When controversial artist Brock Enright was invited to install his first solo show at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery in Chelsea, he and his girlfriend Kirsten Dierup drove across country from Brooklyn to the Dierup family cabin in Mendocino, California. Jodi Lee Lipes' beautifully photographed documentary, Good Times Will Never Be the Same, captures this long and harrowing process, and even if you know nothing about the artist beforehand (I didn't), you won't be able to look away.
The artist tells the camera that his preferred mindset going into an art project is one where he doesn't know what he's going to do. For all that, Lipes and the film's editor Lance Edmands wrangle a fascinating and efficient narrative from this apparent shapelessness (the entire cross-country trip is distilled in 15 minutes, and the film clocks in at a lean 71 minutes). The film follows in often painful detail the arc of Enright and Dierup's relationship, and this grounds what might have been an act of artistic self-indulgence. And boy, can Brock Enright be indulgent. He makes great demands on his collaborators, sometimes to appalling extent, and what results is as often as not completely mystifying. But I agree with what artist Robert Longo tells Enright in a DVD extra: "I don't know what I'm watching and at the same time I'm compelled to watch it."
Longo goes on: "Discomfort is the thing you tend to work with," to which Enright simply answers, "Yeah!" I'll leave the adventurous viewer to discover the myriad ways Enright makes the viewer uncomfortable. Some of them may be written off as shock tactics, but not all of them. Brock Enright reeks of braggadocio like an art-world Ad Rock. But no matter how obscure his narratives and motives may be, there's deep and sometimes painful emotion under the surface. If he makes those around him uncomfortable, it's not just outwardly directed, but inwardly as well. Banksys of the world take note: for all your posturing, you hide behind your masks and hipper than thou-ness. Brock Enright has attitude and hides nothing — in fact he shows you far more than you want to see. Such braveness could almost make me think the art world isn't so bad after all.