I had a lot of questions going into this exhibition, and I mean that quite literally. How should I walk? Where do I stand? What do I look at? How do I act? Opting for immediate retreat I bolted for the dark confines of the film theatre to view Daria Martin’s Minotaur, 2006, a short film featuring choreographer Anna Halprin’s interpretation of Rodin’s same-named sculpture. The pair of grappling dancers serpentine through the robustly erotic allegory. (A note: this film was scored by electronic/punk/noise/experimental/pop duo Matmos, whose special composition utilized recordings of objects being banged against Rodin’s sculptures.)
Upon exit, while flitting along some staid silkscreen works by Janice Kerbel I caught a glimpse of my self-conscious milling as transmitted through a surveillance camera, which panned and zoomed at a rate analogous to the pre-recorded material on an adjacent screen. This other side of Judy Radul’s Clients and Workers, 2011, depicts several vignettes of staged workshops or similarly officious gatherings taking place within the exhibition space itself. The inquisitive cascading and thrusting of the camera's eye, on the players and the viewer is immersive and disquieting. Like Radul’s World Rehearsal Court, 2009, seen several years ago, it brought to mind documentarian Errol Morris’s interviewing machine, the Interrotron, which projects the interviewers’ face onto the camera lens via a two-way mirror, allowing the subject to engage simultaneously and directly with the interviewer, the camera, and the audience. With some of the same cold-war style ingenuity, Radul's device is similarly effective at commanding empathy and complicating subjectivity, yet it accomplishes this through spatial means. Suspect of the mechanics of the piece, I wondered if I was being recorded and would somehow become part of the action onscreen for subsequent viewers, and therefore felt the need to perform, or at the very least, behave myself. I listened intently to one of the segments onscreen that featured, of all things, an introductory seminar for a piece of open-source configuration management software drolly titled PUPPET. To unsettle things further, the players in Radul’s scenes all speak with a hyper-enunciated, broad manner, a kind of corporate American dialect of Received Pronunciation, or ‘model’ English.
I expected this exhibition would historicize (performance photographs of 1979’s Tell Me by recently appreciated Guy de Cointet are also included) and contextualize the work of Farmer and Radul, but what is more remarkable is how it becomes a context in itself. Farmer and Radul assume the roles of director and player, with the oft-dulcet ‘group exhibition’ becoming something much more as it is metamorphosed into a stage upon which the viewer, self-conscious or not, completes the tableau-vivant.