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“No! I am No Singular Instrument”

Various Small Fires
812 North Highland Avenue
June 4, 2016–July 9, 2016

Hannah Black, Bodybuilding, 2015, digital video, color, sound, 8 minutes 10 seconds.

An eerily manipulated loop of Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time” emanates from a room just off the main gallery, where Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings’s video, If These Fossils Could Talk They Would Tell You Who Got Fucked and Who Didn’t, 2015, is projected into a corner. Grande’s track eventually emerges as an organizing force of this exhibition as its echoes pervade the gallery, haunting the rest of the works. Curated by Samuel Kenswil, the show is fashioned as an afterimage of late-twentieth-century body politics, asking what the jargon—all this talk of the body that was intended to untether us from Western dualism—has left us with. Has it reduced or expanded our ability to speak of ourselves, of others?

The works here examine this question loosely, each differently entangled in the problem. Brian Khek’s series of wall-based works “Gypsum Battery with Clearance,” 2016, creates a taxonomy of bird eggs in incubator-like sculptures made of the barest of architectural elements—drywall and studs. Hans-Jacob Schmidt’s small sand-and-resin sculptures, titled 20, A Lesser Sovereign and 21 or 24, A Lesser Sovereign, both 2016, display peacefully eroding bodies. Athletes huff and grunt in Hannah Black’s video Bodybuilding, 2015, which fixates on physiques stretched to their maximum capacities as the artist’s voice-over betrays a desire to expand and become big herself.

Indeterminacy seems to be on everyone’s mind. Here, such distinctions as body/architecture or subject/object are treated as junctions, joints, and permeable boundaries. This exhibition refuses aseptic isolation, acknowledges the fragility and instability of the present, and asks what, if anything, could come next.

Aria Dean