Alcohol as art

Katie Glueck

Photos by Sean Collins Walsh

In a hall decorated with portraits of former Northwestern university presidents and members of the board, eleven NU students swigged beers and made music with their empty bottles, all for the sake of art.

Tom Marioni, a conceptual artist and sculptor from San Francisco, discussed the value of beer as art and conducted a “beer sonata” at Hardin Hall in the Rebecca Crown Center on Monday night. The gathering, co-sponsored by the NU Political Union and the Art Theory and Practice Department, drew about 50 students. Marioni argued that drinking beer with friends is the “highest form of art.”

“Beer is an aid to communication,” Marioni said. “It’s a social lubricant, and that communication element is art.”

Jake Wertz, former co-president of the Political Union and the event’s organizer, said the evening’s goal was to pique students’ interest in art through something many college kids can relate to: alcohol.

“We wanted to free art from just being in a museum or one circle of campus,” said the SESP senior and a former DAILY columnist. “We wanted to show how art can impact everything we do. We need to find ways to get non-artists involved, and it seemed like beer is a good place to start.”

Marioni displayed a slide show of beer bottles from around the world and showed a DVD of an interview he gave with a California museum in the nineties, explaining what conceptual art meant to him. For a conceptual artist, an empty beer bottle left over from a night drinking with friends can be art, he said.

“A conceptual artist is not defined by a medium the way a ceramic artist is,” Marioni said. “He’s free to work in any medium or with any material. Conceptual art is an idea-oriented situation – consider social activities art.”

Wertz said he hoped students would look at drinking beer as an art after attending the event.

“By having this event, I’m hoping we’ll be able to have conversations about a healthier way to approach alcohol and a happier way to approach life, by increasing awareness of social drinking,” Wertz said.

Drinking should be an educational and social experience, he said.

“A pub or social event around beer is a place to make friends and learn things,” Wertz said. “Beer provides an opportunity to experience diverse things with diverse groups of people.”

For Libby Marvel, who participated in Marioni’s beer sonata, drinking beer to a beat with strangers qualified as a unique social experience, she said.

“I thought it was creative, inventive and most importantly a fun time,” the Weinberg senior said. “I can’t say I completely understood (the art), but I can respect the art form. It was definitely different.”

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