Critics’ Picks

San Pedro

Johanna Breiding

Angels Gate Cultural Center
3601 South Gaffey Street
January 27–March 17

Johanna Breiding’s exhibition begins with an account of the last (documented) persecuted witch in Europe, Anna Göldi. Unlike the majority of her rumored coven, Göldi met her fate at the chopping block, in 1782, rather than the gallows—cutting her short at the neck. Here, the artist provides a historical revision, a consideration of similarly oppressed peoples. The focal piece is Breiding and Shoghig Halajian’s THE REBEL BODY, 2018, a video documenting their pursuit of Göldi through the springtime snowmelt of Switzerland, and their meeting with Silvia Federici, the author of Caliban and the Witch (2004), the book from which this piece, and the show itself, takes its title. In a nod to the present day, Breiding places images of her journeys to the witches’ towns against blurred footage from the 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, riots, an aide-mémoire to the many people who met their end on the executioner’s scaffold and its modern American equivalent: the street.

In the looping video Demonstrative Score, 2017, Breiding edits together images of falling monuments to contentious historical figures, and one wonders if memorials are required as evidence of history. This piece is synced with another video, featuring the artist taisha paggett performing gestures from the aforementioned archival footage against a stark white backdrop. Her body, an African American one, is the only fully present figure in the exhibition. On the opposite wall, the obstinacy of these video works is buffered by Breiding’s quietly insurgent photographic installation of queer intimacy, Slippage/Spillage, 2015–18.

One recurring motif is the time between winter and spring, when things long dormant or buried are revealed. This is seen, for example, in the digital C-print Haute Route––Somewhere Between Chamonix and Zermatt, 2016, depicting a search party descending a snowcapped Swiss mountain. Here is a cooperative venture to exhume those rubbed out from the story.