Critics’ Picks

Natasha Tontey, Almanak, 2018, video, color, sound, 13 minutes.

New York

“Twinkle”

Barney Savage Gallery
87 Franklin Street Floor 2
April 13–May 18, 2019

A twinkle is a vector of transformation. The thought pervades this four-person show, where a glitch, a gleam, or shimmering fetish gear function to reconfigure the self. KC Crow Maddux speaks to the experience of living in a trans body, mounting indexical photos of himself into sculptural frames. Untitled (3), 2019, layers a smiling blue phallus atop a triangular structure, from which gazes a piercing green eye. It is a symbol, a resignified language of gender fluidity. Leonard Suryajaya’s installation similarly stages his life in order to actualize it—see Round Table Conference, 2015, a photograph of his partner and family subsumed in swaths of vibrant fabric. The contrasting patterns—florals in the background, checks on his lover’s back—suggest the interactions between differing cultures and conceptions of kin. Ip Wai Lung’s variations on the latex bodysuit further this search for self-revelation. This second skin is the subject of his photos and video, in which he captures himself wading through a lotus pond or gesturing in the gallery space. Rubber-clad and silent, he renders his confusing experience of nationality and identity through his movements.

Reimagining reality is crucial in Natasha Tontey’s art. Her 2018 manifesto exhorts the reader to “let fiction be our speculative future.” Take Almanak, 2018, a video portraying her life as a queer Indonesian woman intercut with scenes of her avatar traveling through a virtual fantasyland. In it, a pair of Japanese psychics divine marriage and children for her. Tontey reshapes these norms of womanhood in the recesses of a glitchy digital universe, amid talking fish and eerie bridal processions. Media theorist Friedrich Kittler maintains that the computer image is a forgery. Yet Tontey’s avatar, bleeding into our world, offers a glimpse of alterity. Embodying fabricated versions of themselves, these artists manipulate their destinies, prying open the door to a colorful, radiant tomorrow of desire and possibility.