Pooh Kaye

Shoot The Lobster | New York
138 Eldridge Street
May 12, 2017–June 25, 2017

Pooh Kaye, Climb, 1976, digital transfer from Super 8, color, silent, 1 minute 11 seconds.

Sometimes you just want to shimmy up a pole. Jump on a bed. Fold yourself into a small space. Writhe naked atop a table. Or bury yourself. Don’t you?

In the private performances she staged for the camera from 1975 to 1980, Pooh Kaye did all of the above. The five digitized Super 8 films gathered for this exhibition, curated by Josephine Graf, are documents of post-Judson dance (for several years, the artist worked with seminal choreographer Simone Forti) and contributions to experimental cinema. A jumpy frame rate renders them almost like stop-motion animation—Kaye’s moving body, the clay—or early film. The end of Going Out, 1980, which sees a magic carpet pulling the artist around wildly to different corners of her loft, is straight out of the films of special-effects pioneer Georges Méliès, or the short comic vignettes of Thomas Edison.

But Kaye eschews the neatness of a punch line, favoring quixotic tasks that can never be satisfactorily completed. In Swim, 1977, she drapes herself across a chair, supported only by its arms, and mimes swimming as best she can through air. In Climb, 1976, the artist makes a SoHo loft a site of inspiration and torture as she frantically tries to ascend a column wearing only a grass skirt. There’s something undeniably funny about this athletically challenging activity—it’s in the spirit of vaudeville. Kaye’s humor mixes with and loosens up the seriousness about repetition and corporeal investigation associated with Forti and Yvonne Rainer. In Climb, a dog comes out of nowhere, a welcome interloper, disturbing the austere setting.

— Nicholas Chittenden Morgan