First came goat yoga, a joyfully pointless exercise.
Now, it’s goat art.
For his new installation, running Saturdays through Oct. 20 at Chelsea’s Unix Gallery, artist Jonathan Paul recruited two live goats. Sporting different-colored jerseys, they wander around an enclosure nibbling at bits of bok choy suspended on strings. The strings are connected to piñatalike boxes, and the first goat to nibble hard enough to open a box is showered with rose petals.
The piece is titled, “To the Victor Belongs the Spoils.” And if you think it’s absurd to guess which goat will win — as gallery visitors are encouraged to do — well, that’s the point.
“How many times in your life have you been asked to pick a side when you don’t really know the purpose of it?” says Paul, who debuted the work in Los Angeles, where he’s based. “It’s about the folly in picking a side.”
He says the goats are an abstraction of the choices we make in our day-to-day lives, from which team we want to win in sports to which political party we vote for. However arbitrary our choices, Paul says, “We have this desperate need to be right. That’s the folly if it all.”
The Nigerian pygmy goats change each week, but they’re all from the same Nassau County farm. Other than that, Paul would prefer they remain anonymous.
“If you knew the names or how old they were, you might start to form a bias,” he says. Choosing a favorite goat by, say, the color of its jersey reveals the arbitrary nature of the choice the artist is asking his viewers to make.
Paul says he considered other species. But “sheep are followers,” he says. “And chickens would seem like a completely different show.”