Critics’ Picks

Nightmare City, DAISIES, 2011, HD video, color, sound, 45 minutes.

Austin

“Friendship and Freedom”

MASS Gallery
705 Gunter Street
January 23–February 28

History is always partial, fragmentary. Remnants and details rise to the surface, but the rest has to be reconstituted by observers in the present—doubly so for queer history, which often has other layers of obfuscation to deal with. Some of the components of “Friendship and Freedom” read like a historical exhibit awaiting queer rebirth. Leah DeVun’s vitrine of punk-rock friendship books culled from her personal archive, for instance, is installed beneath three tape recorders playing gravelly, decaying mixtapes. DeVun’s accompanying photos of the fey and fanciful little books serve to “queer” an already subaltern history: Punk is raucous and loud; the objects in the gallery point to a community of lonely dreamers.

Edie Fake’s ink drawings of long-closed Chicago gay bars (from a larger body of work that investigates the city’s historic gay publications and organizations as well) another way to create queer relationships with history. Fake began these pieces with only the names and addresses of the bars, advertised covertly in gay magazines. The drawings, based on the absence of these spaces, are unapologetically fantastic: Each building is composed of ornamental inked patterns shattered across the page like disco quilts. For Fake, the ghosts of these spaces generate strange opportunities for friendship—an opportunity echoed in Nightmare City’s video DAISIES, 2011, projected on a corner wall. The work parodies Věra Chytilová’s 1966 film of the same name, in which two young women in bathing suits run amok, grotesquely eating everything in their path. In Nightmare City’s rendition, the characters sit on a beach towel wearing cheap bikinis, true to contemporary fantasies of bad-girl sisterhood. Films, cities, strangers—in this show, everything becomes a friend through visions reborn.