Brock Enright: Infuriating Artist, Infuriating Film Star

Some artists are infuriating. So are some films. Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be The Same is a marriage of the two. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go see it, but if you do, be prepared to be annoyed, bored, and frustrated. Then brace yourself for one the most interesting post-viewing conversations you’ll have about a film this year.

And that’s the strange appeal of Good Times, as well as Enright’s art: Both are better to discuss than experience. It’s also why you can’t go see the film alone. If possible, choose two friends: one who spends all their free time at galleries and counts the seconds to the next Whitney Biennial, and the other who thinks that art has to be pretty to be considered art. Then sit back and enjoy the real show as the two go at it.

This strange approach to film viewing raises two questions: Can a film be considered good if it only works when it’s not being watched? And, is the function of contemporary art, now more than ever, just to confound, confuse, and piss off viewers?

But before considering that, just who the hell is Brock Enright in the first place?

As all successful, self promoting art-stars, Brock started his career with a publicity grabbing concept called Videogames Adventure Services, which billed itself as a “designer kidnapping service.” That’s right, for a fee you could be kidnapped by a fledgling artist finishing his MFA at Columbia, and have all sorts of humiliating, frightening, and perverted things done to you by Mr. Enright and his team. Was it art? Who knows. Did it grab the attention of the media? You betcha.

With his name firmly ensconced in the headlines, the art-world took notice, and the work that followed took a similar vein of approach with more kidnappings, and bizarre videos often shot in the woods and featuring creepy characters played by Brock, such as The Blackgoat.

This is where we meet Mr. Enright, just as his enigmatic career has convinced the Perry Rubenstein Gallery to offer him his first solo show in New York. The gallery has fronted him some cash, with the rest to come from future sales, and Brock hits the road with his girlfriend, Kirsten Deirup, to travel cross-country to the woods of Mendocino, California to create his next nightmare.

Why has he chosen Mendocino to unleash his madness? Why because it’s where Kirsten’s parents live of course. Needless to say, some family conflict ensues. And then, when the art hits a standstill, the gallery’s director gets involved, and more conflict ensues. Or does it? Is the film we are watching all a part of the act? Less a documentary than another work of art in itself? Again, who knows?

The film was shot and directed by Jody Lee Lipes, who has made a name for himself as a cinematographer by shooting festival favorites Afterschool, and Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell. Brock originally wanted Lipes to shoot his Mendocino mayhem, but Lipes declined in favor of making his own film, and proceeded to move in with Brock and Kirsten as the work for Rubenstein unfolded, or unraveled, as it were.

All of this would probably have most asking, “Who cares about this lunatic running around in the woods proclaiming to be an artist, isn’t there an election going on in Iran or something, anything, more important?” Fair enough. But sometimes an intellectual debate that takes place in that nebulous gray-zone of what makes something a work of art, can be relaxing, or in the case of Good Times, should at least inspire some cathartic verbal sparring.

Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be The Same plays BAMCineFEST tonight at 9:30 p.m. and next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Jody Lee Lipes will be present at both screenings for a Q&A.