“Notes on Baroque Living: Colette and Her Living Environment, 1972–83”
Curated by Kenta Murakami
November 20, 2021-February 12, 2022
By MARK BLOCH, February, 14, 2022
I’m so glad I’m here in person. This was not what I expected. Larger show than it looked online and an opportunity for an immersive experience. Ethereal. The pictures that I saw in the newspaper and online did not do it justice. I walk into the gallery and I see the workers laying out black T-shirts for some sort of closing event, perhaps, that say ”Victorian Punk.” I won't be here for that. Just popped in to see the show quickly.
Heartwarming Victorian fru-fru fashion—full of style but not exactly done to be fashionable. Fluffy leggings, a fluffy short skirt and a fluffy long-sleeved tight top greets me at the door, all wielding the signature flesh tone cloth exterior, the flesh tone cloth armor, the flesh tone cloth skin, the cloth protection, the cloth wet suit, like a cloth meat suit made of rose petals, a flesh tone space suit of frothy fabric seemingly made of flowers of fabric or foam Fritos.
Once inside, every picture of the legendary glamorous Colette is surrounded by a mini-installation while it’s all an installation, a celebration of a person in action, boundaries between life and art unimportant, all-important, floating in a flower, a giant vulva flower, lips parting, showing us pictures of Colette—sliding standing posting moving commenting conversing in videos—on the phone, in situ, in real time, from another time.
Installations of pictures of Colette in sexy installations, in irregular shaped fabric fields enclosing images. Should I take a picture of just the emblematic metaphorical sweet G, H, I, J spot positioned in the allegorical metaphorical non-frame where sensitivity is greatest, perhaps hidden, sometimes just laid out—should I take a closeup picture or the whole thing? Can I take the whole thing? Can I get in close enough? Can I back up far enough?
No wonder the pictures in the paper didn’t do it justice. You can’t fit it all in. What to do with the two tall vertical pieces in the corner? Are they frames for photos or are they lips themselves? Wings? Are they parting for me? Whispering? Opening me up? Letting me in? Closing me out? A foreboding, mirrored area of floor with a blueish mannequin hovering above it. A picture of Colette with nipple exposed behind the mesh, the fabric, the fleshy flesh colored fabric. Breasts beckoning. Caucasia calling, memories of Montparnasse, earth tones, light browns. Some of it looks like it’s been floated down a river. Elsewhere it is puffed up like scrambled epidermal eggs.
A black wad of crumpled fabric has been tossed behind the scrim. She shows us her palm in one picture near orangey lipstick with flowers in her hair. In another one she’s nude with magazines. A soft unwrinkled fake skin doppelgänger. Made of glass or soap or marzipan, a figure, a momento, a timeless torso standing exposed in the installation circumjacent to a lamp a record album a TV on a pedestal, part Charlotte Moorman, part Victorian anti-wrinkle Annie Sprinkle.
And a picture of Colette and some magazines before ten homages to various things, rendered verbally. Text on the top, pictures on the bottom, one in black-and-white, then nine color photos, fading, shifting, leaning towards the red end of the spectrum due to age. Here she is laying on a bed from the Camelia performance underneath what looks like visual poetry. Dots, dashes, a box with a glass protector like a Damien Hirst piece, a poster of a beautiful dreamer, a mannequin, kind of greenish, rough with plastery texture, hardened creamy plaster stuff tossed on top of it.
Then a little installation room: a blue bird in a blue tambourine, four pictures on the wall, a lamp, a typewriter, a suitcase, a tower of four hat boxes and a video monitor, a bureau with glass over it. And then another suitcase with another piece of glass over it, very nice and flat, then a long piece of art on the wall, horizontal with 22 images in there like a scrapbook suitable for framing with two dresses above it.
One says work of art, handle with care and the other one announces it is fragile as if we didn’t know. Chandelier-looking-thing between two nice chairs and a sculpture holding flowers. A mirror with two sayings to the left and over the top of it. Four black and white photos as you descend the staircase, passing an opened case with two photos of Colette, decaying, identical but one blurrier than the other and with a little shoe and a little blobby figure in a glass vessel.
Then finally the inner sanctum, the black room, the dark room. the dimly lit room with a life sized, large picture of Colette at one end, lying down, looking dead, delicate hands folded over her stomach like a corpse. With a lamp in a glass case lighting the way, three pictures to her right in cases in the vulva-like fabric frames again and on her left, two more pictures of her—in plexiglass frames, lit from within, lit from inside, covered with star constellations.
Everywhere constellations are superimposed over the figures, our eyes connecting the dots, following the positions of the stars on the diagrams. And then, finally, a slide projector, showing more beautiful pictures of her, more and more, more and more pictures of Colete. Colette from seventy-two to eight-four, Colette in lower Manhattan, Colette of tableaux vivant, Colette of Berlin, Colette in Poland, Colette as Justine, as Colette Lumiere as Ophelia, Colette as Mata Hari, Colette returning to the womb in Tunis, Colette makes her escape from Tunisia. WM
Mark Bloch is a writer, performer, videographer and multi-media artist living in Manhattan. In 1978, this native Ohioan founded the Post(al) Art Network a.k.a. PAN. NYU's Downtown Collection now houses an archive of many of Bloch's papers including a vast collection of mail art and related ephemera. For three decades Bloch has done performance art in the USA and internationally. In addition to his work as a writer and fine artist, he has also worked as a graphic designer for ABCNews.com, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and PO Box 1500 NYC 10009.
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