The Butterflyʼs Evil Spell

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The Butterfly's Evil Spell, 2012 Various Materials And Video Projection 15 Min Variable Dimensions © Courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, New York
The Butterflyʼs Evil Spell

16 East 55th Street
10022 New York
July 10th, 2012 - August 24th, 2012

Tue-Sat 10-6
installation, video-art, sculpture


The Butterfly's Evil Spell is a collaboration among the three members of LA based collective My
Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade) and sculptor Lara Schnitger.
Playing between the dramatic spaces of fantasy and realism, the piece uses a fragmentary
Symbolist theater text from 1920 by Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, entitled El
Maleficio de La Mariposa, as a starting point. The artists responded with a performance video
and installation that re-stages scenes from the play in elaborate sculptural costumes. The group
also generated original material drawn from the circumstances in their own interconnected lives,
shot on location in their shared LA studio, extending a relationship between imagination and
social reality.
El Maleficio de La Mariposa, with a cast of talking insects, tells the story of a mother beetle whose
son is "going to be a poet" against her wishes. The son, in another scene, abandons his girlfriend
Sylvia because he is "in love with the butterflies," a wistful declaration that carries notes of both
poetry and prohibited sexual desire, linking the two. The artists perform these scenes in the
video, wearing masks and costumes that become sculptures in the installation. In
complementary scenes, the artists act out episodes that reflect their own lives: Gordon, who is
pregnant, talks to Schnitger, who has a five year old, about her anxieties; Gaines and Segade, a
gay married couple, re-negotiate the complexities of their long-term relationship. The Butterfly's
Evil Spell draws parallels between feminist and queer political identities while locating the space
for making these connections in the ludic realm of play. Emphasizing the theatrical conditions of
this play-space, the video begins with a sung adaptation of Golden Age Spanish playwright
Calderon de La Barca's famous Life is A Dream soliloquy, and ends with the dance of the
butterflies, in which the four artists become a chorus line of fabric-clad dancers whose wings are
decorated with slogans from the women's and gay right's movements of the 70s (when most of
the members of the group were born), finally leading them to strip off their costumes and
reconnect with the imminence of their bodies.
My Barbarian is a collective consisting of Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade,
founded in Los Angeles in 2000. My Barbarian's interdisciplinary performance, video, music and
installation projects use fantasy, humor, camp and clashing aesthetic sensibilities to playfully
reenact artistic, political, social and historical situations. My Barbarian's solo exhibitions include
“The Night Epi$ode” at Participant Inc., New York, 2009 and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles,
2010; “Ecos de los Ecos” at Museo El Eco, Mexico City, 2010; “Broke People's Baroque Peoples'
Theater” at Human Resources, Los Angeles, 2012. The group has presented performance works
internationally and has been included in the 2005 and 2007 Performa Biennials, the 2006 and
2008 California Biennials, the 2007 Montreal Biennial and the 2009 Baltic Triennial. Other
performance sites have included MoMA, The Kitchen, New Museum, Whitney Museum, and
Joe's Pub (NYC), LACMA, MOCA, REDCAT (LA), Power Plant, (Toronto), De Appel
(Amsterdam), El Matadero (Madrid), Peres Projects (Berlin), Torpedo (Oslo), Townhouse Gallery
(Cairo) and many others. My Barbarian has participated in group shows at the Studio Museum in
Harlem; ICA Philadelphia; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago; MOCA Miami; ICA London; Den Haag
Sculptuur, Netherlands; CCA, Tel Aviv; Anton Kern Gallery in New York, and many others. My
Barbarian has received grants from Creative Capital (2012), Art Matters (2008), and the City of
LA Cultural Affairs Department (2010). Their work has been discussed in the New Yorker, New
York Times, LA Times, LA Weekly, Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, various international
newspapers, and in José Muñoz’s book “Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity.”