Bridget Moser, My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists, 2020, HD video, color, sound, 21 minutes 57 seconds. Bridget Moser.

Bridget Moser, My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists, 2020, HD video, color, sound, 21 minutes 57 seconds. Bridget Moser.

Bridget Moser

Bridget Moser’s solo exhibition “My Crops Are Dying But My Body Persists” opened in mid-March, just as Covid-19 lockdown measures were put in place. As the title suggests, a spectral virus seemingly lurks in the background of her work, casting a shadow over a show without an audience. And, like Covid-19, Moser’s seminarrative performance video—central to her installation—has since spread more widely, having been made available for viewing online.

The video begins with the artist holding a giant set of plastic tangerine lips—a beauty gadget meant to be fitted into one’s mouth and bitten into repeatedly so that one’s facial muscles get tighter. The artist manipulates the object with her hands to make it look like it’s talking. The contraption delivers a monologue conveying existential dread and ennui. Via a simulated text-to-speech voice, it ironically grapples with the malaise of being a body in the world. Cut to a shot of Moser wearing silky pink pajamas while prostrate on a sofa in a white, vaguely neoclassical room. Shifting positions, she awkwardly mounts the sofa’s back, caresses its dusty-rose velour, and balances atop it, trying to feel something. Even before the coronavirus whisked away touch, intimacy and real connection eluded so many.

In a different scene, we see a close-up shot of the artist’s hands delicately braiding cooked spaghetti strands to an aspirational sound-track that recalls Enya in its new-age blandness. The scene, followed by tableaux of consumerist, bourgeois junk—such as a rose-gold makeup mirror, white and gilt decorative ceramic objects, and a bottle of pink Himalayan salt—parodies displays of “haute” consumerist taste. Cribbing internet video genres known as “oddly satisfying” and “autonomous sensory meridian response” (ASMR), the sequence is pleasurable and calming to watch. Moser’s other “performances” here are funnily erotic: A prophylactic glove filled with baked beans gently strokes a ceramic skull, and a high-heeled mannequin foot inserted into pearlescent Crocs squishes shaving cream out of the shoes’ characteristic holes. While Moser’s work has been described as prop humor, it also fleshes out the relationship between comedy and sex through an exploration of objects with fetishistic appeal.

Although some of these odd visual comforts might recede after one has plumbed the video’s depths, the absurdity remains. A spectrum of pallid hues pervades the work—these are the colors of Moser’s skin. Delivering a sly visual joke on white fragility, the artist sticks Band-Aids to the crusts of a slice of white bread as she confesses in voice-over:

This is where I come from, or anyways I think you can see the resemblance. We’re all a bit soft and not always digestible. We’re just used to certain comforts. We’re living on this meaningless island, and I think it’s getting sick. Maybe it’s already very unwell. How do you know if your body is toxic?

Here, the metaphoric whiteness of bread is entirely fitting. As if slowly awakening to white supremacy, the narrator begins to process it as a disease. Moser’s sardonic tone—with a hint of creepy innocence—exteriorizes these innermost thoughts, which turn into an earnest declaration of complicity. As I watch the artist sink her teeth into another slice, perfectly slathered with La Mer moisturizing cream, I am perversely seduced and simultaneously disgusted by the consumption of food as whiteness—it nourishes some but, as we know all too well, destroys countless others.

The video’s climax is a reenactment of Robbie Williams’s gross-out “Body Worlds”–esque music video for “Rock DJ” (2000) paired with a slowed-down track of Fun.’s pseudo-indie hit “We Are Young” (2011). Wearing a bodysuit printed with images of skinless muscles, Moser comically gyrates to the music as if to harness the powers of Williams’s narcissistic, masculine display and Fun.’s anthem of youth entitlement, i.e., whiteness another way. It is flat-out buffoonery, embarrassing to watch. At this moment of political and social upheaval, “My Crops Are Dying” highlights a culture of privilege, a malignant body long oblivious to the fortunes it has built at the expense of others. To those who enjoy the comforts and privileges that whiteness affords—open your eyes. But shame will only take you so far. As a text-to-speech voice says in the work, “The antidote to guilt is action.”