Diminishing Returns

Andrew Masullo, 5244, Whitney Biennial 2012

Andrew Masullo, 5244, Whitney Biennial 2012

Called the “law of diminishing returns,” its graph looks pretty similar to the humps in this art. Well, one hump that is.

According to the “law of diminishing returns,” as you shovel more effort/time/energy/money or other resource in – the better your outcome will be (other variables held constant). A lovely linear correlation of effort and output, until you get to the top. That’s the sweet spot. Where you put in just the right amount of effort to get the best possible result.

After that, as you pour more into the project, suddenly your outcomes sharply drop. I’m working harder and getting less.

Imagine you love homegrown tomatoes.  You plant 2 rows of tomato plants. Your friend tells you, “put on a pound of fertilizer.” Presto – more, bigger tomatoes. Then, you put on three pounds of fertilizer – ahhhh. . . even more juicy, ripe tomatoes. You think, let’s up it to 4 pounds. No noticeable change. Hmmmm. . .  at five pounds of fertilizer you just root-burned your plants to death due to excessive fertilization. Nice!

Gotta love that sweet spot. The Win/Win spot. The point where all that effort is maximized and working at optimum efficiency. Does this economic law work in art too, or in life for that matter? Maybe there are some things which return on investment (ROI) just isn’t a consideration. Or are there?

What’s the least amount of discipline needed to produce the most well-behaved children? What’s the maximum amount of thoughtful things I need to do to get the most sex? Is spending more time on this writing just wheel-spinning perfectionism?

Feel free to make another interpretation of the above forms, as many colorful ideas spring to mind. But its non-objective art and you’re really not supposed to draw representational comparisons, though it seems Masullo is gleefully baiting us on this one.

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