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January 2011, My Barbarian @ The Hammer Museum


My Barbarian, "The Night Epi$ode Three: Who’s for Dinner? / The Watery Grave", 2009
Single-channel video, color with sound,10:00 minutes
Courtesy of the artists and Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles

 

My Barbarian: The Night Epi$ode
Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
October 23, 2010, through January 23, 2011

Los Angeles based collective My Barbarian founded in 2000 by Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade examines the role art plays in a democratic society by pushing the boundaries of performance, song, dance, and video installation to the point where the work teeters on being considered a nod to the theatre of the absurd, or an example of art for art’s sake. The Night Epi$ode, a body of seven short videos written, produced, and staring My Barbarian, plays on a loop, ping pong-ing between three boxy television sets with two moveable wooden cubes for seating and a pair of headphones attached to either side. While the episodes playing on the televisions can be heard through the headphones, the dialogue from the episode Purgatorial Curatorial projected on the wall, dominates the space. The exhibition space is dark and sparse, minimally decorated with three objects. A paned window divided into four segments is suspended in one corner casting an ominous shadow while a picture frame is suspended from one entry way and a doorframe with the door opened ajar. The props may suggest that in My Barbarian’s first US solo museum exhibition all sense is thrown out of the window and viewers should therefore leave any judgments at the door.

 


The Night Epi$ode Two: Yoga Matt / Veronika Phoenix, 2009

Single-channel video, color with sound,12:48 minutes
Courtesy of the artists and Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles

 
“It is difficult to situate a painting in a sightless work,” claims Malik Gaines whose head wanders, while his eyes are concealed by a pair of dark sunglasses. He plays the “blind chief curator” specializing in “sightless context” of sound and sculpture. Pig-tailed Jade Gordon plays the “nightmare curator” who declares that she will “wear a suicide bomb to the opening,” with a mischievous smile. Alexandro Segade is the “curator of interdimensional practices,” and turns toward the camera, introducing a vertical black strip painted over one eye, as if paying homage to the Joker in Batman, announces, “the now is about the individual and his or her rotting corpse. Collectivity has failed!” Trapped in a windowless room lit by strong blocks of primary colors, the curators flip through a slideshow of art works and attempt to determine the value of the art works at the hand. The amateur camera work, makeshift costumes and set design all indicate that the video is intentionally campy and thereby satirizes the selection process that curators go through in their attempt to determine the commercial viability of an artist. Trapped in a windowless room, however the four-paned frame installed in the exhibition is also a prop in the video. The three curators recall Sartre’s existential dilemma that hell is other people, or imply that trying to determine the value of art is hellish.

The Night Epi$ode series ruminates on modern malaise - the struggle for maintaining a job in a fractured economy or getting approved for health insurance. In Another Dimension Where There is Life, a husband leaves his wife because her pre-existing condition prohibits her from getting approved for a health insurance plan. She falls in love with an alien, represented as a circular, pulsing light and she hopes that they can start a new life together. Her plans are quickly shattered when the alien informs her over a soundtrack of dissonant electronic music that she has “misguided [their] relationship. We are a same sex couple, we cannot get married.” In Watery Grave a life raft floats along an infinity pool overlooking the Southern California mountainside. One by one they pull themselves into the raft, Gaines and Segade dressed in tuxedos while Gordon wears a sequined cocktail dress. They sing a melody of “Hey, Go, sinking so low, watery, watery grave. The Capitalist cannot resist, Hey, Ho, go with the flow, watery, watery, grave.” While waiting for rescue they confess to each other crimes that they have committed - Segade admits to raping his nephew, Gordon murdered her nieces, and when Gaines admits that he cheated his grandparents out of money, Segade reacts in utter horror and disgust. In the world of My Barbarian the individual or the “collective” is dead and what remains are shards of humanity - health, love, security and art hang in the balance.



My Barbarian, "The Night Epi$ode Three: Who’s for Dinner? / The Watery Grave", 2009
Single-channel video, color with sound,10:00 minutes
Courtesy of the artists and Steve Turner Gallery, Los Angeles

A. Moret

A native Angelino, Moret spends her days wandering art spaces and writing in Moleskine notebooks.  Her work has appeared in such publications as Art Works, ArtWeek, Art Ltd., Artillery, Art Scene, Flaunt, Flavorpill, For Your Art, THE, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. She also created her own magazine “One Mile Radius” with photographer Garet Field Sells that explores the effects that the urban environ of Los Angeles has on artists and their work.  To learn more visit www.byamoret.com

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