PARTICIPANT INC is proud to present Martin Gustavsson, El Mirage, an exhibition of new paintings explicitly produced to be utilized by Stanley Love Performance Group, in residency for the duration of the exhibition. There will be a special opening performance for Performa's 10th Anniversary, Performa 15, on the evening of November 22. The exhibition and residency will culminate in the premiere of a new performance work, Tapestry Truths, by Stanley Love Performance Group (SLPG) in January 2016.
With El Mirage, Gustavsson upends the conventional aesthetics of a painting show with mobile works that compose an environment for intervention by others. The thinking around this project started five years ago as a conversation between Gustavsson and Ian White (1971-2013). White was a performance artist, curator, writer, long-time friend and collaborator. Together, Gustavsson and White discussed the potentialities of an exhibition that combined painting and performance. They spoke of Baroque music as rhythmic gesture, Jean Genet, Poussin; and about being, inhabiting, performing, or not performing an image. In discussions about revisiting such an exhibition at PARTICIPANT INC, Stanley Love was introduced as a collaborator.
Genet plays a pivotal role in the overall work; specifically his 1961 play The Screens, to which Gustavsson makes direct reference through the deployment of painted movable screens. In Genet’s stage directions, the representations depicted on the screens are always in proximity to real objects, betraying the possibility of stable imagery and initiating novel scenes. As an artist who refused to play the game of representation, Genet, to quote Leo Bersani in his 1996 book Homos, “turns his back on The Theatre of Good.” Proposing a space of the indeterminate, El Mirage re-creates room for fantasy, pleasure, and play. This is where Love comes in.Performing in and around Gustavsson’s screens — paintings affixed onto metal structures on wheels — Stanley Love Performance Group will utilize the exhibition as an open rehearsal space, a space of interaction, continually re-shaping itself. Working from social and modern dance idioms, the SLPG cast is built on an array of individuality, a large ensemble of diverse bodies. While highly structured and choreographed, the performance introduces movement that is wildly dynamic and open to past and future agencies.
This collaboration reflects upon the daily occurrence of action, pictured outside and within the set of paintings, not as spectacle, but as an investigation into physiology: what is a body, what is an image, how do the two correlate and mutate? The exhibition foregrounds the un-boundaried image, one that originates and exists beyond the canvas, and poses the question: When does a painting become a body? In making these works, Gustavsson looked to heroes, while engaging a personal narrative of his formative years in the 1990s — to be young and gay in New York and Europe in the wake of the AIDS crisis. Speaking to this directly, Gustavsson stated, “I learned about David Wojnarowicz from a distance, while at art school in London. His sense of urgency felt electrifying. Stanley transports us from this time. I am also looking at William Blake, his use of swirls and labyrinths, in an effort to access these spaces for myself. I surround myself with these larger-than-life figures, or, the image I have of them, and converse with them in this ‘play’ that we are making.”
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