In the winter of 2011 I was invited to do some kind of “project” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, by the institution’s then contemporary curator, Julien Robson, who is a pretty amazing bloke to extend such an invitation to some upstart grad student artist punk such as myself. This was an extremely peculiar invitation because PAFA has a bit of a reputation as an anachronistic institution. It’s both a museum and art school, but as a school its undergraduate program holds tightly to the legacy of the French Academy, and as a museum it houses a vast collection of 19th and 20th century paintings and sculpture that is seemingly antithetical to the modern and contemporary. I wont go into the institution’s background, but PAFA has a unique history that is very much bound to the founding of the United States. Feel free to read more about it here: tfaoi.com/aa/8aa/8aa131.htm

So yeah, I was invited by Julien to do something in the museum’s Furness-Hewitt Building which houses its permanent collection of those ever so precious 19th and (some) 20th Century works. But what to do? I decided to do an audio tour as “Hennessy Youngman”, but also to create text posters borrowing the museum’s graphic identity and explain some of the art in the museum as “Nathaniel Snerpus” a recently divorced art critic, who, try as he might, could never properly explain the significance of an art work without delving into the politics of love, marital trust, his severe loneliness, and his secret homosexual longings. I really enjoyed the Nathaniel Snerpus text pieces because visitors had no clue as to what was going on with them. They appeared to reek of visual and academic authority, but they were very off, to say the least. I should say that I’m greatly indebted to the work of Fred Wilson (Mining the Museum) and Andrea Frasier (Museum Highlights). Their negotiations of institutional space allowed me the freedom to be the clown that I naturally am.

Okay, enough blathering. I present to you but one half of my project at PAFA: The uncensored audio tour for “Hennessy Youngman & Nathaniel Snerpus Present: The Grand Manner”.

It’s 35 minutes long so I suggest you download it and watch it at your own leisure over a cup of tea or on your commute to work, or in your studio you crazy artist you.

Again, thank you Julien Robson for the opportunity to confuse people. It's my life's work.

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