A suite of solo shows by Terry Allen, Hasan Elahi, McCallum & Tarry, and Kaari Upson.
Organized by Laura Steward, SITE Santa Fe’s Phillips Director, and Janet Dees, Thaw Curatorial Fellow.
Each of the five artists in One on One profoundly examines the life of one person. The goal of each examination is different, as are the means and the findings. But in each case, the artists use their subjects as mirrors, not only for themselves, but also for the viewers. We are drawn into the intimacy of the exchange and face different aspects of ourselves in the artists and their subjects. One on One is a psychologically charged suite of exhibitions that invites us into expanded portraits of many people. One on One compiles a diverse range of mediums, including video, painting, drawing, installation, and computer dialogue, to engender a unique exploration of the social, the psychological, and the personal through the individual.
Artist, playwright, and musician Terry Allen examines an episode in the life of the similarly polymathic artist Antonin Artaud. Throughout his life, Artaud suffered a number of psychological crises, resulting in his repeated and lengthy institutionalization. In 1937, Artaud went to Ireland to return to the Irish people what he believed was the staff of St. George. He was involved in an altercation with the Dublin police and was subsequently deported. Because of his deteriorating psychological state, he was chained to a cot in the hull of the ship Washington for the seventeen-day journey back to France. This journey serves as the inspiration for Allen’s Ghost Ship Rodez, which will be presented in One on One.
Taking its title from the French mental institution “Rodez,” where Artaud spent a number of years after his deportation from Ireland, this exhibition will consist of room-sized multimedia works blending sculpture and video. A portion of the exhibition will invoke the physical environment of the Washington. Another will include a larger-than-life-size figure that refers to Artaud and the “Daughter of the Heart to be Born,” an archetype representing all the women in Artaud’s life. Although these works allude to the physical realities of Artaud’s life, their video components explore Artaud’s mindscape, giving form to psychological space. Allen invites us to take a journey into the depths of Artaud’s mind as he sees it.
The American artist Hasan Elahi, falsely accused by a misinformed neighbor of involvement in the 9/11 terrorists plots, has meticulously documented his life since then and presented his documents on the internet for all to see, seeking an elusive anonymity in the ocean of information he puts forth. Although Elahi is not investigating another individual, he is obsessively using technology to track himself, as an exposé of modern life, particularly in a post-9/11 world of surveillance, homeland security, and the Patriot Act.
SITE Santa Fe will feature Elahi’s ongoing project, Tracking Transience, a live feed that constantly transmits his exact location and complementary photographic documentation. In one sense, Tracking Transience is a self-tracking device that presents “an exaggerated version of the life we live in now.” Through this infatuation with the self, Elahi exposes the political, technological, and social systems that inform the modern experience.
In their passionate, poetic exchanges, documented in video and other means, McCallum and Tarry, a mixed-race husband and wife team, seek to complicate and overcome the archetypical binary “white man/black woman” in their work. By exploring their relationships to each other, McCallum and Tarry are in fact investigating race in the cultural, historical, and sociopolitical contexts.
One on One will feature three works by McCallum and Tarry: Topsy Turvy, Cut, and Exchange. Topsy Turvy is a video, sculpture, and historical collection that appropriates the “twinning” or “topsy turvy” dolls of the 19th century. Using sculptural representations of themselves, McCallum and Tarry examine the duality between white and black, male and female, father and mother. Cut is a video piece in which McCallum and Tarry cut each other’s hair. With references to punishment (prisons), possession (slavery), and retribution, Cut represents an act of collaboration, dominance and submission, and control. By altering the physical identities of one another, the artists create a study of race, power, and identity. Exchange draws inspiration from the “one drop rule” that declared a person with any African-American heritage was black. Through a ritual exchange of their blood and metaphorically becoming one another, McCallum and Tarry navigate themes of race and social hierarchy. McCallum and Tarry use their own identity as an interracial couple to explore the legacy and continuity of racism.
Kaari Upson keeps an extensive archive of man named Larry. Initially based on the life of a real person, Larry has become more fiction than fact, and Upson’s relentless investigation of the minutia of his life offers extraordinary insight into the mind of the artist herself. Through an archival method, Upson has given Larry a multifaceted life while simultaneously assimilating her life with his. In her own words, “The objective reality of the man I construct collapses into the subjective fiction I create, until they merge and I am more him than he is.” Kaari’s practice includes paintings, photographs, and video pieces. In her “kiss” paintings, she paints a portrait of Larry and also paints a self-portrait. Then she smashes them both together, which results in a diptych that is a representation of “self” and “other.” Upson made a dummy of Larry and in her video piece, As Long as it Takes – Part I: The Head, she meticulously removes his head and places it over her own.
By confusing the boundaries between reality and fiction, self and other, Upson challenges the viewer to question his/her perspective and identity. As Upson summarizes, “The challenge of defining the ‘me’ in this project is a final manifestation of the loss of perspective [that] it presents.” One on One will feature the most complete presentation of the "Larry Project" to date, including materials from the “archives,” drawings, paintings, and videos.