Hooks and handles are everywhere—objects on the ground, hieroglyphs in drawings, pictures on video. Round weights are tied up with stiff, upright ribbons. So are long, thin wooden sticks, each painted monochromatically: navy, pine, wheat, lake, cloud, road, and pink. Left here and there on the floor, the head of a spade and the spine of a scale point in haphazard, non-cardinal directions toward other instruments of seeming weaponry and possible torture—or, more likely, persecution. You can pick up all these things and carry them with you through the galleries, toting the smaller ones neatly like a bag and negotiating the longer ones awkwardly like a 2x4 down the cramped aisles of a hardware store. Equilibrium is thrown off and asymmetry registers palpably, physically, like a person-sized scale.
These heavy and unwieldy things are Erika Vogt’s Armors for Chorus and Players (all unless noted 2010), a group framed in both a militarized and theatrical sense as props for the viewer who, suddenly and unwittingly, finds she has a role to play in all this “Geometric Persecution.” Vogt insists on a bodily understanding of her art through experiences of hooking and handling, balance and weight, measurement and rotation. The heavy armors literalize burden like a ball-and-chain and through synecdoche turn our drifting figures into ships lifting rusty anchors. Once seized, these objects spread their crude geometric objectness like a contagion and momentarily redefine our anatomies, fitted with theirs, as overly complex carriers for their weight, as though they were using us to get around. If their objecthood—either a functionless toy or a weapon of attack and defense—can be contagious, then what kind of object is the carrier: toy or weapon?
The role the armored viewer (chorus, player) comes to play depends on where she stands in the gallery. In front of a drawing like Marching Man, she plays the horse-mounted rider, the hooks she holds resembling spurs. In front of Hooks and Hangers: Rhetorical (Blue), her hooks and weights are a fisherman’s bait and tackle. In front of Sum Dragon they are tails and stingers. Figures Conversing suggests the armors to be dagger tongues. But all the roles must really be variants of the three related figures Vogt structures her new film, Geometric Persecution, around: the wayfarer, helmsman, and blindman. The armors viewers carry appear, shrouded by layers of superimposed imagery and abstraction, in the disjunctive film. The central wayfarer wanders down a country path, the metal chimes she carries jangling. In a field of yellowed grasses, she tries to balance one of the long sticks vertically on her palm. The other armors undergo repeated hand-offs, traded between unseen figures as a moving display taking stock for the camera. At some point we realize, Vogt’s film is as much a prescription as a record, a guide to handling and hooking and balancing our bodies with foreign geometries.
- Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
Images courtesy the artist and Overduin and Kite.