Artist as Performer
Inspired by the era of YouTube, the exhibition Artist as Performer features artists performing in front of the camera. Employing photography, video, and video installation, these artists use their bodies in constructions that are often quirky and perplexing. Several play-act in an effort to define themselves and how they relate to others and the environment. Others use the studio as a sculptural laboratory space to explore action and physical relationships between objects. Several artists make narratives, either re-creating scenes from memory, or fabricating fictional tales.
Jaimie Warren is a performance artist from Kansas City, MO and the creator of the television show "Whoop Dee Doo", a public access program that invites audience participation. Her series Don’t you feel better chronicles the artist’s performances over the course of several years in the form of photographic snapshots. Using humor and shock tactics to challenge the public’s perception of behavioral and cultural norms, Warren play-acts in various contexts and quixotically attempts to embody characters from diverse social groups.
Exploring the perception of clichés, Korean-born Ok Hyun Ahn lip-syncs American love songs with emotional and sometimes flirtatious intensity, leaving viewers to develop their own perspectives of the artist´s sincerity. In Say You Love Me, the artist embodies a lounge singer persona and performs to an iconic love song sung by Nina Simone. While lip-synching to the familiar song’s melancholy lyrics, the artist theatrically acts out coy feminine gestures in hopes of encouraging her audience to identify with the shared yet personal experience of heartache. The artist packages her performance as a music video, weaving in scenes of a couple dancing.
Ok Hyun Ahn identifies her staged performance as an example of Western clichés. While sexualized videos such as hers exist in Korean culture, she believes her performance may make other Koreans uncomfortable as the outpouring of emotions in public arenas is considered risqué in the lives of Korean women. At the end of the video, the artist incorporates a socially awkward scene of individuals on a ferry ride, thereby underlining her juxtaposition of cultural differences.
Tim Roda situates his immediate family, including himself, in photographs of constructed worlds. Enacting fantasies and memories from his childhood, Roda blurs the boundaries of fiction and reality. These works feature Roda’s son Ethan in scenes set in his “hand-built garage.”
Roda’s eccentric narratives are loosely based on his childhood growing up a working class Italian immigrant family. Formally trained as a sculptor, the artist delights in making rough props and sets, as if to recreate the type of constructions made by a young boy. The sets are filled with information, often including mirrors and shadows as metaphorical storytelling devices, display his love of loaded mis-en-scene. The sets edges are regularly feature in the work, as if to suggest the photograph is capturing a dress rehearsal, or a child’s elaborate fort. The ultimate presentation mimics Roda’s childhood visualism, exemplified by irregular margins, rough paper edges, fixer stains and uneven tonal ranges.
The Kiss is a looped video installation in which Houston-based artist Christopher Pickett engages in a continual make-out session with himself. As if practicing for the “real” moment or as an act of utter narcissism, the artist theatrically slobbers the surface on which he places his lips. The images on each monitor project onto each other, creating the virtual illusion of a concrete interaction. The monitors’ close proximity to each other visually obstructs the view of the artist’s actions on the screens, thereby toying with the concept of public verses private space.
French-born Diane Decruet treats the female form as a sculptural vessel, pushing and pulling the body in front of the camera to arrange different forms according to specific anatomies. The motivation for her work stems from an interest in changing the perception men have of the feminine figure. The artist creates raw mise en scène, driving the form into uncomfortable gestures using everyday props in a simple studio setting.
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison’s Counterpoint expands the tightly controlled narrative found in their earlier work, The Architect’s Brother. In their new series, the artists introduce color into their practice and posit environments where humans, technology, and nature struggle to achieve balance. Their poetic, surreal scenes reflect the human condition, including often violent attempts to control other elements.
Drawing inspiration from the studio-based practice of Bruce Nauman and the Performance Art of Joseph Beuys, William Lamson conducts a series of amateur experiments in the studio and in the field. Hand-crafted paper airplanes that are larger than the artist himself, ill-fitting homemade suits of armor, and contraptions to catch and/or pop black balloons are all employed towards the achievement of constructed masculine ideals. In Actions, the artist’s desire for personal transcendence is sometimes reached, while in Virtual Capacity and After William Tell, Lamson’s shortcomings are evident, an acknowledgement of his human limitations. In his series Flight, the artist champions his love of the act of pursuing a lofty goal by employing amateur means, rather than its ultimate success.
Kara Hearn’s short film One Thing After Another is a series of vignettes in which the artist exaggerates foibles, tragedies, and heroic acts that often solely exist in our mind’s eye. In the context of her homespun sets, Hearn plays all of the characters in each scene, shifting her emotions from the melodramatic to the banal to embody the human plight. The work is a parody of the artist’s own life mixed with filmic scenes from popular culture.
10 September – 8 November, 2009
Houston Center for Photography
Artist / Photographer
Ok Hyun Ahn
Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison