute crap to pretty impressive art in such a limited amount of time.

However, nothing has really changed in terms of the show’s strengths and weaknesses, which is kind of odd but also oddly okay.

The worst part of the show remains the crit, because the judges absolutely suck at critiquing the pieces. That’s important because their decisions are often baffling. Last night’s winner won with a video he filmed of himself spinning in circles; that’s it. About the only reason the judges could give for the win was that it was simple and mesmerizing. But other pieces seemed better, like the fascinating piece that tackled dark subject matter–playground predators–with an interactive, erect sculpture that asked viewers to pull on its testicles.

Anyway, either the judges cannot succinctly summarize strengths and weaknesses in a way that allows the editors to choose good soundbites, or the judges exemplify everything stereotypical about the art world, namely that they’re full of shit.

Speaking of shit, last night, a team decided to make art inspired by pooping. Really. They expanded this to include the whole digestive system, but it was still about pooping. And that brings me to the best part of the show, Simon de Pury, their mentor, who remains exceptional. When he learned of this, he said, “So, poop was a key word?” And then expressed his skepticism that they’d ended up at poop from a demonstration of action-filled parkour. His criticism prompted them to re-think their strategy and come up with a better theme that worked well.

If only Simon would gather the judges and give them similar criticism, the show itself might work on all levels.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.