Elisha Shapiro (aka Nihilist Field Marshal Shapiro) is a Los Angeles-based media prankster and conceptual artist.
has been creating his
neo-dadaesque public spectacles for the past 15 years and first came to public attention with his
1984 Nihilist Olympics.
The Olympics were followed by a Nihilist campaign for President in 1988 and a Nihilist campaign for LA County
Sheriff in 1994.
In 1999 he
staged Nihilism Expo '99, a world's fair for nihilists.
currently hosts a monthly cable TV show called Nihilists' Corner.
List of Field Marshal's Art Work
Essay about Field Marshal's Art
The Field Marshal's Childhood
Return to Nihilists'
Below is a list of the work of conceptual Artist, Elisha Shapiro
has had articles published in:
has also written several short stories, a screenplay and an anthology.
was given a reading of two of short stories at SPARC in August 1983.
short story, The Haberdasher, was published in MIXTURE Magazine
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Below is an essay about Elisha Shapiro's
Modern mass media has a profound and growing effect on the way people see the world and themselves.
Subsequently, mass media exerts great influence over the values to which most people subscribe.
This is the reason Elisha Shapiro's
conceptual art takes the form of staged public events, and why the press coverage of those events has become central to his
The form Shapiro has developed expands on the forms and issues which the Dadaists explored in the early part of this century.
In addition Shapiro
combines some of Warhol's perceptions to bring these explorations to contemporary realities.
The form of the work which Mr. Shapiro
produces is so related to the content of his
art that this form is integral to the artist's expression, adding to the content and significance of the art.
These staged events include spectacles like political rallies, press conferences, political conventions, sporting events, fundraising events and world's fairs.
subverts these benign events by adding incongruous elements like harsh and disturbing imagery and idiosyncratic humor.
style of subversion, the artist succeeds at engaging his
audience at the same time as he
aggressively challenges it.
In the summer of 1984, after four years of careful planning and preparation, Elisha Shapiro
Nihilist Olympic conceptual art event in Los Angeles.
One of the forty events which comprised this piece was "The U-Turn Competition.
On the first Friday of the LA Olympics, panels of Nihilist
judges were stationed at five busy intersections around the Los Angeles area.
At advertised times, the competition began.
More than eighty people competed for the most "stylish" traffic maneuver-and the competition was lively.
Later in the Nihilist Olympics, Shapiro
staged "The Lazlo Toth Art Defacing Competition.
finished the Nihilist Olympics, he
began planning VOTE NIHILISM '88.
In this piece he launched a Nihilist Party campaign for President of the United States.
This campaign included an exten sive platform, a campaign video, media events such as an announcement of candidacy, airport campaign stops and a convention.
Vote Nihilism '88 incorporated the media attention into itself.
creates these events by combining public relations techniques, celebrity imagery and audience participation.
uses commercial forms of photography, video, printing, display, writing and graphics.
The result looks like Madison Avenue gone crazy--on a budget.
The word "Nihilism" is a repeated element in this work.
Nihilism is simply the rejection of all value systems and the questioning of all bases for moral choice.
With this label, Shapiro
creates a media image of a person, or sometimes a group of people, who publicly deny basic cultural assumptions about belief.
The people the artist creates in his
work reject a cultural imperative to subordinate their identities to some moral, religious or commercial value system.
The only time that our mass media ever portrays people who don't believe in anything, those people are either a maniacs or monsters.
The idea that it could be a reasonable choice to reject this subordination of our identities is completely alien to the mass media and its viewers.
So there is an implicit irony when Shapiro
inveigles the media (which normally acts to reinforce these cultural values) to broadcast this dissenting point of view.
art takes this adventurous form because this form is effective--it adds depth and irony to the content of the work, it reaches a broad audience and it reaches beyond the usual art audiences.
, I think there's something in your eye.
, I'm sorry I didn't help you yesterday.