“We want to examine why people like us watch the show,” Ms. Niederhoffer said. “The things they put the women through are horrible, at times. It’s kind of nice to watch, in a perverse way.”
In “Here for the Right Reasons,” more than a dozen New York artist-fans exorcise their own “Bachelor” issues. The video artist Liz Zito slips into the persona of an obsessed fan, painting the erstwhile bachelor Nick Viall as a merman on a seashell-lined canvas, then trying to sell the portrait to Mr. Viall over Instagram for $10,000. Her direct message to Mr. Viall, displayed alongside the piece, investigates the show’s aggressive rebranding of the Wisconsin software salesman into America’s most enduring eligible bachelor. (Mr. Viall has starred in four seasons of the franchise, including “Bachelor in Paradise,” appearing increasingly beefy in each iteration.)
“It projects a majestic aesthetic, which falls in line with your television persona,” Ms. Zito writes in her sales pitch, adding, “I’m not a weird psycho fan, I’m just a really good artist.” He does not respond.
Elsewhere, the illustrator Carolyn Figel recasts the contestant Corinne Olympios’s sponsored content for Casper mattresses and FitTea into delicate line drawings that emphasize the underlying fragility of her brash social media performance. Ms. Korn exhibits a set of ghoulish miniatures depicting Mr. Viall’s family members, who have appeared frequently on the show in support of his many love journeys, posed alongside the creepy star of internet scary stories, Slender Man; the piece draws parallels between two bizarre fantasy worlds that hold real people’s lives in their grasp.
A “Bachelor Nation” flag hanging above the proceedings places the show’s fixations on true love and TV stardom in sharp relief — it’s emblazoned with a diamond ring and inscribed with reality TV contract legalese. The whole place is covered in scratchy artificial red roses sourced from dollar stores.
Like watching “The Bachelor” itself, “Here for the Right Reasons” offers opportunities to get swept away in the moment and also feel bad about yourself later. In an interactive installation, guests can step into a Final Rose Ceremony, walk down a candlelit red carpet and listen as the host, Chris Harrison, counsels them toward a proposal, all to buzzingly suspenseful effect.
Then they can watch the 31-year-old performance artist Mur sing “I Should Not Watch the Bachelor,” a dirge he composed after binge-watching one “Bachelorette” season over two days. It contains a lament for the Whaboom guy and is strangely moving. “I’m really sensitive, so this show really affected me and scared me,” Mur said of watching the show for the first time. “I couldn’t help but see so much darkness.”
One of the dirty secrets of “The Bachelor” franchise is that some of its most committed fans are people who feel they’re a little bit above it. The sprawling “Bachelor” media empire gives viewers the opportunity to process the show’s disturbing machinations through constant meta-discussion — there are recaps, podcasts, fantasy leagues, spoiler blogs, Twitter hashtags, cast memoirs, message boards, hundreds of interlocking contestant Instagram presences and now, merman portraiture.
The more unsettling the show seems, the more brainspace it consumes, and the more obsession it breeds. As the sweet, charming Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first black “Bachelorette,” has been thrown into the show’s sexual and racial hellscape this season, the dark spectacle has grown more transfixing than ever. “Here for the Right Reasons” will feature a prayer for Ms. Lindsay.
Is “Bachelor”-inspired art “good”? I’m not an art critic; I’m just a woman who watches “The Bachelor” every week and feels gross about it. For me, it’s not just good — it’s necessary.
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