Critics’ Picks

Coco Fusco, Dolores from 10 to 10, 2002, four-channel video on CCTV monitors, black-and-white, sound, 1 hour 39 minutes. Installation view.

Los Angeles

“Dissent: What They Fear Is the Light”

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE)
6522 Hollywood Boulevard
September 14–November 6

In 1987, a body’s arrival at LACE was caught by electronic infrared, heat-seeking intrusion detectors. Rather than a protective mechanism installed to ensure the safety of the gallery’s contents, this device was an artwork by Julia Scher. Upon approach, one tripped flashing lights and ringing alarms. Scher’s work was part of the pivotal exhibition “Surveillance,” the historical precedent for a new group show organized by Shoghig Halajian and Thomas Lawson. If the earlier moment was preoccupied with technologies of observation and their infrastructure—it was subtitled “An Exhibition of Video, Photography, Installations”—today, the curators and artists insist, we must consider not just the tactics but also the targets: Like most policing and warfare, contemporary surveillance affects disproportionate violence upon bodies whose difference is itself criminalized.

Juliana Huxtable’s ink-jet print Untitled (Casual Power), 2015, alludes to an area in Harlem along the Bronx River where GPS software fails; Barbara Ess’s Surveillance Nightlights, 2010, and Wildcat Movie, 2009, present footage from heat-sensitive cameras installed along the US–Mexico border. In the lobby, the CCTV monitors of Coco Fusco’s Dolores from 10 to 10, 2002, re-create the excruciating experience of a maquiladora worker suspected of forming a union—her employer holds her for twelve hours without food or drink.

What does it mean to be seen today? The artists surveyed here disrupt the calming rhetoric of transparency, or of any clear path drawn from representation to freedom. Sondra Perry’s spellbinding two-channel video Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation: Number One, 2015, features various generations of her own family in neon-green ski masks peeling sweet potatoes and singing; the younger ones admire themselves in a front-facing camera. Masked—perhaps the better for going undetected—they are gorgeous nonetheless.