Past Exhibitions / Full Exposure: Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Pirate Party

December 12, 2015 - March 13, 2016



The Nasher Museum presented an exhibition of photographs by Paul and Damon McCarthy in the Incubator, as part of  The New Galleries. Full Exposure: Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Pirate Party was co-organized by students in the fall 2015 graduate seminar, Performance and 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. Student co-curators were Anita Bateman, Nathan Bullock, Nicole Y. Gaglia, Ozgun Eylul Iscen, Toshi Pau, Renée Michelle Ragin and Charlena Wynn. The exhibition featured 33 photographs from Paul and Damon McCarthy’s Pirate Party Photograph Portfolio (2005), a promised gift from Blake Byrne. The students’ accompanying essays are available online.

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, McCarthy and his son, Damon, turn their attention to the Disney film franchise and amusement park attraction the 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. 

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 resurrect 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 captures chaos in static images. It unhinges popular imaginings of the pirate that glamorize debauchery and destruction. The installation-performance 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.