Critics’ Picks

Jacopo Miliani, dot dot dot, 2016, spray paint on wall, ink-jet print, fitness balls, 73 x 177 x 30".

Jacopo Miliani, dot dot dot, 2016, spray paint on wall, ink-jet print, fitness balls, 73 x 177 x 30".


Jacopo Miliani

La Plage
25 blvd Saint-Martin
July 22–September 9, 2016

Longing is a defiant, out-of-body experience. Voguing, an instrument of consciousness transformation—named in homage to the fashion magazine—is a dance form that grew out of New York’s African American and Latino gay communities starting in the mid 1980s (one can watch voguers at a ball, an event that ironically recalibrates America’s WASPy cotillion culture of the early twentieth century). In Jacopo Miliani’s “Burning Desire,” the corporeality of a voguer inflames the transaction of desire.

Inside this vitrine gallery is dot dot dot, 2016, composed of three silver fitness balls that sit below an ink-jet print. On the print is an image of a blossoming lily, superimposed over a 1989 studio portrait of voguer Derrick Magnifique by the French Haitian photographer Chantal Regnault, a documenter of Harlem’s voguing scene. On a wall in black spray paint the phrases “HAVING A BALL” and “WISH YOU WERE HERE” bracket the photo and orbs. A pause in this sentimental language of pleasure and longing is created by the plump ellipsis.

Breaking free of the genteel exhibition space is twenty-four-year-old Algerian-born French dancer Yanis Khelifa, aka Yanou Ninja, from the House of Ninja, who vogued two one-hour sequences at the opening, a deviation from the form’s pop-quick pacing. Using the open courtyard as a stage, sans music, Khelifa/Ninja’s performance—through each sashay, lingering half step, or triumphant, shade-throwing glance—felt as though it were a mythic rite. The dips and drops and hand gestures that punctuated the catwalk (and his duckwalk) compress and draw out a lifetime of emotions and experiences into tender moments of resistance. Under the waning summer sun, the performer’s melancholic dynamism on this antispotlight event offers up urgent lessons on how to move in the world, as we fall and pick ourselves back up, in a solo battle of grace.