Critics’ Picks

Carrie Schneider, Slow Dance, 2009, still from a color video, 6 minutes 30 seconds.

Carrie Schneider, Slow Dance, 2009, still from a color video, 6 minutes 30 seconds.


Carrie Schneider

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA Chicago)
220 East Chicago Avenue
December 5, 2009–January 3, 2010

Carrie Schneider’s photographs and videos plumb the depths of human intimacy, often by depicting, in grotesquely literal and occasionally comic fashion, the psychological baggage we bring to personal relationships. Family dynamics, particularly the fraught relations between siblings, loom large in the artist’s work, where a loved one’s embrace can be both comforting and repellent. In previous works, Schneider clung to mounds of earth with the fervor of a lover (Fallen Woman, 2006), reenacted a series of emotionally charged familial encounters (Family Videos, 2006), and limned the physical movements of her brother’s body with her own disheveled form (Derelict Self, 2006–2007).

Schneider’s six-and-a-half minute video Slow Dance, 2009—in the artist’s first solo museum exhibition—explores themes of thwarted intimacy in an anonymous dive-bar setting. It recalls Brassaï’s 1930s-era portraits of Parisian nightclubs, where private passions were put on public display. Schneider likewise views the bar as a public stage, where one’s attraction to (or antipathy for) others is ritualistically conveyed. Like a queen holding court, a female bartender presides over the scene, watching intently as a young man, played by Schneider’s brother, is reluctantly drawn onto the dance floor by a pretty blond woman. Just as the couple’s awkward embrace takes a turn for the genuinely sensual, a “double” wriggles out from beneath each dancer’s clothing (the male’s double is portrayed by Schneider herself) and mirrors each of their movements. Pulling back, the camera reveals a mutant tangle of bodies. At once creepy and unexpectedly poignant, Schneider’s works portray the erotic’s vulnerability when confronted with the magnitude of human need.