Ryder Ripps is kind of a jerk but he’s also kind of brilliant. He’s a no one to most people but is quickly gaining momentum outside of his native art world habitat as he’s making a name for himself as a dirty old man trapped in millennial frame.
This news broke with “performance” piece Art Whore where he enlisted sex workers from Craigslist to make for him, they acting as artists and he acting as whore. This should have been a one-off, eye roll but instead boomed into an intellectual nightmare highlighting Ripps penchant for creepiness. You ultimately see that the artist is very me, me, me with his work, being sensational as a means to mask raging narcissism and a desire to dominate others, sexually and not.
(This is also evidenced in a New York Times feature on him from last summer: “‘In real life I was a really shy 10-year-old kid with arty parents,’ he said. ‘Online I was someone who was powerful, who could create things that people saw immediately.’” Ooooookay, dude.)
His most recent project is bringing him under similar scrutiny: it’s called Ho and is a lampooning of Insta-celebrity Adrianne Ho’s images and likeness. I first heard of the project at ForYourArt’s Instagram Mini Marathon where he spoke about the concept—and it sounded really cool. Seeing images and hearing him, in real life, was enlightening. This was before Art Whore and Ho, a time when Ripps seemed to be this fresh rising art joke star who walked around with a mirror reflecting the world’s on and offline ridiculousnesses.
What’s fascinating is now, post-Art Whore, Ho seems to have evolved into a similarly gross affair—at least according to this Vice article. Ripps waxes on about how he isn’t using her body and how this gets at her being more powerful that he is, that her following is bigger than his and that makes her better. There are also moments like this:
“We refresh our Instagram to see who follows us. Our value as human beings is about that. And it sucks and I’m a part of that. Maybe I’m perpetuating it, but I’m saying that I personally am a victim of it. My Instagram followers grew from 7.1k to 7.2k today and that actually made me feel good. Like really good. And that’s so fucked up. It’s so stupid. It means nothing. It has nothing to do with anything. Meanwhile, I didn’t call my mom back today after she called. Am I good person? No, I’m a fucking shit person who didn’t call my mom back. I should call her back. But I got 7.2k, I got 7.2k! I validate myself through that.”
Eeeeh: sure. I’ll give you that. There are lots more bits like this, that make you want to roll your eyes into your spine, and they paired with Art Whore and his Instagram Mini Marathon talk before it highlight where Ryder Ripps is failing: he can’t fucking communicate, in his art and not. He’s a great speaker and personality in person but on paper everything falls flat, the written word smothering him, his own words failing to support him.
I like Ryder Ripps, I do. He does seem cool and like a cool asshole, an arrogant prick you’d enjoy hate fucking because he loves to hate fuck. He probably is good at drinking, too. This does not translate onto paper though a fact that points out how cruel the online world of text can be: it can cast someone as both an asshole and a cool person. You have to actually hear what the person is saying, in real life, to appreciate its meaning sometimes.