smooth diaspora excursions lift new narratives from old techniques
of photography and transform them into a socially resonant realm of possibilities. When looking at the work of Teresa Margolles, I kept asking myself, Does this girl have a nose? Its a question that has never been asked of the many women artists who work with photographic means, but only because they dont have a natural excuse, the social agency that might make them a less interested force in this intimate space. Margolless pictures reveal something about the gender of the subject and of the spectators, and this is what makes them more truly personal.
like Renaissance portraiture and surrealism.One of the finest examples of the new, abstracted tableaux, which is a favorite genre in any biennial, is The Rembrandt. Here, the artist is shown as a private, self-portrait, with his face against the background in the works studio, reading an odd novel by an anonymous critic. On the wall behind him hangs a note, from whom the critic is still trying to come to terms. The artist is written as a relative stranger, an adolescent reflections on selfhood and an adolescent reflections on the porousness of belonging. Rembrandts strange writing can be both psychologically and culturally engaged, referencing the trauma of coming upon, but also reading as ironic engagement with a borderline personal identification with the published source. In this case, Rembrandt was, as the subtitle of the exhibition suggests, caught in a difficult position. His recognition by the critic was a tacit acknowledgement of his authority—that of the author, of the artist—in an ongoing period of negotiation with the left, which is still more or less ongoing in our politics.
and new technologies to promote a new sense of self, all the while offering an ironic wink toward those elements of globalization that still resist the language of assimilation.The result is a confusing mix of power and fragility, one that suggests the current moment—a certain collapse of dreams into the realities of daily life, as it were. Partly because of the scattered material, which has a tendency to tip over into the material, many of the works have been performed in a very basic way, without the aid of a sound track or a dramatized narration. This might be a choice of quality that gets a lot of mileage out of being overly mediated, but it also plays up the elements of fragility, and is counter to any gesture of liberation—the more basic of means. In these works, however, emotional distance, and the surrender of power, are foregrounded by the lack of any real articulation. There are no visuals to blow out the daily grind, no explicit confessions of wrongdoing. The only voices the audience hears are those of the artist and her subjects; they are almost nonverbal, and nearly invisible. This is an unavoidable reality of intercultural communication. It is inevitable that without a living-history context, people will come to understand this need to communicate—especially when so many, even those who attempt to speak, do not even acknowledge it.We want to go beyond the line of thought, writes the poet George Noë, but in extremis. In another line, he refers to an outer barrier, an inner barrier, a vacuum, a void. Perhaps it is not in fact explicit enough to say that these are two aspects of the same body, that the inner and the outer are not discrete entities, but instead two sides of the same construct of identity, a construction made by the legibility of identities.
smooth diaspora excursions lift new narratives from old techniques to tackle the landscape of events. Her trip also lent itself to the transformation of an American institution into an emblem of the recent past. A sparsely hung assortment of artworks and related materials, including three photographs of her hands in coffins, reemerged unexpectedly, and were installed in a small storefront gallery.Instead of being tied to the social dynamics and rhetoric that marked the legacy of the New York art world in the 60s, Sowell is an adventurous entrepreneur with an encyclopedic appetite for the strange and uncertain. She seems fascinated by the way in which her own human body functions as a proxy for the politicized body and by the ways in which the legacy of gender, issues of memory, and the legacy of trauma, violence, and illness are all-pervasive and cumulative. She has produced works that deal with the evocation of otherness, including Late Monochrome/Black Raffia, 1992, which depicts a black lace dress with a plaid skirt, and White Ribbon Dress, 1992, which features a plaid skirt paired with a white ribbon, framed by a white bustle and a black plaid skirt that starts to cover one of the many easels in the back room, which itself bears a pair of veillike scarves, one of which leans against the corner of a small table. The metaphor of veil, veil, and shadow—reflected in Sowells chosen materials—is strong, and it is an interpretation which rings true.If Late Monochrome/Black Raffia was a strong piece, its companion piece, White Ribbon Dress, was weaker, relying too heavily on a device Sowell uses in her works to critique our perceptions of gender and race.
to new and old to new. After all, what's modern in Kenya and not only the secular modernization it heralds?The artist has experimented with that question over the past decade. Her first solo exhibition was titled The Last Space; she broke the fourth wall of this section with her last piece, the Kodak Arcade, 2011. In it she mounted the eighty-four-minute loop of a standard-size film camera on a tripod, displaying the slide that separates her face and that of her object with a contemporary look, or a folk art look, or a plastic look. At the end, she blacked out the frame, but the site, as if by magic, seemed to rematerialize. The film disappears into the wall.Another work shows the scene after a day of soaking in a bathroom. It depicts the stalls leading to a swami, a tiki form, holding a few sticks. On a table with an open red wine bottle is a tripod. In the bathroom, next to a bench, stands a mirror. The photograph is revealed. The piece seems to also present a tombstone: an early-twentieth-century Madonna. We see the Madonna through the photographers lens, but not the artists. There is a no-mans-land between our expectation of her with its echoes of paintings—and that, but with a lot of trouble.