To worry or to smile, such is the choice when we are assailed by the strange;
our decision depends on how familiar we are with our ghosts.
- Julia Kristeva
In the dark forests of Scandinavia and Germany lurks the mysterious Erlking, a seductive, yet sinister creature that lures foolish travelers to their death. Folklore claims her as a lustful female spirit, hungry for revenge, while Goethe famously portrays him as a malevolent force of evil preying on children. For Dominique Rey, the Erlking resides deep within us all, a manifestation of the self that many have sensed whispering within our psyche, a siren call that few have dared to answer.
Rey’s Erlking series captures her desire to dive into the unconscious where the self and the internal ‘other’ coexist. This photographic series presents Rey taking on a host of personas from the masked temptress drawing you in, to the wild-eyed, bearded man seemingly stuck in an eternal performance of pratfalls. Absurd, grotesque, titillating and beguiling, Rey’s expressions of selfhood offer a compelling strategy for celebrating alterity and serve as a metaphor of the vast continuum of potentialities contained within each of us.
Alterity is a central facet of Rey’s practice. From the marginalized communities of exotic dancers (Selling Venus/Venus au miroir, 2005), to the quietly disappearing orders of Catholic nuns (Sisters of the Cross, 2003-2009) Rey chooses not to simply document, but to immerse herself within these peripheral cultures. The influence of her involvement as a performer in the collective “The Abzurbs” on her painting series Pilgrims attests to the intimate knowledge and experience she invests in her work. Recalling sideshow circus ‘freaks’ and 1950s burlesque, Rey’s Pilgrims, “explore notions of the ‘unbeautiful’ and how the unbeautiful becomes permissible, and even desirable, under the guise of performance and public display.” On one hand, there is liberation in the act of masking and performance that can allow for self-transformation; on the other hand, as one might infer from Erlking, sometimes you need to strip away the veils to let oneself be truly free.
Dominique Rey is a painter, photographer, video artist and a performance artist. She completed an MFA in photography at Bard College in 2007 and another MFA in New Media at the Transart Institute in Berlin in 2011. She has shown her work across North America including exhibitions at Plug In ICA, Gallery TPW, Truck Gallery, and Gallery 1C03.