Critics’ Picks

Emily Roysdon, Pause, Pose, Discompose (detail), 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Emily Roysdon, Pause, Pose, Discompose (detail), 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.


Emily Roysdon

Visual Arts Center, University of Texas at Austin
2300 Trinity Street Art Building
September 21–December 8, 2012

Upon arriving in Austin a few weeks prior to the opening of her current exhibition, Emily Roysdon enlisted several people from the local arts and queer communities to participate in foraging for materials, assisting with printmaking, and acting in the short video that is the centerpiece of “Pause, Pose, Discompose.” Although assembling the show’s components may have been spontaneous and a bit disorganized—neither of which is particularly inappropriate, given the site-specificity of her previous works—the resultant installation seems far from ramshackle or unplanned. The untitled silent video possesses a graceful rhythm that evokes Cocteau’s mythological films. A particularly deft sequence involves a pair of sock-clad legs pumping quickly up and down, and when the focus on them fades, the limbs transform into abstracted white pistons firing on an inky black field. Across the gallery, a pair of screenprints—one scarlet and one dark blue—depict identical graphic patterns that seem to mimic amoebas, or perhaps blood cells. Embedded in the blue print is the faint outline of a sentence: YOU HAVE THE MOST ORIGINAL WAY OF PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER.

There are elements of Roysdon’s show that allude to queerness, not so much in terms of sexuality but as a way of relating to the world. A list that hangs alone on a wall apart from the main space of the exhibition reads like a preliminary inventory for the exhibition: A TRAIN / A CHAIR / A BUTTPLUG / AND / A SUNDIAL. Each of these things appears in one way or another in various works throughout the show, although even the innocuous items’ uses are often represented as perverted or subverted. For example, a photograph of a toy train inserted between two bare buttocks provides the illustration for what could be the frontispiece for a book titled OUR SHORT CENTURY. It seems that Roysdon is experimenting with conceptions of time and movement, and how our relationships with our surroundings and with the people we encounter might shape our own sense of past, present, and future.

This idea of time as malleable and contingent is ultimately, for Roysdon, not without consequence. The specter of resistance, borne out in a print that repeats the phrase POLICE ARRESTED TIME in a prismatic array of colors, alludes to some of the potential dangers of living a life according to queer temporalities.