Monday, March 01, 1993

by Jim Leftwich, Svetlana Boym,Ilya Kabakov, Brian O'Doherty, Bruce Connor, Michael Duncan, Mike Kelley, Susan Sontag, Jack Smith, David Rimanelli, John Bragin, Ulrike Bergermann, Ellen Nonnenmacher, Bruce Baillie, & Boris Groys

Clichés and horrors make a rapid collage in which destruction and sex follow each other in images of pursuit (cowboys and Indians, all kinds of cars, engines, an elephant) and falling (parachutes, bombs, planes) until finally a diver disappears through a hole in the bottom of the sea - the ultimate exit. The entire thing is prefaced by a girl from a shady movie lazily undressing. Patterns of charred wood, streams of diffused light, reflecting broken glass, a couple of women and a much larger number of men, most of them clad in flamboyant thrift-shop women's clothes, frolic about, pose and posture, dance with one another, enact various scenes of voluptuousness, sexual frenzy, romance and vampirism. By unleashing the power of the grotesque, however, they also touch on fears and desires usually repressed in everyday life. But false memories don't have to be so gruesome. A woman in white (a transvestite) with drooping head holding a stalk of lilies; a gaunt woman seen emerging from a coffin, who turns out to be a vampire and, eventually, male; a marvelous Spanish dancer (also a transvestite) with huge dark eyes, black lace mantilla and fan; a tableau from the sheik of Araby, with reclining men in burnooses and an Arab temptress stolidly exposing one breast; flowers take on the paralysis of graveyard bouquets; girlie bouquets make the viewer feel like a corpse remembering former pleasures; lace associates directly with arsenic; flickering votive lamps desecrate instead of sanctify. The detritus and debris of old nylons, comic strips, wrappers, beads, cigarette butts, are accumulated in a sort of inspired excess that becomes a curious digestive process in which fire seems catalytic - everything burned and singed so it looks as if one puff of air would disperse the whole flimsy structure. The sense that his art is filled with innumerable doors (and culs-de-sac)
encourages this notion. I'll take interpretive drift over inchoate sprawl any day. Multiple interpretations are A-OK in art, but endless ones are like endless love: hopeless. These difficulties do not arise for us since we see the world only as a cross-section, and hence as a whole. For us the problem of discerning all the details, or the correlation between these details and the whole, simply does not arise. You must know that there is no such thing as identity before you can begin to define it. Identity is infinitely complex. Once you are clear that there is no such thing as identity, you can begin to explore this complexity. Too banal and insignificant to be recorded anywhere else, and made taboo not because of their potential political explosiveness, but because of their sheer ordinariness, their all-too-human scale, the animated operating scheme shows the mars sandstorms as a motor for the movements of the turning stricklies, the crotchet hook lifting the thread over one of four hooks producing a stitch, which adds up to the Strickwurst (knitted sausage).