Unfortunately for Zaloom, such refreshing political theater arrives right in the middle of an unfriendly artistic climate in which the National Endowment for the Arts is making grants to individual artists more difficult than ever to receive.
This dilemma is not just felt on the federal level. When Zaloom recently applied to the California State Council for a touring subsidy, he found the hoops they asked him to jump through to be outrageous at best. Not only did they ask him to fill out an application over 500 pages long and at a cost of $300, but they also required a full financial disclosure to a panel of presenters with whom Zaloom would later have to negotiate his artist's fee.
Speaking of which, what might Zaloom expect to gain financially after all this effort? Not a dime. The presenters themselves are paid for presenting Zaloom's work, so when Zaloom asked a few of the presenters whether they thought there was anything strange about the process itself, the presenters mostly muttered about "accountability". "They're running scared of the right wing," Zaloom says. "You've got lunatics running the asylum - everyone from Guiliani to [Indiana Representative] Dan Burton. These days any crank with a little complaint can shut down an arts organization."
By de-legitimizing the idea of public funding for the arts, Zaloom feels that governments can effectively insulate themselves from criticism, thereby letting cultural institutions take the hit. Coupled with an era in which a single, pro-autocracy Mayor can threaten the funding of an entire museum based on his dislike of one exhibit - consider last year's "Sensation" at The Brooklyn Museum - it's no wonder that institutions rarely want to take any kind of artistic risk.
Yet Zaloom isn't daunted by contemporary hurdles. He's determined to go on making his work, with or without government funding. He's already planning two new shows to take on tour, one for the kids and one for the adults.
Such is his enduring appeal that when National Public Radio opined that Zaloom had a cult following, images of people sitting in their kitchens making their egg cartons talk to their milk jugs danced through my head. Thinking of this, I asked Zaloom what he would say to those "cultists." "Be nude at all times," Zaloom replied. What the visual pun is on that we can't be too sure - maybe we should use our imagination.