The portrait has been a staple of art going back to the Egyptians and the sculptural bust of Nefertiti. Then 3300 or so years later came Andy and Alice and Chuck and Cindy and Annie. What's next? The mind wanders and wonders about something new and relevant to the present moment that the genre can deliver. "Mirror, Mirror" is a group exhibition of nine artists engaged with contemporary portraiture in all media. The works in the show present a variety of approaches from realistic, exquisitely rendered paintings of the artist's friends (Jenny Morgan) and traditional portraits of the members of American Communist Party (Yevgeniy Fiks) to bitingly satirical drawings (William Powhida), unsettling video self portraits (Kate Gilmore), photographs of three generations of artist's family in the rural Midwest (Chris Verene), video reenactments of people on Facebook who share the same name (Ursula Endlicher), portraits painted directly on top of the people they represent and then photographed to look like a painting (Alexa Meade), and metaphysical psychedelic portraits of people's souls (Jason Robert Bell). Tamas Banovich, will contribute a work involving Chatroulette.
GUY BEN-NER Second Nature Employing animals, animal trainers and an on-camera film crew all speaking in rhyme Second Nature restages Aesop's fable The "Fox and the Crow" combined with Beckett's "Waiting for Godot".
Can you tell a fable today? Is it not too arrogant to believe you can educate someone? On the other hand, if I believed art could not deliver any kind of lesson or critique of the world, I would stop making it. Guy Ben-Ner
In Second Nature Ben-Ner has created a video that emerges from Aesop's fable "The Fox and the Crow". It is a video in three parts that blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction'. One part of the video is shot as a documentary about specialist animal trainers training a fox and a crow to re-enact the fable, but develops into a fictional re-telling of the fable itself by the animals, interjected with a re-enactment of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" by the animal trainers. The dialogue between human and animal is crucial, exploring subtle modifications in behaviour made through the interaction between the two, where one can never truly control the other.
In the repetitive and questionably futile action of trainee and trainer, Ben-Ner's video owes much to the plays of Beckett - the trainer trains the animals to re-enact the fable; Ben-Ner trains the trainer to act In the documentary and the play; and the animals train each other within the tale itself. He uses the same setting, a lonely tree, to tell two different stories - one a fable and one a play. Ben-Ner reveals the function of fables - the use of animals to tell human stories and instruct our own moral behaviour - and mimics their strategies to manipulate the animal trainers as the fable unfolds. Essentially the action is the same, repeated again and again. Kyla McDonald - catalog for the Liverpool Biennial, 2008