By KURT MCVEY, APR. 2017, All photos by Azhar Kotadia
This past Tuesday evening, at Ivy Brown Gallery, located on the top floor of the “Triangle Building” in the heart of the Meatpacking district, Nat Girsberger, a 24-year-old graduate of the Film department at NYU, launched a one night only, multi-media, multi-sensory art show, Transient Terrain. Midway through the event, Megan Poe, an artist, yogi, psychiatrist and celebrated NYU professor (Nat is a former student) with an extremely popular class on “Love,” gave a short lecture titled, “Caring for the Magical Self.”
Poe then presided over a group meditation; a sort of Jungian performance-based antidote to over 100 days of accumulative Trumpian anxieties in an extremely fast paced, emotionally saturated, politically charged America. After the performance, Poe handed out poster-sized, single sheet pamphlets to serve as manuals for self-actualization as well as a model for exhibiting and experiencing a greater capacity for love in all its forms and how to better exculpate the unconscious mind. Less a contemporary art exhibition, Transient Terrain was a “thing” in a Nordic, almost pagan sense; an excuse to celebrate Natalie as both a singular, valuable individual-an avatar for young, international women artists-while serving as a rebellious yet joyful illustration of the collective power of “community” to provide baseline opportunities in the highly competitive New York City contemporary art scene. It was also a reminder to the numerous artists in attendance, all in various stages of their careers, that they are essential to the evolution of the human species, especially in a stark climate of gross spiritual regression, and that they are not so far removed from their imaginative, innocent, childlike selves.
The show was built around two of Girsberger’s short films, “Hue” (2014) and “Dreamer,” (2015) which were projected onto a massive, undulating wall of multi-colored balloons and several stagnated, floor-to-ceiling strands of flowing, multi-colored lace strips, respectively. Girsberger also featured a small selection of her photographic works, most notably two pieces featuring the undiscovered model and muse, Julia Delmedixo, both exhibited publicly for the first time. In “Julia” (2014), a nude and slightly androgynous Delmedixo throws her arms up and back over her head, stretching and bending her lithe torso like a human bow, sprinkling powdered, glittering pixie dust down the length of her body, mouth slightly agape and caught between various emotions and sensations.
Not since Jenny Morgan’s “Dark Star” (2015) has an image, whether painting or photograph, connected so intensely to a vast reservoir of raw feminine emotion. Girberger’s image captures something pure, fun, silly, sexual, youthful, ephemeral and in an age of Internet censorship, something paradoxically dangerous. Viewers training their smart phones on the image were asked to share it on social media, unbridled, along with the hashtag, #BrujasBreakBorders, as a means to combat, not Puritanism or even the patriarchy necessarily, but an increasingly unforgivable lack of sophistication that prohibits an individual from distinguishing between art and pornography. This general lack of sophistication, or worse, a prevailing and aggressive trollish affront to women’s empowerment both online (especially) and in real life, has found its rebuttal in one image, which Girberger hopes to proliferate across numerous social media platforms in an effort to #freethenipple which, for the uninitiated, is considerably more about freeing caged, ignorant minds. If you think America has bigger fish to fry than nipples on Instagram, you’re missing the point. Fostering cultured, nuanced thinking, globally and in America especially, starts with micro struggles.
In the North West corner of the gallery, directly below “Julia,” Catherine Corcoran, a young actress with films premiering at both the Cannes and Tribeca Film festivals this year, performed silently, while painted head to toe in gold paint, alongside a faux-garden installation comprised of green Astroturf, several cracked and distorted gold-painted mannequins, and hundreds of fake flowers. The colorful pink and white rose like petals on said flowers were in fact crumpled up artist manifestos, printed essays that illustrate Girsberger’s frustrations as a young woman in both the fine art and film industries, her struggles with citizenship post graduation, and the larger collective intellectual and spiritual laziness exhibited throughout the United States and overseas. After Poe’s performance, Corcoran encouraged the audience to pick one manifesto flower and take it home along with one of Poe’s “Magical Self” manuals, free of charge. These artifacts, coupled with the collective meditation, served as an amplified, triangulated spiritual declaration of love, solidarity, and a fearless deconstruction of borders, both physical and metaphysical, out of one of New York City’s most concentrated downtown nexus points.
Girsberger, who was born in Switzerland and has ancestral ties to a lineage of geographically fluid European travelers, or “gypsies,” who have, in tandem, notoriously challenged the notion of borders to contain and define them, has extended and reclaimed this identity as a means to intensify the cultural conversation regarding our ever-transient place in the universe. Transient Terrain, as a title, not only challenges the recent perversions regarding the United States' once honorable stance on being a haven for troubled immigrants and refugees, it also challenges our prevailing notions of our collective “conscience” as well as our conscious and unconscious minds and hearts to, well, for beginners, be challenged at all. WM
Kurt McVey is a writer based in New York City.
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