Critics’ Picks

Jennifer Reeder, Tears Cannot Restore Her; Therefore, I Weep, 2010, still from a color video, 10 minutes.

Jennifer Reeder, Tears Cannot Restore Her; Therefore, I Weep, 2010, still from a color video, 10 minutes.

Chicago

Jennifer Reeder

ANDREW RAFACZ
1749 West Chicago Ave
November 6–December 18, 2010

This satisfying exhibition marks the debut of Jennifer Reeder’s latest short film as well as her first sculptural forays. The mundane exteriors of Reeder’s recent character-based narrative films often belie roiling emotional undercurrents, so it’s fitting that the mixed-media sculptures on view here are also made to hide their true forms. Shelved records culled from the artist’s personal collections, each album cover masked by a monochromatic felt sleeve, are stacked in striking Minimalist compositions along two walls. Elsewhere, disparate props shaped like an E.T. doll, a clown’s glove, and a severed foot are cast in glossy black bonded marble (a mixture of marble powder and resin) and displayed on wooden tables. Each cryptically refers to one of Reeder’s past or future projects while simultaneously evoking the materiality of the sheathed vinyl.

Tears Cannot Restore Her; Therefore, I Weep, 2010, the new ten-minute digital video screened in an adjacent room, concerns a female sign language interpreter who mistranslates a lecture on the history of electromagnetism by replacing the male speaker’s words with a cringingly personal narrative of romantic loss—which in turn requires translation through subtitles. As the interpreter signs, the sound of the lecturer’s speech is electronically distorted into an unintelligible drone. Reeder has subtly inserted her own authorial commentary by drawing digitally rendered lines over certain images, simultaneously masking and highlighting their narrative significance.

The film’s Babel-like confluence of speech, signs, subtitles, and scribbles stands in pointed contrast to the muffled records lining the walls of the previous room. Taken as a whole, Reeder’s exhibition portrays communication as a flawed, absurd, yet absolutely essential enterprise, because the desire to make ourselves known to others is also what makes us human.