New York

Gretchen Faust

Pat Hearn Gallery

In her five performances, enacted over five successive Mondays, Gretchen Faust subtly transformed different areas in an open, semi-raw loft space, using objects fabricated or arranged for each event. Prior to the first performance, one could see the various areas as fixed sculptural installations. A row of 100 shovels was laid along one wall and a wooden crib lined with moss and green velvet was placed against another. At one end of the room, sheets of tin covered the floor, and a large circle of black silk lay in the center. A white silk scarf several yards long was wound between two windows. In a bay between two pilasters, brass plaques bearing the inscription “so schlafen unsere Sünden ein” (So all our sins will fall asleep) were fastened into a pristine, whitewashed wall. The entire room resounded with potential energy.

In each performance, Faust engaged a different sculpture. She wore no costume, and there was neither stage, dramatic lighting, nor script to augment her performance. Her esthetic was characterized by brevity and simple human actions and tasks. In 100 Shovels/Charity (all works, 1989), she started at one end of a row of shovels and numbered each one sequentially with black ink. When the last shovel was marked “100,” the performance concluded and the spectators were invited to take a shovel home. Each ensuing performance was conducted with the same candor. For Silk Throw/Faith, the audience watched from the street as Faust extended both ends of a silk scarf out two windows until they hung down over the building’s facade. In Sachet/Luxury, she lay upon a bed of velvet and moss in the crib for one half-hour and then invited the audience to lie there afterward.

The artist’s basic physical acts articulated the fragility of human nature, as well as her own desire for a more direct experience between the self and nature. By engaging the object and her own body in a close interplay, Faust imbued the pieces with significance. At the same time, her performances were nonideological. They focused upon the self by returning to basic human functions and activities and expressed her belief in the superiority of sensual experience over cultural rule. Faust’s performances were actions that attempted to present art anew, in a direct and elemental state, unfettered by excessive cultural mediation.

Kirby Gookin