INCARNATIONAL AESTHETICS
Clifford Owens, <I>Four Fluxus Scores by Benjamin Patterson (Whipped Cream Piece, Lick Piece, 1964), 2006

Tamy Ben-Tor, Mathieu Briand, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Coco Fusco, Rico Gatson, Michael Joo, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Molly Larkey, Nikki S. Lee, Joanna Malinowska, Rachel Mason, Alex McQuilkin, Yasumasa Morimura, Clifford Owens, Jeffrey Porterfield, and Cindy Sherman.

October 23 – November 25, 2009

The New York Center for Art and Media Studies

Exhibition opening: October 23, 2009, 6-9 p.m. with performances by Mathieu Briand, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, and Rachel Mason.

Organized by Stamatina Gregory and Jenny Jaskey, Incarnational Aesthetics unites contemporary artists who use embodiment or “role play” in their work as a means of interrogating and deconstructing the public and private boundaries between self and other. More than a play-on-words or riposte to Nicolas Bourriaud’s term “relational aesthetics,” it is also a kind of inversion. The wide swath of practices to which this term refers reframes public, social interactions as aestheticized space. Conversely, the work in Incarnational Aesthetics turns inward, using various strategies to represent, embody, and empathize with a specific person or entity, exploring the formation of subjectivity while testing its limits. Through performance, video, photographs, sculpture, and works on paper, the exhibition revisits iconic moments and underrepresented histories, and reexamines the raced and gendered politics of representation, the focus of media culture on simultaneous idol worship and destruction, and the relationship of identity to the state.

The postmodern practices of Cindy Sherman are continued and complicated by Slater Bradley, Nikki S. Lee, and Yasumasa Morimura, the artists inserting themselves into social subcultures and iconic artworks. Michael Joo, Rachel Mason and Alex McQuilkin embody the affectations of political figures and movie stars; along with the work of Tamy Ben-Tor and Molly Larkey these artists refuse and deflect simple analyses of the processes of identification. Other projects by Rico Gatson, Clifford Owens, Jeff Porterfield and Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen reenact iconic moments in art and social history: Gatson becomes his ancestors’ racist oppressor in Flaming Hood (2000), and Owens revisits Benjamin Patterson’s Fluxus performance Lick Piece (1964). Coco Fusco and Joanna Malinowska take extreme measures to empathize with their characters: Fusco reenacts twelve-hour detention and interrogation of a Mexican maquiladora worker, and Malinowska treks to the Canadian Arctic in the steps of anthropologist Franz Boas. Photographic collages that document “Roberta Breitmore” (1974-1978), a performed character that was played by Lynn Hershman and three ‘multiples’, explore identity construction and precede her later agent-based works driven by artificial intelligence. Through the course of the exhibition, Paris-based Mathieu Briand invites participation in his work Identity is Property (2009) in which the artist offers his identity for sale to the public.

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