Full Exposure: Paul and Damon McCarthy's Pirate Party

For decades Paul McCarthy’s performances, video installations, and exhibitions have drawn critical acclaim for their searing depictions of contemporary American family life and the mass production and consumerism of popular culture. In Pirate Party (2005), McCarthy and his son, Damon, turn their attention to the Disney film franchise and amusement park attraction Pirates of the Caribbean. Originally performed over the course of a month and documented in thousands of photographs and hours of video, Pirate Party culminated in a four-channel video installation and a portfolio of 79 photographs. The students in the fall 2015 graduate seminar, Performance & Performativity, co-taught by Kristine Stiles, France Family Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University, and Erin Hanas, Coordinator of Academic Programs at the Nasher Museum of Art, selected 33 photographs from the portfolio for an exhibition at the Nasher Museum. Full Exposure: Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Pirate Party is on view from December 12, 2015 – March 13, 2016. The students’ accompanying essays appear on this site.

McCarthy’s trademark style of incorporating foodstuffs, gore, nudity, and sexuality places the absurd and profane at the center of the camera lens. His photographs elicit visceral reactions in order to provoke a savage response in viewers. Obscenely and erotically gestural, McCarthy’s art challenges ways in which the body can become an instrument for transmitting ideas, imposing pain, and reflecting cultural norms.

Pirate Party Photograph Portfolio captures chaos in static images. It unhinges popular imaginings of the pirate that glamorize debauchery and destruction. Pirate Party also critiques the brutality presented in Disney’s ride and films, socially accepted spaces for family fun, and exposes the desensitization to violence in American culture. The installation-performance makes visible the cruelty described in Disney’s theme park attraction song:

“Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)

(excerpt), George Bruns (music) and Xavier Atencio (lyrics), 1967

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We extort and pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle and even highjack.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

 

Full Exposure: Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Pirate Party was organized by Anita Bateman, Nathan Bullock, Nicole Y. Gaglia, Ozgun Eylul Iscen, Toshi Pau, Renée Michelle Ragin, and Charlena Wynn.

All images: Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy, Pirate Party Photograph Portfolio, 2005. One of 79 color photographs, edition 5/10, 20 x 13 1/4 inches (50.8 x 33.7 cm) each. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Promised gift of Blake Byrne, T’57. Images courtesy of the artists and Hauser & Wirth, New York, New York. © Paul McCarthy and Damon McCarthy.