Critics’ Picks

Rosa Aiello, The Victim (detail), 2019, 28 digital prints with pearl paper, double-sided tape.

Mexico City

Rosa Aiello

Lodos
Calle del Articulo 123 #116, Colonia Centro Int. 301
May 9–July 13, 2019

As an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith story, Rosa Aiello’s video The Coquette, 2018, promises to end with murder and without justice. The twenty-four-minute satire noir follows a doomed young woman who flirts with and eventually spurns a suitor in an arc delivering us to the seemingly inevitable: Yvonne is brought to her demise by two resentful admirers, to whom the judge grants lenient to zero sentences (because they went to the same prep school—classic!).

A backstory describes how, at the age of ten, Yvonne lost her virginity to a thirty-year-old man; her mother still blames her for seducing and ruining him. Even so, in Aiello’s rendering, Yvonne is far from being an entirely sympathetic character and seems to lift tactics straight from Robert Greene’s book The Art of Seduction for her would-be lovers. Excerpts from the bestseller’s two dozen chapters, including “Appear to Be an Object of Desire: Create Triangles” (chapter four) and “Disarm Through Strategic Weakness and Vulnerability” (chapter thirteen), are referenced in a photography series of suburban roadsides, “Seduction (Coventry Hills),” 2019, installed on a false wall outside The Coquette. Like Yvonne’s killer, the landscapes are both forgettable and menacing.

It’d be easy to condemn a step-by-step manual for manipulating desire, but Aiello is more interested in how such methods become naturalized. The Victim, 2019, includes a listicle of reasons to perform the big O (“to please partner,” “to not hurt partner’s feelings”), juxtaposed with photographs in which doe-eyed little girls first look dazzled, then crumple into tears, as they get their ears pierced at Claire’s. As Highsmith herself well knew, women’s stories are so often rape and murder stories because few other narratives convince (well, if that) observers of the many ways in which we are fucked.