September 26, 2013 · Print This Article
The Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, located surprisingly in a nondescript complex of galleries and antique shops in Buckhead, a north-side neighborhood of Atlanta, curated a show focusing on feminism, performativity, and photography. The works in the show by the artists Jill Frank, MÃ³nika SzilÃ¡di, and duo Double Zero (Hannah Ireland and Annie Vought) examine how to make a photograph of someone, a person, a woman (perhaps) and what that means.Â One of the organizing principles of the show – performativity, a buzz word indeed especially since the 1990s with Judith Butler’s work on gender – finds itself in relation to photographs that draw attention to the process of their making. Alongside considerations of gender and femininity as performative gestures, the works in the show investigate the apparatus of photography and imagistic representation itself – Jill Frank’s work in particular.Â Adding to this work by Frank is theÂ Untitled (Projection)Â series by Steffani Jemison presented in her solo exhibition, When I Turn My Head,Â in the upstairs gallery at Hagedorn.
The works inÂ Ready for My Close-Up evoke other images of women from history: paintings, film stills. These other images, not necessarily direct references, exist in an assemblage of representation with Frank’s, SzilÃ¡diâ€™s, and Double Zero’s. When seen in conjunction withÂ When I Turn My Head, the sphere of the imagistic medium, photography, opens itself to critical examination and self-reflection. Ready for My Close-UpÂ seems to ask whether the question of female or feminine representation is the question of representation itself.
Jill Frank’s Menacing Romance
Four photographs from Jill Frankâ€™s series Romance are presented in the show: Romance / PopocatÃ©petl and IztacchÃhuatl (2012), Romance / Secret Sniper (2012), Romance / Vertigo (2013), and Romance / Un Homme et un Femme (2013). All images are chromogenic prints with rich colors that provoke fantasies, and with their large size (30â€ x 37â€), the viewer feels as if she can initially step into the scene. The first two images, Romance / PopocatÃ©petl and IztacchÃhuatl (2012) and Romance / Secret Sniper (2012), depict more unsuspecting narratives, whereas the last two images, Romance / Vertigo (2013) and Romance / Un Homme et un Femme (2013) start to take on a more sinister e/affect.
A woman lays across a kneeling manâ€™s knee with her head invisible to the viewer – it hangs down, exposing her throat where his his hand rests. Her knee hosts a series of bandages, the slingback of her shoe has slipped from her heel.
Two men stand at the edge of a dock. Wearing matching colored shorts, one holds the other from behind, grasping at his neck and chest. The man standing in front reaches over his head to hold onto the man behind him. The man in front looks up obliquely with an indistinguishable gaze.
These two photographs: Romance / Vertigo (2013) and Romance / Un Homme et un Femme (2013) exemplify the complications Frank creates for our traditional senses of Hollywood romance. Frankâ€™s statement for the show describes her process and intentions behind the series:
â€œThe photographs in this exhibition portray couples re-performing poses inspired by popular media images that were formative in constructing their own understanding of romantic interaction and presentation. The photographed performances challenge the authority and familiarity of the collective visual archive of American romance in order to engender a critical conversation about the influence of dominant representations.â€ 
The showâ€™s title Ready for My Close-Up directly references the last lines aging Hollywood actress Norma Desmond speaks in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. The film, a story of a silent film actress gone mad yearning to occupy the space of the Hollywood picture again, ends with her face approaching the camera until it disintegrates into a haze of grey. Her closeness to the camera quite literally destroys her, but it was the years of distance which contributed to her delusions.  Hagedornâ€™s exhibition statement describes the cultural reference to the film in relation to the photographic works shown in Ready for My Close-Up:
â€œIn the last half century, feminism and performativity have influenced contemporary photography more than any other cultural markers. The exhibition title is taken from the exit line of Sunset Boulevard, a film which questions female identity issues, the rehearsal of the self, the gaze of the viewer, and the use of the theatrical to command attention, all influenced by culture and all features of this group exhibition.â€ 
The works in the group show can all serve as critical responses to the film, whether the work is explicitly influenced by the film or not; they exist together in the sphere of representation’s history. Frankâ€™s photographs play out the deranged romantic entanglement of the filmâ€™s Desmond and Joe Gillis. MÃ³nika SzilÃ¡diâ€™s photographs present the viewer with a crowded and disorienting perspective of cultures and practices of representation. Double Zeroâ€™s photographs and video portray a feminine masquerade pushed to hyperbolic extremes.
SzilÃ¡di, The Montage-Paparazzi
SzilÃ¡diâ€™s photograph Untitled (Ladies) (2012) sticks a fuzzy and blurred face into the foreground of the image. The close-up shot has gotten too close like Norma Desmondâ€™s final close-up in Sunset Boulevard. The six photographs shown at Hagedorn are from her series Wide Receivers, possibly a play on the position in American football, the players that are able to receive passes from the quarterback and are often celebrated for those glorious catches. Her statement describes her interests in the â€œsocial sphere and its attendant behaviorsâ€ and her â€œaim to collapse the space between the physical and the virtual.â€  The images, a flattening of perspectival depth, contain images of imaging or representational processes and those who are allowed representation. There is a sense that when one figure stands in front of another, there is no space between their bodies; one actually cuts through the other’s body.
Untitled (Blonde) (2011) can be read as representing representation itself. Through SzilÃ¡diâ€™s inclusion of images of handheld cameras, subjects posing for snapshots, a woman putting on make-up reflected in a mirror, and a perhaps drag queen taking up the center space of the photograph, after whom the photograph is titled, the photograph seems to become a commentary on the practice of photography itself. Next to the blonde, a man was caught with his eyes closed. To the left of him, a manâ€™s eye peers directly out of the frame towards the subject looking at the photograph. Michel Foucault states that the 17th century painting Las Meninas (1656) by Diego VelÃ¡squez
â€œpresents us with the entire cycle of representation: the gaze, the palette and brush, the canvas innocent of signs (these are the material tools of representation), the paintings, the reflections, the real man (the completed representation, but as it were freed from its illusory or truthful contents, which are juxtaposed to it); then the representationÂ dissolves again: we can see only the frames, and the light that is flooding the pictures from outside, but that they, in return, must reconstitute in their own kind, as though it were coming from elsewhere, passing through their dark wooden frames.â€ 
SzilÃ¡diâ€™s digital composites of images taken at â€œpublic relations and networking events as well as trade shows and meet-ups of social segments that have connected online to interact offlineâ€  comment on the constructed nature of the way we present ourselves in public and the ways in which we image those constructions. Like Velasquezâ€™s painting, the apparatus of representation shows itself explicitly, drawing our attention to our own practices of presentation and public performance.
Double Zero’s Revealing Masks
Double Zeroâ€™s photographs and video push these meticulous constructions of public appearance to the extreme. In their video Cha cha cha changes (2013), Hannah Ireland and Annie Vought dress each other up with unconventional objects or conventional objects in unconventional ways. Over the course of the videoâ€™s almost 23 minutes, the two women take on absurd costuming and masking. With materials that are used for make-up application and other cosmetic tools, their faces become covered in lipstick and face paint, their heads bound in bubblewrap and what appears to be foil that could be used to dye hair. Flower stems are stuck into the fabrics wrapping their heads, blooms sticking out from their faces.
The two take turns transforming each otherâ€™s appearance. In what appears to be a reference to Matthew Barneyâ€™s Cremaster Cycle, particularly Cremaster 3, they go through processes of bodily manipulation and adornment.  If Barneyâ€™s Cremaster Cycle is about the development of the male testes, what can be said about Double Zeroâ€™s feminine transformations? Their statement reads: â€œWe have united to use our 20 year friendship as the basis for investigating the ways we affect one another, the boundaries between us, and different modes of taking up space in the world. With the complexities of friendship and the trust weâ€™ve built over time, we pursue these themes directly in the actions and objects we make together.â€  Their photographs and video show a relational transformation. They affect one another whether they choose it or not. The silliness of the objects and the resulting ornate masks when coupled with their facial expressions in the video, the phenomenon of feminine friendship grows into a complex situation of acceptance and denial.
Norma Desmond, after she convinces herself that her script for her film about Salome, the ancient femme fatale, will be directed by Cecil B. DeMille, she starts a rigorous beauty routine. She claims that she needs to make herself ready to be in the pictures again and a sequence shows her being massaged, prodded, wrapped, lotioned. At one point, while wearing products on her face and with her hair wrapped, she enters Joeâ€™s room, but tells him not to look back at her; when she is made-up in this way instead of the proper way, he is not to gaze upon her. Desmondâ€™s excessively vain self-consciousness, is a private practice made public. At another moment in the film, after gazing at herself in the mirror, eyes wide with frenzy, she rips off the cosmetic strips on her face before walking into Joeâ€™s room to discover he is leaving her. She chases him as he exits the house. To get his attention, she shoots him. She shoots him again. This is the moment of her breakdown. After this moment, all she can do is sit in front of the mirror and prep for the camera.
Concluding Remarks: does Jemison’s inkÂ adhere?
Desmond lives in a world of cameras and characters. To her, cinema ended when dialogue began. She says to Joe â€œWe didnâ€™t need dialogue, we had faces.â€ She then steps into the light of the film projector in her home movie theater that is showing one of the movies she had starred in. The woman actress need only have a face; she didnâ€™t need a voice – this is the kind of cinema that Desmond supports. The voice destroys the perfect face; the face of 1932 Marlene Dietrichâ€™s Shanghai Lily that Laura Mulvey gazes upon in her essay â€œVisual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.â€  As Joe Gillis voice-over narrates, Norma is a â€œcelluloid self.â€  Is the celluloid flat? Does it have any depth? Is her self only surface, the merging of the surface with the underlying anatomy, her body? Or, is her self a thin veneer covering the surface of the filmic foundation?
The upstairs gallery of Hagedorn hosts Steffani Jemisonâ€™s show When I Turn My Head which â€œconsiders issues that arise when conceptual practices are inflected by black history and vernacular cultureâ€ and also â€œaddresses the form and materiality of a photograph through the fugitivity of the image.â€  Works from her series Untitled (Projections), photographs printed on acetate, explore the ways in which an image may separate from its support. The ink does not sink into the acetate; it rests on the surface, creating a depth of materiality.  Mary Ann Doane writes in her seminal essay “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator” that “The masquerade, in flaunting femininity, holds it at a distance. Womanliness is a mask which can be worn or removed. The masquerade’s resistance to patriarchal positioning would therefore lie in its denial of the production of femininity as closeness, as presence-to-itself, as precisely, imagistic.”  Taken together with the works in the show on the ground level, what do we discover about photography as a tool and method for thinking through and creating structures of representation? How much does the image adhere to what it represents and the foundation which holds that very representation itself?
SzilÃ¡di, the figure of montage-paparazzi, makes apparent the apparatus of representation while Frankâ€™s photographs create scenes in which non-extraordinary people inhabit the characters of Hollywood in order to experience true romance. What Frank shows us, though, is that these typical narratives are not without their dangers. Norma murders the man she has come to love. Whether or not that love is true is a question we could ask. In consideringÂ Ready for My Close-Up, must this love be artificial? Double Zeroâ€™s work seen as a sort of parody of making-up for the camera, expresses the artificial nature of feminine identity construction. However, within the framework of feminine friendship, we can’t too quickly dismiss these gestures of dressing one another. The collage nature of SzilÃ¡di’sÂ digital images is seamless. Before knowing that they were constructed, I stood in front of the photographs pondering what parties they came from: where do these people gather? Are they all in costume together, playing into some collective fantasy?
Frankâ€™s series grew from an iconic image, at least in todayâ€™s age of Hollywood: the image of Baby / Jennifer Grey crawling towards Johnny / Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. A recognizable image. What sets Frankâ€™s later photographs apart is their subjectsâ€™ poses are initially unrecognizable. In some way, their illegibility may gesture towards an infiltration of our cultural imaginary that we now fail to recognize. The everyday performances of relationships and romance congeal in Frankâ€™s photographs.Â Â Ready for My Close-Up, a show curated around the issue of feminism and performativity, finds its complexity in Frankâ€™s strangely unsettling images of menacing romance,Â SzilÃ¡di’s disorienting flatness, and Double Zero’s interplay of masking and revealing.
Desmond, an embodied image of the female hysteric, is deluded. Her wide eyes stare out at the film spectator. As the character Salome, a woman who has been historically represented as a seductress, she approaches the camera, staring directly out at us, outside the frame of the film. In this moment, is she re-living/playing her past traumas? Traumas that may have led to this moment? In the film’s final moments, when Desmond declares that she is ready for her close-up, what can we say is exterior? What is interior? Â Who is she? And, gazing at her, making eye contact, who are we?
Ready for My Close-Up
September 12, 2013 – October 25, 2013
Artistsâ€™ Reception: October 4, 2013, 6:00 – 8:30 PM
Panel Discussion with the artists and Wendy Vogel, Associate Editor at Modern Painters: October 5, 2013, 12:00 – 2:00 PM
Hagedorn Foundation Gallery
425 Peachtree Hills Avenue, Number 25
Atlanta, GA 30305
 Jill Frank, Statement
 Sunset Boulevard.Â Directed by Billy Wilder. 1950.
 Hagedorn, Statement
 MÃ³nika SzilÃ¡di, Wide Receivers statement, http://msziladi.com/index.php/image/statement/13
 Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human SciencesÂ (New York: Vintage, 1994), 11.
 SzilÃ¡di, Wide ReceiversÂ statement
 I am indebted to Justin Andrews for calling this to my attention.
 Annie Vought, â€œDouble Zero Videos,â€ http://annievought.com/category/double-zero/
 Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,”Â Screen, vol. 16, no. 3 (1975): 6-18.
Â Sunset Boulevard.
 Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Press Release for Steffani Jemisonâ€™s When I Turn My Head.
 During the panel discussion featuring Steffani Jemison, when I asked Jemison if she could describe the title choice and process of making these images, she replied that she was examining the make-up of a photograph: its support and its image. Panel discussion with Steffani Jemison, Rizvana Bradley (Assistant Professor of Womenâ€™s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University), and Rujeko Hockley (Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum) on 9.21.2013 at Hagedorn Foundation Gallery.
 Mary Ann Doane, “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator” in Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (New York and London: Routledge, 1991), 25. Reprint of the essay’s 1982 publication inÂ Screen:Â Screen, vol. 23, no. 3-4 (1982): 74-88.
March 20, 2012 · Print This Article
I arrived 11 hours late to the movie. I asked the ticket-man if I’d missed anything. Yeah, he said, you missed the really dirty parts.
Jesse Cain‘s Parts and Labor is 13 hours. It is his hands replacing the engine of a car, piece by piece. The work is shot in sparkling HD, with steady close-up shots. The compositions are arresting. The depths of field are shallow. His hands, the moving parts, the parts his hands are moving shift in and out of focus as he works. It is a durational film, certainly. It is the length of time it took him to perform the action–over two years. The labor dictates the form, the length, the shape.
Parts and Labor showed in a traditional theatrical space, the mainstay Anthology Film Archives. People were welcome to come and go as they pleased (as one might during any other movie), and did. Audience members left to eat a meal, to drink a drink, perhaps, even, to perform their own labors.
The film is tremendous. My brain was abuzz with the ways we can ensure the cinematic experience is maintained when moving images are brought into visual art contexts. The world of art has never been so formally or materially diverse, of course, but not all presentation strategies are utilized equally. I am continually surprised and annoyed by curators, artists and exhibition-makers’ insistence on showing films and videos with integral trajectories on a loop. There are, obviously, makers whose works are meant to be looped and meant for gallery contexts. I don’t know how effective Tony Oursler‘s puppet projections would be on a screen, in a traditional cinematic environment (actually, I bet it’d be amazing). There are also, of course, pieces that can function (and change meaning, etc.) through a variety of exhibition strategies. However, for works meant to be seen in their entirety (and, as obvious as it sounds. starting at the beginning and ending at the end), it’s a travesty to not even allow audiences the chance to experience them in their intended state.
It is, then, with great excitement that I believe the 2012 Whitney Biennial has pulled it off. Along with Elisabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, the show’s curators, Thomas Beard and Ed Halter (who also run the recently moved and renovated Light Industry) have not only assembled an excellent calendar of screenings, but with the Biennial’s staff have done a wonderful job of presenting films in a museum in a way that honors the unique capacities of both of the traditional exhibition models. On the day attended (Friday), Jerome Hiler‘s quiet, beautiful Words of Mercury began every half hour, on the half hour. There is a sign at the tightened curtain requesting audiences wait until the next half hour to enter. There were still the types of conversations one might rather not hear during a screening, but those mostly died off within the first ten minutes. I sat near the front and absorbed very few of the stings of walk-outs. Noise from other rooms was minimal and Hiler’s hypnotic, textural superimpositions were given the space to breathe they needed.
One hopes other exhibition organizations will follow the lead of the Whitney in their exhibition of time-based works. Through very simple means (in many cases more suggestive and informative than anything else), viewers were able to see the works as they were intended. And, with a show as vast as the biennial, the time until the next screening just means a greater, longer consideration of works whose temporal strategies are less oblique.
Last week Duncan, Richard and I traveled to New York City to install Bad at Sport’s first NYC exhibition entitled Â Don’t Piss on Me and Tell Me it’s Raining at apexart. Although stressful at times, as any exhibition can be, I can safely say that we were all excited to work with the lovely team at Apex and exhibit work from 180+ artists that have been on the show. This week I will be posting mostly photo recaps of our experience putting together the show and some photographs of work I saw when traveling around New York city. Our first group of photographs encompass the beginning install.
When we were first asked by apexart if we would like to have an exhibition in their space one of the first concerns was, “how do you take a web project and create an exhibition?” Many of us have thought of Bad at Sports as an archive of what is currently happening in our communities. With that in mind we decided to ask participants of the show to send in a piece that would create a physical archive. Receiving the work was not an issue but properly cataloging it became a task of its own. The first couple of days we archived, well, the archive with photographs and a numbering system. Once that was finished we began arranging the works in clusters.
Photographer Richard Prince’s photo “Spiritual America” was removed from the upcoming Tate Modern exhibition “Pop Life” (opening tomorrow) after a warning from Scotland Yard that the nude image of actress Brooke Shields aged 10 and heavily made up could break obscenity laws.
The officers spoke to the Tate after seeing promotional material in the newspaper and not via complaints that were issued to the office.
Read more about the history of the photo and it’s background at the Guardian article.