By SHANA NYS DAMBROT, April, 2018
Past and present confront each other in a singular new series by mixed media artist Aline Mare. Requiem: Aching for Acker is raw, romantic, bloody, emotional, with the texture and depth of the ancient and careworn, and the luminosity and crispness of the absolutely modern. The suite of 12 works expresses a sort of animism in which the human heart and the stones of earth share equally in the pleasures and terrors of existence. Although the new series is dedicated to the life and death of her friend, the progressive writer Kathy Acker, in important ways both formally and materially, this work is also profoundly about Mare herself. And in its consideration of the flesh as the site of glorious blossoming and fearsome entropy such as mirrors the cycles of nature, it ultimately is about every one of us, and everything we love.
Acker died in 1997, but memories of their decades of contact and the rekindled closeness in the years before her death have re-emerged with the publication of Chris Kraus’s biography of Acker in 2017, in which Mare figures. Requiem: Aching for Acker is a direct response to what was the final poem in Acker’s last work of literature, the opera Eurydice in the Underworld (1997, Arcadia Press, London). The play ends as a particularly fraught passage, Requiem, is performed, infused with a painful awareness on the parts of both author and audience that this elegiac gesture was meant for Acker herself. “Take me in your arms, death,” she wrote. “I’m so scared, do anything to me that will make me safe while I kick my heels and shout…” She knew she was dying; she was dead within months. It was cancer and it was awful.
With Acker’s powerful and unnerving piece of literature as prompt and armature, with its author as both subject and contrarian muse, what we see in Mare’s new work is in actuality the perfect synchronistic fusion of technique and narrative. Mare’s photo-based, hand-finished, multimedia works combine alternative processes and digital technology, remixing nature-based imagery (roots, seeds, fossils, and lichen) in an array of studio processes to create surreal compositions that hover and radiate in the liminal place between creation and decay. A story of haunted flesh and restless souls with its own vein of poetics is, somehow, ideally suited to amplify the investigations of material and message that Mare has been pursuing for years, as Acker might describe it, “half in the realm of life, half in death.”
But where previously Mare’s metaphorical framework was the landscape, with the introduction of images of the body -- hearts, scars, tattoos, angel wings, and actual artifacts of Acker’s like a single poignant, emblematic motorcycle glove. Mare works in a thematic vein that has little in common with the confessional, confrontational, sexed-up prose Acker produced. But in certain ways, the two women share a view of beauty and power that is more dark than light, more moon than sun, feminine and fecund and full of decay and contradictions. With Acker as an unlikely spirit guide, Mare achieves deepening this core message with a visceral impact tethered to experiences of human mortality. “For to breathe,” wrote Acker, “is always to pray.”
“Requiem: Aching for Acker,” opens May 6 with an artist’s reception from 5-7pm at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA.
Reception to be followed by a reading/performance from 7:30-9PM: Chris Kraus (After Kathy Acker & I Love Dick), Dodie Bellamy (Writers Who Love Too Much), Matias Vieneger (The Assassination of Kathy Acker), Aline Mare (performing “Requiem” with Kris T Force soundtrack).
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Whitehot Magazine, KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Fabrik, Art and Cake, Artillery, Palm Springs Life, Riot Material, West Hollywood Lifestyle, Jenkem, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and exhibition catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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