New York

Marie Karlberg, Woman for Sale, 2013. Performance view, January 5, 2013. From “All the Best People,” 2013.

Marie Karlberg, Woman for Sale, 2013. Performance view, January 5, 2013. From “All the Best People,” 2013.

“All the Best People”


Marie Karlberg, Woman for Sale, 2013. Performance view, January 5, 2013. From “All the Best People,” 2013.

One year ago, artists Jarrett Earnest, Leigha Mason, Alex Sloane, and Whitney Vangrin opened a small space on the second floor of 121 Essex Street. Called 1:1, it served, variously, as exhibition space, film set, studio, dining room, guest apartment, office, tattoo parlor, stage, and likely more. The gallery officially closed as this issue went to press, its last day being Valentine’s Day, which, at the time of this writing, the directors intended to mark with a banquet called BLOOD (the third installment of Vangrin’s 2012–13 trilogy that also includes SWEAT and TEARS). According to the plan, the multipart performance was to be capped by a parting shot, a photo transmitted to the gallery by Vangrin via smartphone from the observation deck of the most iconic of New York’s structures, its needle-topped Empire State Building.

What better way than this to conclude 1:1’s final show, which featured a selection of some twenty artworks plus as many related events and zines and titled, simply enough, “All the Best People”? Emphasizing humans rather than objects, the title promised a state of mind that New York had been missing for a while. Recently, comparably clubby efforts have seemingly been directed toward the containment of a scene, toward the control and policing of a given community’s relationship to the market—an environment in which “critique” functions not so much to assign value as to extract it.

But over the past twelve months, 1:1 had been building toward jailbreak, toward escaping the status quo—“all the best people,” as the press release had it, “rupturing the banal.” At times this idea played out literally—as in Stewart Uoo’s Untitled (San Quentin Drawing 2), 2012, for example, an inmate’s romantic fantasy sketched on stationery that had been smuggled, by a family member, out of California’s most hard-core prison. Elsewhere, the theme was perceivable on a more associative level, as in Sandy Kim’s paired photos Leigha and Cold Ocean, both 2012, wherein Mason, pierced by a beam of light, be it demonic or divine, appears positioned for transport to some beyond.

Significantly, “escape” here did not entail the performative tactics of deflection and evasion, so dominant during the past decade. Guises, for instance, ostensibly assumed to interrupt one’s absorption by the market, were rarely seen. Instead, 1:1 faced its public directly. Marie Karlberg did so perhaps most explicitly in her January 5 performance, Woman for Sale. Synching herself with a prerecorded set of instructions, she listed her physical stats and personality type; repeatedly stripped as she changed outfits in front of a packed room; and rehearsed such stock greetings as “Hello,” “It is a pleasure to meet you,” and “It is very nice to meet you” to the crowd, as though attempting to make these phrases her own.

This more open relationship to self and other was evident at 1:1 in the ways in which both artist and audience staged and recorded (for the archive, for Instagram) each other’s bodies and psyches. Serving as something of an icon for the show, the very large Polaroid My Funny Valentine, 2012, appeared as a prism of flesh, conjoining four identical intimate shots of a body rotated around an axis to form one abstract, corporeal form—an image of the type of expanded selfhood that the work’s creator, the dual-beinged Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, has been incarnating for decades. Writer Hakim Bey—here using his given name, Peter Lamborn Wilson—also channeled the transcendent at 1:1, and traces of his fall show still lingered through to the gallery’s close. His notion of “temporary autonomous zone” (the titular term of his 1991 book on “ontological anarchism”) relates in that 1:1 focused on the immediate rather than on contriving some underground, making it easy to forget about father figures and more interesting to just be.

But the key here is that these spaces don’t last. They’re not supposed to. To remain is to become static, to become host. Rest assured, this will not be the fate of 1:1, which, already planning future embodiments, is not so much ending as going acéphale.

Caroline Busta