featured gallery for October 2011
These artworks date from 1989 to 2003 and have been selected to represent the following of a specific vein of self-viewership and self-spectatorship that is found in many of the thousands of artworks in the Visual AIDS archive.
The 10 artists here have engaged the self -- as depicted or depicting -- using media technologies and methodologies during periods in social and art history where new contexts were presented for embodiment. Specifically, artists began to look at their bodies -- individually, and the social body to which they belong and participate -- through various media and corresponding institutions of display and support.
Such methods and selections are lifted from the archive's coverage period during which artists living with HIV/AIDS began, through the medicalization of their bodies and lives, constituted a new category of experience: one of both acute and subtle traumas, maintenance and alternation. This doubling, the after/death (in response the huge numbers of men who died with HIV/AIDS in the 80s and 90s) and living/dying, is mirrored in the subject/object relationships between artist and viewer.
In addition, as representations of sexuality (or the sexual) are often a-erotic, here I wanted to work with artworks that depict not only a knowledge of one's self through self-depiction, but an eroticism created by knowing and experiencing the self: a desire of the identical. What may appear as a viewing of the self through the lens of the other-as-different, I'd propose is concurrently (if not entirely) a structured and intentional view through the lens of the identical.
The dynamic of the specific and general is further complicated by the spectrum of the homosociality and the homoerotic. These planes of desire serve as a location of vision and description, ranging from Daniel Robert's photograph of a video still that presents as a site for the viewer and the artist (who depicts his viewership) to Richard Sawdon Smith's self-portraiture engaged in comparison to an image reproduced in print. Eric Rhein'sWilliam and His Silhouette (Martha's Vineyard) is created by holding a textile, material plane from the body and creating illusionistic, general, and liminal phenomena between depiction and depicted, a relationship that is elaborated further by the film exposed within the camera. Otherwise, with Morrison, reflective planes are utilized to view one's body from the vantage point of both the other and the extended self.
Another strategy of representing bodily relationships is found in the remaining Eric Rhein photographs: together they use the male body and taxonomic illustration as substrate for the inverted stencil-lens of the leaf image, functioning as virtual diagram and optical mask.
Scott Burton's sculptures, in their unwillingness to be conventionally comforting or "fitting," are evocative in their rigidity as they require the purposeful and perverse positioning of the body in accordance to their design. Burton's sculptures also make opaque our desire for that we transparently traverse daily -- when we sit on a Burton, we feel both the compression of our own bodies against, inside ourselves as much as the hard, solid stone that we choose to support us.