Definitions of play – as in the record button, in the interaction with the technology, in the performance, in the approach, or in the game – connect the videos, video installations, mixed-media and sculptural works addressing the subjects of mass media, identity, and stereotypes, among others, with humor and deceptive simplicity.
The oldest and newest works in terms of the technology, separated by 40 years, are built upon the use of the artist’s own body in the work as both subject and surface. Wilson’s “I have become my own worst fear/Deformation” (2009) is a mixed-media installation presented as a conversation loop between the artist’s younger self in her 1974 video “Deformation”, shot on ½ inch analog video tape, in which she exaggerates her “worst” features through makeup to become as ugly as possible – in her eyes of the time – and the photographic recreation of the video’s final scene when she is 35 years older. While in “Body Scan”(2014), the Greece-born, London-based Erica Scourti uses CamFind, an image recognition and search app for iPhone, as a game played with her lover, scanning her unclothed self to receive often amusing, at other times sobering results from the virtual world.
Thomas’s painting and video diptych “Oh, Mickey”, made the year Obama was elected, layers commentary on social, racial and economic themes. Both the rhinestone, acrylic and enamel painting and framed video depict the same black woman, on the painting in close up from the thighs down wearing tube socks and red heels, and on video from a wider angle as otherwise naked in a living room, before a partially concealed American flag, singing to the cheerleader-chants of Toni Basil’s 1980s hit of the same title.
McQuiklin’s 2013 video “Magic Moments (Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl)” offers a direct critique on the stereotype of the American girl as promoted by the media, accompanied by a decadent acoustic version of the “Star Spangled Banner”. The steady stream of excerpts from movies, advertisements, fashion and music videos trap the viewer in a world of dreamy, supposedly carefree, overwhelming white and thin girls, who pose and smile vapidly, while their long hair flows free in the wind.
In “Emma Photo Booth” by Emma Bee Bernstein (1985-2008), a previously unseen work from autumn 2008 and titled posthumously, the 23-year old artist, as in her earlier photographs and Polaroids, performs as herself, this time positioned in front of her laptop with Apple’s Photo Booth as a mirror. Bernstein’s 13-minute narration of biographical events, starting with name, age and occupation(s) are presented in a manner suggestive of reality show audition tapes, shifting between wit, irony, and disenchantment as she delivers the thoughts of a “girl” hit hard by adulthood realities.
Finally, Brooklyn-based artist Jessie Stead’s new video installation “Runaway Interludes / 20 Channel Jamboree vol. 7 (Admission)”, composed of flickering strips of “admit one” tickets projected onto clear plastic bears containing game pieces and DVD’s, challenges the audience to part in her playground filled with game-like narratives, structures and elements culled from mass culture, but with the rules unknown.
With works by Emma Bee Bernstein, Alex McQuilkin, Erica Scourti, Jessie Stead, Mickalene Thomas, Martha Wilson