June 24, 2009

Disney Can Happen To Anyone: Pooh Unplugged, By Karen Finley


After a decade as cannon fodder in the right-wing's culture war, where her every artistic move was invariably introduced as the latest from "controversial and obscene chocolate-smearing performance artist and NEA grant recipient," I would expect that by 1999, performance artist Karen Finley had a highly developed sense of irony that was surpassed only by her righteously impatient rage at society's injustice, repression, hypocrisy, and greed. [1]

Because if I'm reading between these lines correctly, Finley's four-year-old daughter had a deep, abiding love for the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh. Which Finley goes along with, even though it's driving her quietly mad. So mad, in fact, that she had to create the 54 drawings for Pooh Unplugged just to regain a small sense of control in the face of this stultifyingly cute, commercial juggernaut of a bastardized bear. Or something like that.

The press release for Pooh Unplugged opens with a quote from Finley's one-woman show, "The American Chestnut":

I'm the kind of parent that goes all the way for my daughter-I feel it is important in child development for the child to adore something the parent hates.
Then there's this description:
The Hundred Acre Wood is alive with ennui, secret sexual fantasies, marketing savvy, and greed. Pooh has an eating disorder; Piglet suffers from low self esteem; Owl has delusions of grandeur; Eeyore is just plain depressed; and Christopher Robyn is an enabler in Finley's deftly drawn cartoon world inspired by sleepless nights reading to her four-year-old daughter.
I'm going to assume that "inspired by" didn't actually mean explaining to the kid why mommy's drawing of Christoper Robin is wearing a bondage mask and assless chaps when he nails Eeyore's tail.

Track 16 in Santa Monica showed Finlay's hilariously not-safe-for-bedtime drawings in 1999, and they published Pooh Unplugged in both a limited edition softcover and a hardcover trade edition. They're just $20 and $15, direct from the gallery's publishing affiliate, Smart Press. [smartartpress.com]
Pooh Unplugged, a parody, by Karen Finley, Feb-Mar 1999 [track16.com]
[1] Wow, that is one long, complex sentence.


A "highly developed sense of irony"? Mocking Disney is shooting fish in a barrel.

"The Hundred Acre Wood is alive with ennui, secret sexual fantasies, marketing savvy, and greed."

Welcome to Planet Earth, Karen Finley. Yawn.

haha, I totally agree with you. the irony is in the kid's Disney-loving, not the mom's Disney-unloading. It'd only be better to find out Finley gets pissed when her kid pulls all the condiments out of the fridge and starts playing 9 1/2 Weeks with them on the kitchen floor.

Is Pooh Disney? Or is it A.A. Milne? The Wikipedia page must have been written by Michael Eisner:


I think Milne should get his due: The books are his, and they are excellent -- if a bit Thick.

As for the movie, Sherman-brothers music ain't half bad -- even if it's not as good as Mary Poppins.

Finley's drawings are based on E.H. Shepard's originals; I think she must just lament Disney's takeover in the book.

The half-baked wikipedia page with the underscores apparently references "the Disney character" while Winnie-the-Pooh hyphenated is the much more comprehensive Milne/Shepard original.


Was it really ten years ago? Geesh.

Finley's book, the accompanying exhibits, and her performances around the theme were great fun when they premiered here in LA. Angelinos love poking fun at anything the Mouse has tried to take over.

And if you'd been there at the Track 16 fund raiser when Finley covered her body in honey and did her amazing performance, you too would have enjoyed it immensely.

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